Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Of sleepy afternoons

Sunwashed mornings, rainy afternoons, magical evenings.....there's something about the place you grow up in, something warm and comforting that transcends all boundaries of geography and time, that makes you remember with fondness and longing.

For me Calcutta stopped in time 6 years back which is when I left the city. And with time I have learnt to selectively block all memories of the dirt, the pollution, the bandhs, the political bureaucracy. All I retain are the fond and warm memories of days I spent growing up there. For the most part of my childhood my idea of Calcutta centered around our house in Kalighat. So my world only stretched as far as Ballygunj (which is where my maternal grandparents lived), Jodhpur Park and Dhakuria (which is where my school was), and the Park Street-New Market area (which is where my Dad would take us shopping- this of course was in the pre AC market and other newer mall days). After I started going to college and learned to explore beyond the boundaries of home I got introduced to college street, park circus and moulali. I discovered the joy of watching back to back shows at Globe and New Empire while grabbing a chicken roll from Badshah. I learnt that you could go to Flury's and order a cold coffee and sit and read a book or talk to your friend for hours without anyone coming and asking you to leave. My orientation of Calcutta started to include places like Kasba, Behala, New Alipore, Kudghat, Ranikuthi, Golfgreen, Salt lake, Rajabajaar. I knew the place to have the first cup of morning tea was Maharani's on Lansdowne Road with accompanying jilipi and shingara; the phuchka would have to be from Vivekanada Park; I could compare between egg-chicken rolls from Campari- Bedouin- Hot Kathi.

For me Calcutta is all about the people: people who will give unsolicited attention and advise to you (the all familiar "ki holo dada, byapar ki?" which translated would be roughly a "what's up, dude?") and places: the early morning smog near the Dhakuria Lake, sweltering afternoons shopping at Gariahat, getting stuck inside an auto-rickshaw during a thunderstorm, going to the Boi mela (book fair) every single day, staying up 4 nights in a row at the Dover Lane Music conference, taking a boat ride from Outram Ghat, eating freshly roasted peanuts at Victoria Memorial, meeting a friend outside Symphony, drinking lassi at Rallis, staying up all night pandal hopping during Durga Pujo, watching the cricket match between India and Pakistan at the Eden Gardens, bunking class to catch a matinee at Nandan.....that is where Calcutta stopped for me and that is the flavor I carry in my heart when I leaf through the pages of my memory. That's what makes Calcutta special to me.

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Blogger Kumari said...

Lovely post...Now i want to write more of Chennai and its food and the crowd and Filter Coffee :)

3:24 PM  
Blogger Acroyali said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

3:36 PM  
Blogger Acroyali said...

i don't kno if you've ever heard of a tv series called The Wonder Years. they'd air it on Star around '95-'96. Your posts have a VERY Wonder Year-ish feel to them. Which, btw, i LOVE!!

and i nevr mentioned this but ur blogger username caused few ripples in my part of blogsphere... :D

3:38 PM  
Blogger M (tread softly upon) said...

@ kumari thanks and please do write abt Chennai. I've never been there and would love to read abt ur memories.

@ acroyali I do remember the Wonder Years and Kevin Arnold. It used to be one of my fav shows too and I tried to find a DVD collection that I could buy without much luck :(
I'm sorry if my username got people all confused with the other significant "M"s around :))Do accept my apologies....but name does start with an "M"

3:44 PM  
Blogger Sagnik Nandy said...

brilliant! BRILLIANT! Being a very strong Kolkattan - I can't recollect a better written post on Kolkata in blogs that I read. You brilliantly capture the Kolkata I grew up in. Badshah, New Empire, Globe, New Market - these were the joys I grew up with and now they have all become secondary hang ut spots - relegated by the Malls and Multiplexes. But it doesn't matter - I love the city the way it is even now - as you said - it is all abt the people - it is the people and their warmth that makes Kolkata what it is for me. Once again. Loved your post!

3:53 PM  
Blogger satchisgod said...

Aaah, the same old cliche (coz I'ev heard if from soooo many people in sooo many varied walks of life)...yet it's amazing how this topic manages to totally melt me every time:)
And hey, how can you miss out on Tangra and Shiraj?
Also, you know, they've renovated Flury's - it's totally changed now. I still remember how those gentlemen, sometimes from Park Hotel, would come for breakfast over The Statesman.
And they've built a flyover outside Nandan, which's totally ruined the ambience:(
You know, last time I was there, my better half and I would meet every evening on Park Street and I'd walk her to her place in Ballygunj...toh when I was leaving, Ma was like "Park Street toder shotti-i miss korbey ebaar"...gosh...all those memories...
Good ol' Cal:)

6:42 PM  
Blogger Rohan Kumar said...

