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The kol-baalish receives more attention than any other object in a Bengali household. It’s what you crash and fall next to for a deep slumber after a gigantic meal. It’s the unyielding international border when loved ones have an argument before going to bed. It’s particularly great for bawling into after a gruelling day. And it’s what’s flung as the winning blow during intense pillow fights.
These humble cushions, cylindrical and semi-hard, are slightly longer than a bolster or takiya, and find pride of place in every bedroom in West Bengal. Similar to a body pillow, they are usually handmade and filled with cotton, as the manufactured nature and texture of polyester stuffing doesn’t sit (sleep?) right with locals. Recognising their importance in a good night’s sleep, the West Bengal Tourism Development Corporation (WBTDC) has decided to make the kol-baalish a part of their room decor in government tourist lodges. Reports say this was on popular demand, after a WBTDC survey showed surprising demand for the pillows, which are also known as paash-baalish. An order for 600 of these pillows was placed this Pujo season. We’re guessing the board thought that showcasing this Bengali idiosyncrasy would offer a humorous peek into the culture, alongside the usual displays of food and handicrafts. Isn’t it the perfect signifier for lyadh, that pleasurable state of laziness so intrinsic to the community?
This isn’t the only update about the tourist lodges though, as Rs 690 crore was allotted this year to refurbish the lodges—all 35 of them—into ‘star facilities’. The ‘lodge’ tag has been replaced by unique monikers given by the chief minister (Meghbalika in Darjeeling, Santobitan in Shantiniketan, and so on) and new amenities will include tweaks in furnishings, ergonomics and comfort. Think new shower cubicles, full-length dressers, luggage racks, bath robes and slippers, non-skid tiles and charging points on both sides of the bed. The changes seek to elevate the humble design of the lodges and make them comparable to four-star hotels.
Might the kol-baalish be a secret weapon to help them edge past this goal? Let us know if you pay a visit. We hear the district of Purulia is great for a holiday this time of year.
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