Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Last to last Sunday, I went to my Grandma's place. I had to drop a few medicines there and I had gone alone. The Metro being closed in the morning, I caught a bus. (It turned out that the bus went as fast as the Metro.) Anyway what happened was that, by mistake, I got down one stop before Gray Street, where I usually got off. Obviously I realized my mistake after the bus had sped off. I could sight the Gray Street crossing from this point. But it was quite far off. Not wanting to walk the distance, and also by dint of my navigation acumen, I made an interesting observation.

To go to my Grandma's place from Gray Street mor (crossing), I would have to go East and then South. My current position being quite South with respect to Gray Street mor, all I needed to do now would be to walk East, and probably a wee little to the North. Also considering my father's penchant for exploring places on foot; by discovering new shortcuts, I would only be following the family tradition. (See Map below)

Thinking thus,I entered a lane hitherto untraversed by me. Sometimes, when you enter a strange place, you feel a bit unsafe. You view the people on the streets with a bit of suspicion. Not so here - firstly it was broad daylight and I'm a guy. Plus these people are Calcuttans - the people of my city.

After a few paces, I turned a corner. There were some shops here and quite a few people too. What struck me immediately the difference with what one would see down in South Calcutta. The shops were plain and paati. People here did bother about how they looked - remember one middle aged yet changra bhadralok wearing lungi and an unbuttoned shirt, walking as if he owned the street. He would look quaintly out of place if placed in any of the fashionable
malls of South Calcutta.

Such differences within a few miles of the same city!!

As I worked my way through the labyrinth that is North Calcutta, I got lost once. But it was a treat walking through those shoru oli-goli's. Peeping into the houses, it felt as if I was looking back in time. These houses are completely unlike any upcoming building of today. Some showed the signs of age - appearing dark and damp. A tubewell standing sentry beside the gate - the flooring crumbling and covered with moss at many places.

Again some houses boasted majestic facades and were still maintained beautifully. There is a saying that establishments are built by one generation of a family, maintained by the next and ruined by the third. Probably this ineluctable process of decay had forgotten to visit these houses.

After a while, I found out the right path to my Grandma's. I wished then that I had a digital camera to share these images of a different world with others.

A sample of the elegance of North Calcutta houses that I found on the Net

PS : The sights and sounds reminded me of Rituparno Ghosh's "Raincoat"... kudos to him for creating such beautiful imagery.

Monday, August 15, 2005


vantage point on 2nd floor room - time : afternoon - raining outside - dark gray sky - most importantly a chilly piercing wind - of course i am in room - windows shuttered tight - and 'Through The Looking Glass', gazing out of my insulated world

so protected - so artificial - so far away from being the mati'r manush (true human, child of nature)

all this development - housings, glass windows, multistoried-s : all providing good views - claiming to be right in the lap of nature - but which of them provides the real thing - none of them!!

takes me back to a visit to a Mumbai high-rise - on Worli sea-face - 7th floor - Arabian Sea spread out below you - but you can't wet your feet - can't breathe in the fresh sea air - if you open the windows, everything in the flat will go topsy turvy - as is usual, at night, AC is turned on - me and Fonta, rustic people, decide otherwise - so switch off the AC and open up two windows at slight angles - thus, natural AC !! of course, fan also on; helps to sleep.

sometimes, pride myself for my rustic-ness - in fact, one day, Bipul and I go on a completely rustic trip - board a train - let it take us where it takes us - get down at a station Bipul has passed before and has liked the look of.

a walk through a plantation (here too... human hands, but still... trees after all) - early in the day -pleasant sunny weather - walk along, enjoying being 'actually' in the lap of nature - have some packed food with us, sit down under a tree and have it - so far... so good..mmmmm...

a nearby pukur (pond) - 2 chokra-s (young kid boys) dancing around in the water - splashing water on each other - another senior chokra goes up on tree to hang his jeans pant on a high branch for drying - that way, probably, the naughty younger chokras cannot reach it - hmmmm... they seem to be truly rustic...

another sight comes to mind - a lady wading in thick mud - picking up some things - probably some shaak (veggies) - hmmmm....truly rustic....

well, back to our snack, which is over by now - and those chokras who scamper off to a nearby village - so we rustic city youths decide to follow them - now, stomach quite full - and sun not so pleasant anymore - and village not exactly a window-shopper's paradise - after twenty minutes of walking in the sun, not feeling too rustic.... hmmmm...

to sum it up, 'Through The Looking Glass' is good enough for me... opening windows at slight angles (accompanied by fan) ... yes, that's something I can tolerate comfortably...

Jerome K. Jerome gives a hilarious description of an exactly similar state of mind - in the last chapter of his famous book, 'Three Men in a Boat' - and that too, hundred years ago, while describing a boat trip, to get away from dull-monotonous city life - so, even hundred years ago, someone felt the same huh!

PS : i'll add here a link to that particular chapter of the book (the book is 100 years old and hence is now freely available on net). start from the line "The weather changed on the third day..." (5th paragraph) from this link. if you have a bit of time and want a good laugh, don't miss this.

Monday, August 08, 2005

'Park'-ed in Oblivion

23 years in one city ... In one house... Given these conditions, I thought I knew my neighborhood inside out. But last week, I was proved wrong.

In the last two-three years, our area has undergone a metamorphosis due to the following reasons:
  1. The AJC Bose Road- Park Circus flyover
  2. Forum Shopping Mall, Crossword and many other shopping Malls

Thus I would not have been surprised if I had bumped into a super-specialty mall right in the middle of the road. However, I discovered something in a completely different genre - an unknown, unkempt park right behind my house.

This happened during one of my morning walks. There is a park behind my house, called Woodburn Park, which is maintained by the Lions group. I usually do not visit this park. But one day I decided to explore it.

While doing so, I noticed a gate that I did not remember seeing before. There was a path after that which seemed to lead to Ashok Hall school, a known place.

However to confirm my doubts, I followed it. I was amazed to see another park at the end of it. This one was not well maintained, but it showed the all signs of being a grand one at one point of time - jhula's, a slide, a tiny decorative pool replete with a bridge over it.

All this had fallen to decay now. The grass however was quite trim as the caretaker's house was just beside it. This park and Woodburn park are in complete view to South Club and Punjab Club's tennis players. I however, saw it for the first time that day, and was quite amazed at my discovery.

PS : It obviously gave me a sense of deja-vu (thanks to similar park explorations in Navi Mumbai - 1, 2). However such a chance discovery, and that too, right in my own backyard, was beyond my imagination.

But then, life's full of surprises....