Calcutta

The Day it Rained Forever

Cheesy song, that. Currently listening to it. On replay mode.

Saw a full-blown insurrection today. Propah Mangal Pandey-type chap. Was ranting about assorted calumnies being visited upon the proletariat staff by the Bar Bourgeoisie.

Riled him further by asking him about the appropriate procedure pertaining to the submission of a Rule 40 application. Right in the middle of a strirring, fire-and-brimstone monologue. Was told I was at the wrong counter. Dunno, if  ’twas literal or metaphorical.

Lost my umbrella handle on the road. Didn’t notice until a kindly shopkeeper pointed it out and despatched one of his underlings to rummage for it. He didn’t find it either. Walked the rest of the way with an umbrella without a handle. Pretty cool. Not half as cool as my mini-umbra though; the one I used to tote around in college.

Butter Chicken and Cappuccino is one BAD combination. Not recommended. AT ALL.

There’s a point on the seventh floor terrace at the City Civil Court, where you can see the Hooghly to your right, the Cal HC ramparts and the Eden floodlights dead-centre, and what looked like the Ochterlony Monument, to your left.  I’d have probably seen more, but for the blasted rain

My shoes are clean. As clean as they have ever been. Wading through a couple of feet of water all day long does have its strong points.

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On the Subject of Homes

He sat quietly in a corner of his room, brows furrowed, and wondered.

He wondered what people meant when they called something, someplace a home. And then, he wondered, about his own home.

He wondered about that small city he spent his childhood in. That small hill-top at the bottom of which he used to stay, and silently chuckled at the thought of the sixty degree angle their cricket pitch invariably made, whenever they played on that road which angled down from there. He remembered all the times he’d had that Samose wali chat at Kamboj Sweet Shop, Kulfi at Kumar’s or had borrowed those dog-eared Tintin issues at the nearby kirana shop. He remembered Gupta Aunty, the Khannas, Charu Didi, Jogen Bhaiyya, Shakti-Nanha and dear old Uncle Bhaiyya. His old school which was just a fifteen minute walk away, or Nikku Bhaiyya and Mabel Didi who walked alongside him to school everyday. He remembered his friends, his teachers. He remembered studying by the light of a lantern during those all-too-frequent evening power outage sessions and how every night he could see the lights of Mussoorrie gleaming in the distance. He remembered all those days, when he was still a boy, and silently willed them to come back again.

Then, he wondered about that city he grew up in. The City of Splendour. The City of Squalor. The City of Joy. The City of Sorrow. The City of Palaces. The City of Pot-holes. He remembered how, the first thing he had noticed about this city, was that he’d never seen so many Ambassadors in his life before. He remembered a certain something called rallies, and an even bigger travesty called the Book Fair. He remembered marvelling at the sheer variety and quantity of food, food, and still more food. He remembered his school; he remembered his college. He remembered the uncluttered views he used to command from the floor of his 10th floor apartment and how green everything seemed from up there. Classmates, acquaintances, friends, neighbours, he remembered them all. He remembered how unbelievably helpful people were at times, at bus-stands, on roads, anywhere. He also remembered how he was once called an outsider and asked to go back where he came from. He remembered the good times; he remembered the bad. He remembered all that; and, he remembered more.

His thoughts went to the other city now. That city where he was born. That city where his Mum and Dad came from. That city, where once every couple of years, he and all his relatives used to come together to catch up on all the time they had lost. To deal in constants like love and affection; and to compare variables like height and weight. He remembered having Alu-Dum Dahi-Vada off Barabati Stadium, or that killer Rabri Lassi at Buxi Bazaar. He remembered his Aai’s uber-licious chaats, and those meals at Kalyani Nagar, where every session closely approximated a veritable feast. He remembered all his relations who still stayed there; his grandparents, his uncles and his aunts. He remembered his little cousins, all of whom seemed to be as irrevocably scatter-brained as he was. He remembered, and he treasured those moments anew.

In turns, he thought about all the moments he had spent at each of these places, a few weeks, a few months, and a few years at a time. Details, every single one of them, came flooding back to him. In vivid technicolour mode.

And then, he realized one thing. Homes are not where you come from. Homes are not where you go. Homes are, where your heart is, and forever there, shall you stay.

