Category Archives: Ahh. Calcutta!

Calcutta Feels.

I was brought up in Calcutta. I lived for more than two decades in that city and I came to love it for its views, its vices, its pace, its charm, its tea stalls and the addas, its humidity and its rabindra sangeet. There were days I couldn’t stand the lethargy in the air. Then there were days I would choose that as the city I wanted to spend my life in forever.

But life happened and I moved to Bangalore. I still don’t belong to Bangalore though. Over time, I probably stopped thinking about belonging somewhere. It was just the work, the book, the blog, the friends, the outings. But what about the feeling that a city is yours, that you can see it even with your eyes closed, hear it even when you’re miles away from it? Well, I felt that again, after long!

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Durga Puja, the biggest festival of the city of joy calls for Calcuttans, Bengalis and non Bengalis to come together in all parts of the world. After office, we travelled across almost half the city to one of the famous puja pandals set up here. Bangalore traffic is omnipresent and it is always a sore sight. But traffic around the pandal was different. It was made up of people decked in glittering jewellery and shiny garb set aside specially for the Puja is Calcutta feels! The red big bindis come out of the vanity boxes, the backless cholis are back, the umbrellas open up even when it is just barely drizzling, the starched kurtas see the night after long and the Jadavpur University jholas which can carry anything from bananas, water bottles, wallets and even a pair of spare shoes, maybe! I was staring at a mini Calcutta in Bangalore. My Calcutta.

Calcutta has makeshift pandals which boast of our creativity, culture, imagination and these days the latest social causes and trends. This one was none of that, with the idol being placed inside the permanent structure of a convention centre and the grounds turned into an exhibition venue with stalls of books, food and clothes lined up. I even caught a stall of German schools you can send your kids to. So Bangalore-ish!

But this was also all of that. The grounds were filled with advertisement banners – Calcutta brands like our beloved Presidency University, P.C. Chandra Jewelers, Aaj Kal and none other than Sourav Ganguly staring out of the posters at you, wishing you a happy Puja! The Daadus were carrying their grandchildren in their arms, showing them the fanfare of the Durga, the siblings twinning, the mothers dressed as festively as their daughters, live band performances to Kishore Da tunes and the Durga herself.

In that moment when I laid my eyes on the idol of the Durga, I could not ask for anything more. My heart was so full of love and happiness, it rushed out rolling down as tears from my eyes. I guess that’s what they call the power of the Divine. It brings out what you didn’t know you had in you, the best of you, the real you.

I am happy here but I also miss my city. And I know I still belong there. No matter where I live, even if I start loving another city, I will always belong to Calcutta. Calcutta feels abound!

Graciously Yours!

P.S. : Thank you A. For dragging me along. You saw in me what I couldn’t.

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Drunken talkies

So here’s taking you through the ups and downs of a drunken night in Calcutta! ūüėČ

Also reminded me of my cousin’s bachelor night!

The Uncertainty Principle

Being in an expensive bar during happy hours is fun whether or not you are drunk. There are individuals trying to mend a broken heart, groups celebrating a birthday looting an individual, and couples dating while respecting the slowdown in the economy.

There is a saying here that if there are more than one utensils in a kitchen, they are bound to make sound ‚Äď referring to the occasional arguments people in a family indulge into. Well, probably at the time this saying was made, bars were not so prevalent as they are now. The ‚Äúsound‚ÄĚ that the innocently drunk ‚Äúutensils‚ÄĚ make is sometimes enough to subside the loud music playing in the language of Martians which is further remixed by Wall-E.

It was the time of our graduation treat at The Irish House in Calcutta and we saw a couple enjoying an appealing drink. It was a cocktail in…

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Calcutta Cabbies #2.

This is one cab driver, to travel in whose¬†car I’d even brave the 45 degree heat!

Presenting Dhananjay aka Bapi’s cab!

As reported by The Telegraph :

“Dhananjay’s is a green taxi in every sense, and his crusade one of a kind. The 40-year-old drives an Ambassador with a bed of real grass on its roof, eight potted plants placed on the tray behind the rear seat and a green interior to go with his message to save the environment and take care of trees.

Such is his passion for the green cause that he has spent more than Rs 22,000, equivalent to what he earns after toiling for a month and a half, on creating the bed of grass on the roof of his taxi. The vehicle, which he has named Sabuj Rath (green chariot in Bengali), has been grabbing eyeballs since Dhananjay unveiled its new look a couple of weeks ago.

Dhananjay hasn’t stopped at turning his taxi into a green zone. He carries a sheaf of leaflets to give to passengers and anyone curious enough to strike up a conversation with him. The leaflets contain small poems and sketches by Dhananjay, all of them about the environment. The design for the leaflets are by a passenger who went on to become his friend.

Dhananjay has also decorated the taxi stand at Tollygunge Karunamoyee with flowerpots and regularly distributes seeds and saplings among passengers and passers-by who show interest.

He has a Facebook account called Bapi Green Taxi and his email ID is¬†bapigreentaxi@gmail.com, where passengers and well-wishers can write in with their suggestions.”

Graciously Yours!

P.S. :¬†Can anyone smell an entrepreneurial venture or is it just me? Contact me and we’ll discuss further! ūüėČ

At God’s Door. No more…

Two months ago, I’d shared the plight of a poor, homeless man.

Today, he’s missing. For¬†the past two weeks, actually. Should I rather say dead? Because he was barely being able to walk twenty¬†days ago. A friend, on the man’s¬†request carried him¬†two feet away to where he wanted to sit. Then we saw him take out a packet of smokeless tobacco (Wiki pages lead to dipping tobacco being the most suitable variety)¬†and consume it.

