As restrictions ease further in Bengal…Kolkata ditches online shopping for handpicked gifts this Rakhi – Times of India

Kolkata News
Unlike last year, when all of us had to make do with online Rakhi shopping and skip family celebrations with a heavy heart due to rise in COVID cases, things seem to be looking up this year a bit. Now that the West Bengal government has also allowed all shops and business establishments, including bars and restaurants, to stay open till 10.30 pm, Kolkatans are all out to make the most of it.
High Demand for custom-made, gold and silver rakhis
With just a couple of days left for Raksha Bandhan, which is on August 22, people are thronging the local markets for last-minute shopping. Sarika Chowdhary, who has been making rakhis for the past 15 years, said, “Last year, most of us celebrated Rakhi virtually, but this year people seem more enthusiastic with the dip in COVID cases. There’s a demand for both handmade traditional and theme-based rakhis. Moti (pearls) and zardozi rakhis are selling like hotcakes. As per tradition, the sister ties a rakhi on her brother’s wrist and a lumba on her bhabi’s. These lumba rakhis are made keeping what her sister-in-law is fond of. Chocolate hampers decked with childhood photos of the brother are also in demand.”

Ranjit Sarkar, who has been selling rakhis for the past 10 years at Gariahat market, said, “There are people who prefer big rakhis. But these days, youngsters like smaller and sleeker ones that look more like friendship bands. Stone-studded rakhis are also selling quite well.”
Not just those, the demand for gold and silver rakhis is also on the rise this year. “The mentality of people has changed after the second wave. There is so much uncertainty about the future that people are now willing to spend more. They want to make every occasion a special one. Customers are asking for rakhis with small gold or silver Ganesh inscribed on them. These look more like bracelets. That apart, there are rakhis with cartoon characters for kids,” said Manoj Nahata from a shop in Camac Street.

Ever heard of plantable rakhis?
In a bid to make this world a better place, Smita Bhatter, who has been selling sustainable gift products for the past five years, has decided to go green this year. She said, “We are making plantable rakhis, especially for this pandemic year. For children, we give animal-shaped terracotta pots, along with other things required, to paint and then plant seeds. A lot of people are picking up microgreen boxes too. It only shows that people are now aware and prefer to gift environmentally-friendly stuff.”

Sweet Surrender
This year, orders for Rakhi thalis have been pretty satisfactory, feels Sudip Mallick, owner of a popular sweet brand. “The thali comes with a rakhi and various types of sweets and can be customised too,” he informed. Echoing Mallick, Anil Pandey from a savoury shop, said, “People are pre-bookings rakhi platters that include sweets, samosas, dhokla and other items.”
Priyanka Gupta, who makes customised gift trays with food items, said, “These days, we all miss going on vacations. The thrill of riding on a train during summer or winter holidays and the excitement of having junk food at different stations are something we all remember! To relive this fond memory, we are making a hamper that includes soft drink bottles, chips, chocolates, dry fruits, phantom cigarettes and a lot more.”
According to Urvashi Shivnani, cupcakes can be the sweetest gift for any brother or a sister. “We make different toppings for each of these gooey fudge brownies. One also has the option to add their favourite flavour,” said Urvashi, who runs her own bakery in Kolkata.

Special offers at restaurants
Though some prefer to serve homemade food to their brothers on Raksha Bandhan, there are many who love to treat their siblings at their favourite restaurants. And there are options galore. “We are introducing a new combo platter, comprising Murgh Musallam, vegetable biryani, shirmal and shikanji. That apart, siblings will get a discount if they plan to dine together,” said Dalia De, who represents five food brands in Kolkata.
Keeping in mind the food preferences for the vegetarians, Priyanka Dhanuka Lohia from a local restaurant said, “We will serve a platter, comprising idli, upma, dosa, two types of chutneys, sambhar and a sandesh.”
No meal is complete without sweets, right? “So, dessert is on the house for siblings who will be there at our café on Raksha Bandhan,” said Nikhil Chawla, spokesperson of a café in south Kolkata.

Leather bags
Ganesha idol
Health drinks
Sari/ dress
Radha-Krishna idol
Trinket trays
— Tips from Vandana Saraf and Meenakshii Malkani, who run gift shops in Kolkata
Celebs share their plans for Rakhi
Last year, Rituparna Sengupta was stuck in Singapore because of the pandemic and the consequent travel bans. The actress missed being with her brother, Pradipta, on Rakhi. So, this time, she is going to compensate for it by treating him to chicken biryani and mutton kosha. “Those are his favourite dishes and I love cooking them myself. Also, I prefer to tie a rakhi made of flowers on his wrist. We do a small puja at home for my brother’s good health,” said Rituparna.

Actress Pallavi Chatterjee too is planning a surprise for elder brother Prosenjit Chatterjee on Rakhi. “Dada is in Mumbai now. So, I am flying off to be with him on Rakhi. I will make karela (bitter gourd) chutney, samosas and halwa for him. He loves having homemade samosas with tea. I have also decided to gift him plants this year as rakhi gifts. I prefer a traditional rakhi to a modern one,” said the actress.

For model-actress Richa Sharma, it’s double celebrations this time. An excited Richa said, “My brother, Sandip, who stays in Kanpur, is coming all the way to Kolkata to celebrate the occasion with us. Last year, we missed being together due to the pandemic, but this time we’ll celebrate Rakhi in a grand way. I have bought a customised rakhi for him and his gift hamper includes shirts, perfumes and sweets, which I have personally selected from his favourite shops in New Market. I will also make churma and kheer, as these are what we must have on Rakhi. Lunch will be simple — poori, dahi aloo, paneer malai and besan ka gatta. We generally prefer to serve ghar ka khana to our brothers on Rakhi.

Pics: Samik Sen