Celebrating 100 years of lacing the palate of Kolkata with its sweetness, Jugal’s is marking its glorious moment with the most interesting of events, a two-day literature festival on ‘mishti’.
Lahana Ghosh, who’s taken over the reins from her father, says it was the most obvious decision. “Bengal loves its mishti and in general, almost anything literature.” Ghosh, who is a Canadian citizen has, for now, canned that life and moved back to Kolkata to take charge, working not only towards strengthening Jugal’s identity in the city but also to bring some semblance of organisation to a fairly disorganised second.
History of Jugal's Kolkata
For anyone who’s grown up or lived in Kolkata, Jugal’s is quite literally a household name, and while it might not be everyone’s go-to shop for sweets, that it has lasted a century and maintained its reputation, it’s safe to assume that it continues to be a popular choice when it comes to buying sweets.
The brand’s story goes back to 1923 when Jugal Kishore Ghosh established the first shop in Sealdah, and that at at address that went as “1, Mahatma Gandhi Road’. On his death in 1963, his brother-in-law took charge, all the while education Kishore Ghosh’s son, Krishna Kali Ghosh. Ghosh Jr was only six years old at the time. Krishna Kali gave up his academic career in order to take Jugal’s legacy forward. Years later, one of his twin daughters, Lahana, decided it was time for her to step in. “I always knew I was going to get into the business which to my disappointment has always been male-dominated. In fact, the business of sweets is. It’s time to make some changes,” she says.
Lahana’s sister, Angana Ghosh, inspired by the massive research project on the dabbawalas of Mumbai, is also now working on the ‘mishtiwalas’ (sweet makers and sellers) of contemporary Bengal. Angana, who primarily works in research, currently is a senior financial analyst for a crown agency of the Government of Canada. “The idea is to get data, document our history, our legacy and our future and our possibilities,” says Lahana. And by ‘we’ she means the sector at large.
The excitement in Lahana’s voice is apparent as she talks about her aspirations of taking Bengal’s sweets to the world in the way of luring travellers to visit India and of course Bengal just for its sweets. “I would love to open in Vancouver someday,” she says.
Back to the festival, The Jugal’s Literature Festival plans to have panel discussions, open house forums, art and photo exhibits and even workshops on making Bengali desserts.
And to make this two-day event not just sweet but meaningful, Lahana has brought in experts from different walks of life. From food historian Colleen Taylor Sen, chef Asma Khan, culinary anthropologist Kurush Dalal, food writer and restaurant consultant Rukshana Kapadia, to journalist and food writer Vikram Doctor, and Kolkata’s popular restaurateur Doma Wang, the festival will delve deep into subjects one rarely thinks of when talking about sweets.
“Talk about history, supply chain, legacy, documentation on sweets, data on the sector - there is so much that needs to be discussed,” Lahana explains, adding, “This is our way of saying ‘let’s talk about sweets’.”
If you’re heading to the Jugal's literature festival this weekend in Kolkata, here’s what you can expect:
1. Panel discussions: To celebrate the art of mishti, talk about various issues that the industry is facing, as well as talk about the future of dairy, the primary ingredient of mishti.
2. Art commission: The brand had asked various artists to submit mishti-related artworks to showcase during the festival and post on social platforms.
3. Photo commission: The team travelled to various districts in West Bengal and beyond to create a repository of images primarily documenting the process of making mishti, giving recognition to karigars, as well as documenting various practices in the industry. Their plan is to showcase these photographs, photo essays and documentary narratives during the festival and build social media campaigns around them.
4. Research: To document the journey of mishti through Bengal’s history, literature, cuisine, politics and religion, among others, Jugal’s will be launching a dossier during the festival. The research activity will continue beyond the festival, with a larger goal of geo-mapping each and every mishti shop across West Bengal, starting with Kolkata.
5. Workshops: This will be a collaborative venture with food enthusiasts, bloggers, technicians and karigars to educate the masses about the craft of mishti-making.
The two-day festival is taking place on February 11 and 12 from 2.30 pm onwards at Town Hall, Esplanade Row, BBD Bag. To register online, click here.