It was one of those “HUH!!! ooh!! Wait let me go back and check….wow!! that’s weird!” moments. Things have added up over the years and I have just realized, I have a thing for all things ‘bengalish’ (Is that a word?!?). How all of a sudden. I was listening to “Feluda” on BBC world service. The voice for feluda was given by Rahul bose and I was reminiscing about how much the voice suited the feluda in my mind and how much I liked both of them and in my wierd world things started linking and I sat up and realized I do have a thing for all things Bengali. I am not one myself, in fact I am from a place as far from Bengal as it could be and I don’t even speak the language. I speak a language from the south and I have visited the place 2-3 times. There are places I have visited more but not found my rhythm with them. Visiting Calcutta was like getting comfortable with this old, worn out chair in which I remember sitting once, and am still happy and warm inside after all these years. So here is a roster of the people, places, food and things I love about the poetic place.
Ganguly – GOD. No that’s not an exclamation, that is just how I feel about him 🙂 I have been obsessed with him since I was about 15. From talking to him over the phone to letters, he has been one solid favourite. Never mind what Chappell thinks or what other people think. For me he was the best cricketer ever and he has proved that over and over again.
Bengali – the language. When I was a kid and visited my cousin there for the first time, bengali sounded like hindi with a rosgulla in your mouth. But there is something melodious about the language.
Feluda – My aunt introduced me to the detective. Written by Satyajit ray, he was India’s Sherlock. I have read most of his books and they never fail to impress me. Rahul Bose was excellent when it came to depicting him on the radio.
The Book shops of Calcutta – During my vacation there, one the favourite things to do with my cousin was to comb the place for books, preferably old and having the smell of pages read, turned and loved. From AC market to old book shops in rickety wooden shops on the street, the place was overflowing with them.
Lake Garden – Early morning walks with cousins, uncle and aunt. Rowers practising, the intense humidity and stickiness after just 5 mins. counting the number of people whispering sweet nothings to each other, the breathtaking beauty of the lake early morning.
The food – My memories of the place are tinged with the sweet aroma of rosgulla floating like little white clouds in the mud pot. The orange sticky Jalebi, the ridiculous joy that I got from eating Mishti doi. There used to a sweet shop near my cousins place. We used to go there morning about 7.00 and get these piping hot, fresh and absolutely tasty treats fro breakfast. It was the holidays and we had nothing else to do in life. So in the heat of the morning, with the ceiling fan droning we used to sit around the pot on the floor and laugh out loud afor no reason and stuff ourselves in the goodness.
I also remember the evening brisk walks to the puchka character. He used to hand us plates made from leaves. There used to be one scrawny assistant as dirty as the other fellow. But the puchkas were oh God heaven. He used to be around for only half and hour and the rush was bad on weekends, but the waits were worth their wait in puchka, I don’t remember the names of the places but there used to be one famous shop selling rasmalai and sandesh which were real awesome and one fellow opposite Jadavpur university selling rolls and manchurian. I guess the dirtier they are the better the taste of the food.
The Public library – Just the vastness of the place and its history is enough to make me ridiculously happy every time I hear about it.
the slow moving trams, the rickshaw wallas, the ladies with their huge red bindi on their forehead. They look pretty and ravishing no matter what. Kishore Kumar, rani mukerjee, tagore, Rahul Bose, Konkona sen, Tea in little matkis, the rain, The life sapping heat and the incredible ways to cool off, and last but not least the way time seems to slow down there. People always seem to have time to put their head out and say hello or how everything seems full of life. That is true of any place in India. Perhaps things are not what they were, perhaps things have changed so much that these things are just memories and dear diary moments. Maybe the Pucka walla has faded along with the rolls fellow giving way to sanitised tasteless food and people live their lives over computers and cell phones. For me there is an old world feel to the place I knew from my childhood that remains unchanged, and brings back some of the best days of my life.