My concern for him suddenly vanished when I saw the pack of smokeless tobacco (commonly called khaini in India). I hastily concluded that he must have brought this situation upon himself. You must be wondering why I was concerned in the first place?

Jump to a month ago. For many days, I’d routinely noticed him and his actions. Those five¬†seconds when I crossed him almost every day. He¬†had a plastic bottle suspended from a rope and he would be moving it in a circular motion. I’d have put up a picture of it, if I had one, but I deliberately chose not to click his picture. I didn’t want to intrude into his privacy or whatever was left of it at least. Out of curiosity, the aforementioned friend asked him one day what exactly was the man doing. You know what he said? In a clear voice, in English, “Life is a circle”.

Another day I caught him muttering something. Seemed a little foreign to me. I heard more carefully, and it took me back to my seventh grade science classes.

He was muttering :

You must be wondering that he must have picked up the formula from someone,¬†somewhere. Or that he must have been hit with early school days memories. Or that he may be a man of good education befallen to such hopeless and helpless times. I don’t know which one it is. And I’ll forever keep wondering.

Coming back to khaini, today it dawned upon me that maybe that was all he could afford to eat! Or maybe that was his escape from reality. Harsh, but true. Unacceptable, but needs to be accepted. Painful, yet routine.

Once at God’s door. No more…

Graciously Yours!

P.S. : Every one has a story waiting to be said. We never spoke. But he still compelled me to wonder about his.

The City of Joy

In order to add my latest venture of writing about Calcutta, Prateek from The Uncertainty Principle has made this wonderful contribution! Thank you, Prateek! In a surprising coincidence, he’s talking about the same concert, I’d attended and blogged about.

The Uncertainty Principle

. . . Thank you so much guys for being such a sport ! Good night !!

Oh wait ! Before getting to the climax, there are somethings you need to know. Calcuta ! The city of joy ! There are just too many memories associated with this place. Staying just 150 minutes away, I have made numerous trips to Calcutta in the last five years. But each time I go, the love for art and sports in the hearts of people here, never fails to amaze me. That’s why when Aditi invited me to write about it for her latest venture, I gladly accepted within seconds.

This incident happened in October, 2014, when the Indian music sensation A. R. Rehman along with many other big names of the music industry announced to have a live concert in the mighty Salt Lake Stadium. Our tickets were booked on the evening…

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Calcutta Cabbies #1.

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I was running late. And I had to cab the shortest fare distance to make it on time! And I knew I didn’t have smaller notes.

All three combined in Calcutta? You know it’s not a good start to the day!

Frantically searching for a cab, I saw a lot of occupied cabs going my way! First empty cab I saw was taken by another female.

I was already past my time.

Another cab rounded the corner and the available cab driver eagerly awaited my destination. On informing him about it, he immediately agreed. Afraid, he wouldn’t have change, I asked him before sitting in the cab if he would be able to encash my 100 rupee note against the smaller fare which was likely to be due. He agreed again!

A cabbie on the streets of Calcutta smiling and answering my questions? And all answers in my favour? I was dumbstruck! He must have sensed my excitement. I sat in the cab. He started driving away.

Cabbie (jovially!) : You’ll have to pay me double.

Me (laughing) : What for?

Cabbie : I am taking you across for such a short distance. I am also going to give you the change you need. A mere 25 bucks extra won’t pinch much!

Me : Actually you should be charging less considering I am taking you very near to one of the most religious places in the city! Wouldn’t you want to take the blessings of the Lord and also pick up some passengers? Double benefit!

Cabbie : If that be the case, then I won’t charge a penny from you.

Me (shocked at his polite and humorous demeanor!) : I won’t get down from the cab until you won’t take what is due to you.

Cabbie (still driving and I noticed from the shortest route available!) : How will 25 bucks extra matter to you? These days at every celebration, parents double the price of the kid’s phone. I am just asking for double cab fare.

Me : My parents aren’t like that. They need all details of every spending I make. (Though I don’t remember when either parent did that, but then I had to defend my parents somehow. Simply, because they are not like that.)

Cabbie : Tell your father tonight you met an old uncle who agreed to drive you around and you paid him extra.

As I approached my destination, he asked me particularly where I wanted to be dropped off because he didn’t want me¬†to walk even a bit in the Sun, which as I now recall, was very harsh!

After a bit of friendly haggling, and ten bucks extra later, I made my way with his good luck and my smile!

Yes, I paid him more than his fare, but I don’t regret it! I think his people skills deserve that at the least!

Graciously Yours!

P.S. : The whole conversation happened in Hindi and a little Bengali here and there! To make things simpler, English has been used as the medium of expression.

Ahh. Calcutta!

Hi!
I have been blogging for quite a while now and there has been more than one mention of Calcutta but no dedication to it.

It’s¬†time to set¬†that right. This page will have a series of posts highlighting the nuances that¬†make Calcutta, Calcutta.

Much love to Calcutta and all the Calcuttans, you make me love the place more each day, even though I may not say it out loud and definitely not in so many kind words.

Ahh. Calcutta!
To Calcutta, which has seen me build myself over innumerable joys and myriad pains!
Graciously Yours!
P.S. : I want¬†fellow bloggers who’ve experienced¬†the magic called Calcutta to contribute here! First ones I can think of are:
Looking forward to it? Do let me know!