The city that cooked up rosogollas and revolution, and which ritually slays the demon in every neighbourhood Durga Puja, has taken on the big one. It has chosen its weapon well — the sandesh, a marker of its culture. Remember the little squabble that Kolkata got into with Bhubaneswar over the ownership of the rosogolla? Such trifles are now forgotten, as the city girds its taste buds to engage with the corona sandesh invented by Hindustan Sweets, and to annihilate the disease with gastric juices.
This is the ancient symbolism of magic, precisely like that of Durga Puja, which signifies the destruction of evil worldwide. But also consider the amoeba, which surrounds its prey with its pseudopodia and assimilates it. What could be more natural than to engulf the enemy? The corona sandesh is an angry red blob with knobs on, like a Vogon seen through the haze of rage. It is presented as a target to be immediately engulfed. Bet it’s tasty, too.
Kolkata’s sweet-makers stay with the news. The famous ledikeni was a nod to Lady Canning, whose husband was governor-general during the rising of 1857. It was a diplomatic gesture to assuage feelings ruffled by that chapati business, upcountry. The tradition stretches to the present — the inventors of the corona sandesh had earlier invented the pink ball sandesh to coincide with India’s first pink ball Test. Now, with the advent of the edible coronavirus, this tradition of marking the great events of our times continues. And you thought that we would be trotting out those old tropes about a dying city which nevertheless leads the country in Gelusil sales. But like Kolkata has left the quarrel over rosogolla behind to engage with the biggest global challenge, we too have risen above pettiness.
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