I've never been to Calcutta ever but something abt ur blog tell me it definitely merits a visit :)
From wat I can gather u have rattled a few Kolkotan heart strings with ur rendering of the Soul of Calcutta, hope u get to visit it sometime soon

7:14 PM  
Blogger A Hairy Snail said...

wow. *shivering down the spine* heh heh... without a reference to the excessive rains (which has conveniently crossed by TN), flooding of memories just happened here. globe, new empire, beer and movies, the rolls from badshah, biriyani at amenia, shiraz, park street....... the list just goes on and on. :)

thanks m...was great while the trip lated. have to go back there asap.

11:18 PM  
Blogger Grafxgurl said...

ohhhh this almost makes me shed a tear... i miss Cal so much,.. i have such fond memories as well.. we never got to stay there for very long instead kept coming back during holidays.. and i never wanted to leave...i miss hearing bengali.. i miss it sooo much...somehow EVERY second friend i had there was named Shanai....lol ...sigh i miss it!! the BEST kati rolls in the WORLD!!

11:38 PM  
Blogger eM said...

Hello, excellent blog! I'm a first-timer here, so it was a pleasant surprise, when here I thought I'd been through most of the good ones :)
But just a suggestion, do you think you could change your font colour, because it's a leetle hard to read?
--the "other" eM :)

3:49 AM  
Blogger Rimi said...

i ADORE this post! it's magical. this is exactly how i grew up too--joragirja and north cal and the mazes of new market till i left school, and then slowly, the city unfolded...ALL those places you talk about, plus a few more--the tea table, which looks horribly bland but serves decent stuff at decenter prices ;D(its run by the staff of the old flury's), landmark, oxford bookstore, JU, old north cal eateries which have been around since forever.
unlike you, i'm living the pollution and the muck and the red tape, yet when u say 'calcutta', your post is exactly the things i think about...

7:16 AM  
Blogger jaded said...

(sniff-sniff tear-tear) i am leaking...man do i LOVE calcutta.
and i am crying for you becoz u r so far away...
calcutta---with all its politics and all its dirt, i still think it is the most amazing place...the most homely place and the sweetest place ever...
and btw i am quite happy to know u love us, th people of cal ;D, we love you too...

7:37 AM  
Blogger J said...

...and the sitting in the rickshaw n going to school,aalu dom in vivekananda park, icecreams in scoop, pujor shopping bheed, and the...Sigh! Its been 7 long years... i cud go on n on :(

8:01 AM  
Blogger M (tread softly upon) said...

Thanks guys...(blushing)...guess a lot of people are as sentimental as I am about Calcutta. I am sure everyone has the fondest memories of the place they grow up in.

@ sagnik I am lost for words........thanks!

@ satchisgod I think I missed out a good many places...there's just too many. Thanks for reminding of Tangra and the chinese food there and the awesome biriyani at Shiraz.

@ rohan kumar you should try and visit calcutta. Try to hang out with some local folks to get the true feel of the place.

@ melchizedek glad to have taken you on a trip down memory lane. I do that several times a day.

@ grafxgurl I miss the place too....a lot....and altho don't know any girls named Shanai, really liked that name!

@ eM welcome and thanks for stopping by. Changed the font color and hope it is easier to read now. Thanks!

@ rimi I guess you realize how much a thing or person or place means to you only when you are away and miss it. I'm glad you can appreciate the city even when you are there. I don't know the tea table or D but Oxford Bookstore was my fav hangout and I think it merits a post all to itself.

@ jaded totally agree with you that it is the most amazing place, atleast for us who belong there. After all there is no place like home.

8:02 AM  
Blogger M (tread softly upon) said...

@ j the list is endless...scoop was the only "dating" "hangout" place while I was growing up. So there is a soft corner for the place!

8:03 AM  
Blogger doel said...

wow awesome!! u can surely eveoke memories in the most forgetful mind........inspite of the heat the pollution n the traffic i love kolkata ....n btw inspite of the new malls new market,oxford bkstore,badshah,new empire n globe n nandan are still the joys of our lives...hell i love cafe coffee day but cmon im a college student i cant afford to watch a movie at a multiplex all the time ...globe n new empire stil hav tckts for 30 n 40 bucks ..."kolkata kolkata tei amar shohor"....

2:56 PM  

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