And by the way, which blasted dingbat said that homes had to ever conform to some kind of a singularity paradigm

He sat quietly in a corner, and wondered no more.

He switched on his comp and listened to Adele blitz ‘Hometown Glory’ instead. 🙂

Racing Cycles and Cal Roads (A 10-point Charter)

1. The notorious traffic sensibilities of Cal citizens which are second to none in the entire country

2. The kind of perverse pleasure they take in walking in right the middle of the road

3. And then swerving to left and night when you are just one or two feet away as if poked by an invisible phantom (At least applies to Golf Green residents out for their daily perambulations around the Central Park)

4. Racing cycles aren’t generally fitted with bells (atleast mine isn’t)

5. In the absence of which phrases like ‘get out of my way’ or ‘Hey, yooouuu’ are the only way by which I can avoid crashing into the walking or jogging crowd

6. Which, I do not think serves to endear me, in any way whatsoever to the hitherto mentioned crowd, and how they get their own back by resolutely coming right in front of me the next time, even though I’d have hollered my lungs out

7. Usual cycling hours consist of either early morning or late evenings

8. Which, as it incidentally turns out are also the hours reserved exclusively by winged beings for their daily bowel movements

9. Meaning thereby, that there is also every possibility of being torpedoed by bird droppings

10. Ergo, in the face of such arboreal and earthy obstacles, cycling enthusiasts of Cal, Beware

Zurich, Kadare, Steinbeck and Something Freaky

I had promised in my last post to write about the books I got on Saturday just after I finished with the Evidence exam. I finished with the paper around an hour early and almost instantly set out thereafter with some of my friends. First stop was Zurich, right next to the Indian Museum. I had heard plenty about how good this place was, how its pancakes and mashed potatoes were simply out of the world and was quite curious to see how good this place could be to elicit such strong feelings and admiration. Appearance-wise, the place wasn’t too imposing. Full of foreigners, a medium-size room with Christmas decorations (yeah, still), with ACs which didn’t work and fans which thankfully did. I had a chocolate banana pancake and a plain choco milkshake. The former was okay, nothing to send me raving about, and the latter, frankly I’ve had better. However, the service was in one word, dreadful. We had to wait like forever for our dishes to arrive. Imagine, I asked them for a bottle of mineral water. That took them around a good 15 minutes and then they turned up with a god-forsaken brand I hadn’t even heard of before. Still, the first impression might not always be the most accurate one. Gotta come back later to get to know this place a little better. And I’ve got to hand it over to this place in at least one respect. Its dirt-cheap.

Next stop, Oxford. Their annual sale is on till the 19th of this month and I could hardly miss this oppurtunity to pick up some new titles. I finally settled on two. Ismail Kadare’s The Concert and John Steinbeck’s East of Eden. The problem with me and bookshops is that there are so many books which I want to buy, but given my straitened financial condition, there are so few which I can. And books are also some goddamn costly these days. I mean to say these two titles alone cost me one grand!! Coming back to the books now. Kadare is one one of Albania’s best known, rather, he is Albania’s best known novelist. What Pamuk is to Turkey, Kadare is to Albania. I am yet to start this book. Steinbeck, on the other hand needs no introduction. One of the greatest storytellers ever. East of Eden was exactly the way I like books to be. Thick, voluminous with really short print. Finished this book in one day flat. Although a literary tour de force, this is not the best I have read. Notwithstanding the unquestionable lyrical supremacy, which is to be only expected of Steinbeck, the book end with an element of inadequacy, something unconsummated, underdone. Still, it is a brilliant piece of work. Lastly, about that something freaky, its the book everybody had been raving about in 2005, Freakonomics. Dad picked that up and from whatever little I have gone through, to even have such a concept as behind this book is outrageous. To actually implement it, is even more so. No wonder it is named Freakonomics

