My Days in Kolkata, A Memoir, Part 1

Morning Raga

I woke up to the sound of pouring rain and I thought: ah! Life is beautiful. Waking up early in the morning has always been a tad harder for me than dropping on the bed in the night before like a spent force. I had just finished sleeping and woke up from what is known as a good night’s sleep.

It was just another fantastically cloudy Sunday morning when I embarked upon writing this memoir. In fact, in the lazy rainy-cum-winter season of the year, toothbrushbamboo since I had nothing specific to do except gazing at the sparkling rain drops dropping pitter-patter on the parapet of the house opposite ours, in the lush green suburban location of my Mashi’s old ’70s house, so I kept writing. The blowing in of the north-easterly winds through the windows of my bedroom was though seasonable but they were normally expected to arrive only during December and not anytime before. Mashi confirmed my thoughts and said: “kaal boisakhi brishtir jhor” (awesome monsoon thundershowers of the June/July months). The sweet rajonigondha blooms, red joba kusum, gondhoraj, nayontara flowers and the trenches of boughs and hedges were all dripping wet in the early monsoon showers and began wafting faint smells of the place. sinaivoyager

In order to ease off the glum morning sickness, I used to brush my deary pearls! Besides, the act of brushing seemed to be a ceaseless obligation to be adhered to, whether one likes it or not: a proposition I always undertook lazily. Thanks to my quick-witted Mashi: she had kept a broad stick permanently at hand to give me a thorough beating with it if I ever faltered on the basic regularities!

Finding myself balancing a pot of Darjeeling tea in one hand and the morning Telegraph in another like a trapeze artist, แทงบอลโลก I usually reclined on the big diwan room: a ground floor room with three large windows with a direct view to an old hyacinth-laden pond. (I confess: the suburbs, some 20 kilometers outside of the city, have fascinated me more than the actual city life did, but that’s only a part of the reason why I am attracted to suburban lifestyle; so the much-vaunted stories of the pond and the surrounding bamboo groves there, in effect, have slowly crept into my collective consciousness, permanently so.) Somehow, the tea prepared by my providential Mashi has always arrived hot and ten-upon-ten perfect, and reading the newspaper in the bright simplicity of the Sunday mornings er… afternoons was heartwarmingly gratifying. The days spent well in express leisure. And, therefore, I love Sundays.

Unbreakable Bonds

Long time ago, – and I still remember this – in one of the signature cover stories of the much read newspaper supplement called Graphiti of the Sunday edition of a Kolkata-based newspaper The Telegraph, somebody had beautifully written this:


“Scratch my skin and you will find Calcutta. Give me a city anywhere else like Calcutta and I will sail my humble boat to the last sunset.” 



I still thank my lucky stars that I was vacationing there during the Durga Pujas,  probably in the autumn of 1990, and stumbled upon that piece of writing. For many years I had it stored in my private collection as a paper clipping and read and re-read the lyrical article I eventually fell in love with. Unfortunately, I don’t remember her name anymore, but the fact of the matter is that it opened up a whole new world of personal discoveries that had lead me to privately conduct ever since of my first reading of that wonderful essay. I want to thank her for having written that unforgettable piece, which had lighted a candle of everlasting love in my heart.

Kolkata is my favourite city on the planet. (An afterthought: I never set foot in London but it is the second-best for me). I never grew up in Kolkata, but I belong to it in more ways than one: like how a child belongs to his/her parents or a bird flying back to its comfy nest. Kolkata grew on me like a subdued emotion; a sentimental passion that was never completely redeemed with the city’s sense of providential love or deep attachment. I mean I return to the place time and again, mainly on special occasions to see my relatives or attend some family function, but never could permanently stay back; yet, like an infant who never loses his innate sense of his mother’s love or care-giving succour, I kept coming back for more and more. I am so fascinated by the charm of Kolkata city that it makes even the regular Kolkatans wonder about it incredulously; they think that peculiar indeed are the ways of a probashi bangali (non-resident Kolkatan) like me. My twice-a-year sojourns there make my life extremely sweeter and fit to live life king size comparable to the chubbiest roshogollas or the chunkiest chum chums. Kolkata has most definitely worked its magic in me right from my babyhood days when I used to visit it during my annual summer holidays.

During my growing-up years, understanding life’s intricate layering or detailing was obviously adult business for me to be dealing with, but otherwise an overt sense of attachment and at the same time devoutly yearning to lead a true-blue, earthy sort of vernacularly-sensitized way of life in Bengal was making great inroads into my subconscious mind. In addition to that, while trying to love and belong to the very assimilation of the cultural essence of Bengali sanskritik living, I have invariably intensified within me a firm conviction that, I think, will become the harbinger of change for my future prospects there; a perception that has seeped into my mind, body and soul. Hence, the vividness of the great eastern metropolis, which is also the gateway to the East: with all its unique culinary splendour; its acute intellectual leanings; its sharp-witted political thinking; its keen cultural sense and sensibilities; its modern yet commercial deficiencies, runs pretty thick in my blood.

In the wintry blast of the December month of the year 2005, I took a train to the City of Joy. I cannot claim to know everything in the city in close quarters, yet I somehow kept philosophizing that my life probably would never be the same again if I began my long awaited discovery of Kolkata or the Shonar Bangla (Golden Bengal) just now. I wanted to grab that moment and never look back. In other words, I was clearly obsessed with the idea of starting to make that journey and bring it to a specific conclusion for the emotional preparedness and fulfillment of my life’s own innermost passion. I cannot afford to feign ignorance because whether that journey (or waiting period) has been concluded just yet or not, but what I did come to know for a fact which was hard enough for me to realize at first is that it keeps continuing and never comes to a halt or concludes ever. Hopefully, one day that same old journey would lead me to the epicenter of my love: Kolkata; and irretrievably deliver me at the altar of Bengal’s fertile heartland. For now, I shall continue my journey until the last sun has set down on me… then I will not be there to live and tell the tale.

I think I knew that the inevitability of new changes, whether subtle or drastic, in a city where never could I spend time for than a month or so, will bring in a promise that I always dreamed and loved and oftentimes went out of my way into eagerly receiving it: but, as always, only to go away and never return. Is that the way it is? I found no answers yet.

I was not born in Bengal because my destiny had other ideas. Although, I and my brother and our parents had lived entirely in the South, we siblings have spent all our childhood years here, we always knew that we would return to our native place. Seems like my ‘past’, ‘present’ and perhaps even ‘future’ would eventually be found rooted here, but being traditionally ‘homesick’ that I am, I do indulge also in some levels of nostalgia regarding my other associative feeling of ‘past’ attached to that great state, which by all means has remained intact deep within me as a much-beloved gemstone; somehow coming away alive shining through the vagaries of time and tide. But still, I long for my lost homeland and hope to make it there someday. One case in point here is: The South is my karmabhoomi, and the East which is geographically one-thousand-five-hundred plus kilometres away is my matribhoomi. The case is closed.


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