West Bengal, like many other places in the world, is a place of contrasts- a curious blend of the old and the new, partly feudal, partly born out of growing urbanization, partly undefinable. Fish, crowds, politics, potholes, monuments, art and cinema, cricket and soccer- all are indispensable parts of Bengal. The state is, in its physical form, a complete representation of the Indian subcontinent.
`Catching the cold` comes easy to Bengalis. It`s a skill thats acquired almost immediately after birth. Watch a Bengali baby and you would know. Wrapped in layers of warm clothing even if the sun is boiling the mercury, the baby learns quickly that his chances of survival in a Bengali household depend on how tightly he can wrap himself in cotton, linen and wool. Bengalis have almost romanticised warm clothing, so much so that Bengali art has found eloquent expression in a form of quilt-stitchwork called kantha.
In winter, the quintessential Bengali`s outfit puts the polar bear to shame. Packaged in at least seven layers of clothing and the head snugly packed inside the queerest headgear, the monkey cap, he takes the chill head on. Easy lies the head that wears the monkey cap. With a pom-pom at the top, its not just a fashion statement; it`s a complete fashion paragraph. For a race that is perpetually running scared of cold weather, Bengalis have a surprising affinity for hill stations.
Probably, warmth of heart is best preserved in shawls, pullovers and cardigans. In an age when you are judged by how cool or uncool you are, the warmth that the kakus, jethus and mashimas exude can melt icebergs.