The Cal Carnivale

Made a visit today to what is undoubtedly the largest spectacle (ok, other than Durga Puja and those damn rallies, maybe) this city has to offer. And obviously, for this city famed for its intellectual pursuits, intellegentsia, Bengali Bhadraloks et al, that could only be a book fair. That is notwithstanding the fact that most people who throng the Maidan are in quest of far baser pleasures (umm..case in point, the Food Stall). Yeah, that brings me to one of my favourite topics, food. I really have to hand it over to Calcuttans. They seem to have developed some kind of an inbuilt defence mechanism, completely immunue to almost everything under the sun. They way all the street food was being devoured amidst all that dust, had to be seen to be believed. Really, its way too dusty at Maidan, especialy when it has such multitudes trampling all over it. Perhaps, things shall take a turn for the better from next year when reportedly the venue is being shifted to someplace of E.M. Bypass.
I have never really been a big fan (or even a small fan) of book fairs. Why on earth should I go and jostle to have a look at books in all that dirt and dust, when I can do that easily in the air-conditioned comfort of Oxford and Landmark. And anyway, you’re likely to get more of a discount at the College Street bookstores or even the Family Book Shop. Still, there was no way I could’ve returned empty-handed from this place.
Got Banville’s Revolutions Trilogy and Eco’s The Name of the Rose. Banville is a guy have a read a lot about and the three novels are supposed to be his best works. Ergo, my choice. Eco, on the other hand, after my experience with his previous work, was more in the nature of a calculated gamble. Perhaps, all that arcana would be easier to tolerate if the novel itself was steeped in an era where all that arcanity actually counted for something. Foucault’s Pendulum, with its abrupt leaps from contemporary to medieval climes did not have this element. I expect Name of the Rose, touted as it is, as a taut Renaissance mystery to have it.

Karma Capers

Oh Boy!! I sometimes do wonder as to what exactly is Karma, you know. The old theory ’bout what goes around comes around, as you sow, so shall you reap and so on. Today I had my VIVAs. Yet again, I started yesterday. Yet again, my prepn. was woeful. Yet again, I got lucky. Thankfully, I got some topics about which I did have some vague ideas and manged to somehow speak, rather assertively for the assigned duration. Now, I dunno whether what I was asserting was correct or not, but I was pretty emphatic about it all the same. And going by the reaction of my panel, by and large, I did manage to get the grade.
Now what I am worried about is Karma. A situation where I would have exerted my utmost (no, really!) and ended up in the dumps. Really scary proposition. But for now, just cooling off at home, VIVAs well behind me, listening to Tim McGraw and thinking which flick to catch on the weekend. Ciao.

Bloody Comrades

Scene : 11: 30 this morning. I have my timetable charted out in front of me, the to-do list staring at me right in the face. Reach the bus stop and what do I see? A massive, gargantuan rally which has completely blocked all kind of traffic. Buses? *#@$! Forget it. They are more busy plying the CPI (M) party cadres to whichever hellhole (in this case, the Maidan which is actually a pretty nice place, esp. to play cricket), they’re having their rally in. And how could our beloved cabbies be left behind. They had to join in the festivities, charging around three to four times the normal fare. The scene at the bus-stop had to be seen to be believed. Choc-a-bloc with people, most of them as exasperated and annoyed as I was, muttering and cursing under their breath. And once a bus came along…..not carrying one of those frigging red flags, pandemonium, bedlam, chaos, the works, you know. All these people were running like maniacs, pushing and shoving just to get on that bus.I actually saw one character jump on a bus already in motion, trying to grasp the conductor’s hand, who by the way himself was halfway thrust out. For one fantastic moment, suspended in midair, he looked remarkably like some kind of a trapeze artist.

I haven’t launched into this diatribe merely to convey my annoyance and displeasure at the inconveniences which I and thousands of people throughout this city were subjected to. What really gets me, is the sheer futility of these rallies. I admittedly, am woefully ignorant of the nitty-gritties of whatever political causes espoused by any party. I, at best, can only pretend to have a general notion. But, the very idea of seeing busloads upon busloads, truckloads upon truckloads of men being ferried, just you know, to fill up the numbers, is something which I find exccedingly repulsive. And from what I have heard, most of these people are actually paid to attend these rallies. Forget about ideology, this is plain, bloody hypocrisy. Well, I guess thats the way it is and it shall always be, and lets face it, I’d take CPI (M) anyday over Mamtadi.

P.S. A person died the day before. A certain Mr. Heinrich Harrer. One of the greatest mountaineers the world has ever seen and the author of possibly the best travelogue I have ever come across. Herr Harrer, you shall never climb alone.