Bhai Phota also called Bhai Dooj, which honours the sweet and beautiful bond between brothers and sisters in Bengali homes is celebrated this year on November 15, two days after Diwali. The festival, however, is incomplete without the sweetness of Bengali desserts with which the sisters welcome their siblings and wish them a long life.
To sweeten the festival business, some shop owners of Kolkata are offering traditional sweets such as the spongy Rosogolla, Nolen Gurer Sandesh and laddu while some others have introduced special desserts for the occasion.
Shop owners say that post-Covid their sweets are recording good sales during all festivals. To freshen up the business, sweet shops are experimenting with different customised sweets using khoya or thickened dried milk and dried fruits and nuts.
“This year, we have observed around 23-25% increase in the sale of sweets. We have been receiving customers since yesterday morning. We have introduced new varieties of sweets, which include Tresleches, Nolen Gurer Souffle Sandesh and the Bhai Fota Chaap.” said Sudip Mullick, co-owner of the famous Balaram Mullick & Radharam Mullicks which has over 15 branches in West Bengal. It has also introduced the Bhai Fota Thali which has tilak and other puja-related things decorated in different compartments.
Rana Nakur, son of the owner of Girish Chandra Dey & Nakur Chandra Nandy, one of the most reputed sweet shops in North Kolkata, said they have added a new variety of sweets such as Kulfi Sandesh and Dab Sandesh to their list. It has supplied specially handmade sweets.
The over 75-year-old shop shot to fame after supplying sweets for the celebrity wedding of Aishwarya Rai Bachchan and Abhishek Bachchan and at the 2014 IPL when Kolkata Night Riders won the game.
Atanu Bhattacharya, manager of the renowned KC Das Sweet Shop which has over eight branches in Kolkata, says that after two years of recession in the business of sweets, this year the business has boomed. “We have made the all-time favourite Bhai Fora Special Sandesh and Jol Bhora for our sweet-toothed customers,” mentions Bhattacharya.
“November 14 was observed as Roshogolla Diwas where we had a special treat of rosogollas, which we provided to our customers,” he says
Bengali sweets are mostly made of ‘chhena’ or cottage cheese except for traditional varieties such as khaja and sarpuria.
There is also a rise in demand for customised sweets for bhai dooj. Swati’s Kitchen, a confectionery shop which accepts all types of customised orders, is women-driven. The management has given opportunities to women from the socially backward sections of society where they engage in activities from billing to making sweets.
On this year’s speciality, shop owner Swati says, “We have made Labanga Latika which is also known as the lost sweet of old Calcutta. Besides, we are offering Paraki, a combination of kheer and dry fruits, and Kheer Malpoaa.”
Swati’s Kitchen which started its business in 2018 in Jhargram now has a branch in Kolkata. “We had a pretty good amount of sale this year after the pandemic. Swati also conducts workshops in Kolkata to give training to students who are interested in baking cakes and making sweets.
Despite good sales, those in the business are worried about inflation. Jagannath Ghosh, secretary of the Mishtanna Byaboshai Committee, points out, “There is no doubt that the sale of sweets has increased, but the cost of raw materials has increased due to which our profit percentage has not changed much. There is also shortage of manpower due to which we often face problems in the delivery of products.”