Iconic Kolkata sweet shop Jugal’s celebrates turning 100 with a literature festival and mishti workshops

Jugal’s Literature Festival aims to be the first lit fest to celebrate the legacy of Bengal through the nuances of  mishti, with panel discussions, open house forums, art exhibitions and interactive workshops

September 30, 2022 02:25 pm | Updated 02:25 pm IST

Lahana Ghosh with her father at the workshop

Lahana Ghosh with her father at the workshop | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

This winter will see the confluence of two things Kolkata is famous for as a legendary city sweetshop plans to celebrate its 100 years with a literary festival.

Jugal’s was founded by Jugal Kishore Ghosh in 1923 in Sealdah and the festival is the idea of his granddaughter Lahana Ghosh, who aims to use the event to glorify the sweet maker in order to make their profession more inclusive and appealing.

“The  mishti (sweet) industry is largely male-dominated. We have next to negligible female representation. One of my primary goals is to make the industry inclusive. To achieve this, we might need to break a few traditions and customs but I think it is the right time,” says Lahana, who assists her father, Krishna Kali Ghosh, in running the shop as its finance and operations manager.

“My dream is also to encourage the  kaarigar (artisan). I consider sweet-making to be a culinary art form, one that’s deeply intricate yet mostly disregarded in the modern world. Some of the skills take years to learn and master. But now, a  kaarigar’s child no longer wants to become a  kaarigar. My goal is to change that by offering them incentives to stay, thrive, and be proud of the art form that Bengal has sustained for 400-plus years,” says Lahana, who recently returned from Canada after a career in the world of finance.

Dates for the three-day festival are still being finalised: it is likely to be held either in January (20 to 22) or in February (3 to 5), 2023. “Jugal’s Literature Festival will be the first lit fest to celebrate the legacy of Bengal through the nuances of  mishti. It will consist of panel discussions, open house forums, art and photo exhibitions, and interactive workshops on  mishti,” Lahana states.

She says each session will delve into the history, legacy, culinary footprint, economics, socio-cultural impact and, most importantly, the future of the dairy-dependent  mishti industry. “We are bringing together the leading minds in the industry and beyond, including food historians, writers, culinary experts, dairy experts, economists and industrialists.”

Lahana Ghosh at their shop Jugal Sweet shop

Lahana Ghosh at their shop Jugal Sweet shop | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

According to her, it is a struggle to justify the cost of human resources in the sweet industry as opposed to others with more mechanised production lines. “But mishti is a product of human emotion, meant to be handcrafted. It takes skill and often years of training to understand milk, its texture, how it works with different elements. Our head karigar makes ₹900 a day, which is more than what young chefs earn, and yet no culinary school graduate would want to come and work at a  mishti workshop,” says Lahana, adding that it is this mindset she is hoping to change.

Jugal’s oldest outlet sits at the iconic location of 1, Mahatma Gandhi Road in Sealdah; today it has five more across Kolkata. After the founder’s death in 1963, his brother-in-law stepped in and looked after the shop and also started training Jugal Kishore’s youngest son, Krishna Kali, who was only six at the time. Growing up, the boy would come back from school and head straight to the shop where he would spend the entire evening learning the trade. Lahana is one of his twin daughters.

Lahana plans to launch a dossier, documenting the journey of  mishti through Bengal’s history, literature, cuisine, politics and religion, during the festival. She adds, “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.”

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