Calcutta, My Alma Mater

Some cities just don’t give you a living, they breathe and emote, just like you do. Some cities make you what we are today. Calcutta is my soul and it’s DNA is the foundation of my life.

What I possess in Calcutta is beyond words, sometimes beyond comprehension. Feelings juxtaposed, memories unlimited and segmented nostalgia. Very few will understand, many will not. I don’t expect them to. 

Calcutta, I live you everyday.

Neighbourhood Dhaba

The news of ‘The Dhaba’ in Ballygunge Phari closing down came as a shocker to us. I really felt an era has come to an end.

We used to live in Ballygunge Circular Road in the 90s and we visited the Dhaba quite regularly. It was our favourite neighbourhood Dhaba. As kids, I remember pouncing on those Butter Nans and Malai Kofta. Yummy and delicious they were! Friendly staff and quality food was home to this extremely popular south Calcutta restaurant.

30 years down the line, we still love visiting the Dhaba. My parents don’t live here anymore and I live in Newtown with my family. Whenever they visit Calcutta, we make it a point to have lunch or dinner at the Dhaba – it was our family destination and the fondness appears to have extended beyond generations. In fact, it still remains my dad’s most revered restaurant in Calcutta.

IMG_9453

We visited the Dhaba on 24 Jan 16. That was the day my son was born and we celebrated by having lunch. The restaurant has an unique attachment to my family, in a way that we have spent some special moments of our life in the restaurant. Our last visit to ‘The Dhaba’ was on 8 May 16.

When I read this article today, first thing I did was call my dad and tell him that his dear foodie destination has closed down. He was terribly disappointed and exclaimed that we will have a tough time to figure out our next food destination during his next visit to Calcutta.

I second his thoughts. ‘The Dhaba’ will be sorely missed.

that’s trending..

Doesn’t matter which format, Ind Pak encounters are always a scorcher. With a packed Eden and a quality innings from Kohli ensured we seal this with comfortable elan. Thank you Kohli, for getting me watch T20!

 

old house

This used to be the favourite hideout of my younger days, much much fitter and agile days I must say. 

 Field, outfield, pads, coach, technique, drive, gloves, tension, sweat, lots of sweat, passion, craziness. More importantly, it was my age of adrenaline.

After years, took a look at myself through the strokes of the young guns. Few minutes, but went back a long time ago.

traffic


There’s always this buzz about New York, London, Mumbai. Quietly, Calcutta figures amongst the noisiest and one of the most populous ones. Not revered but neither forgotten.

Intrigued but not astonished, I have not seen vehicular traffic in Calcutta getting diminished by the travesties our trans-infra change. With some overwhelming overdrives that have graced the city in the last few years, the pedestrian traffic and the subsequent jostles haven’t died down. in fact, that some places still sustain the nuptial knots of charm says a lot about the soul of the city. Let’s humdinger down!

25, Park Street

The walk from Ballygunge Circular road to Park Street would be a shade under 20 minutes, 15 if you are in a breezy mood and walk like fire. LaMartiniere, The Kookie Jar, Hallmark, AGC were my witnesses while I gallantly strode towards my educative influences.

Well, that was around 18 years back. But, the charm is still imperious.

Christmas day this year was kind of a stunner, seriously. Since I grew up, Calcutta, 25 Dec and Park Street have always been mad for each other. New Market, yes, perhaps for Nimhans but Park Street was the gorgeous de noir for the elite and otherwise. Yes, even 18 years back, you could see those Santa bound lightings, the parks being decorated, schools and colleges having their alumni to welcome Jesus in to our lives, Mags and Mocambo making you wait with a lane long queue. All that hasn’t changed, but the noise and the glitter of people has been two fold, may be 5 fold. You must see the roar of people!

From Shakespeare Sarani to Rawdon Street, touching Freeschool Street through Park Street till Hot Kati Roll. A twist across Sudder Street and the swag in Little Russel Street – the walk was probably the longest in years, the lighting of Jesus’s arrival and media swooshing over our taste buds in the eternal Flury’s – unmatched, undisputed.

The moment you are in this vicinity of bliss and year end pleasantries, you tend to remain famished. We want to. None were spared, categorically. The ghugni in Rawdon, the rolls in Kusum, the pastries of Flury’s, the kachuris in Camac, the puchka in Freeschool. Not to mention, our travesties with the drop-down tea encounters in almost every corner was a taken.

We did return home, but hearts were left behind in the Park.

Calcutta:Pujo:Dhak:Mishti:Happiness

Calcutta (sorry but I prefer Calcutta..always!) and Pujo (the bengali way) are inseparable and contagious. This is that part of the year when India as a nation is immersed in festivities – names are different, customs are differentiated but commonalities are plenty – sweets, families, people, gatherings, crowded streets, traffic (its human traffic that supersedes the former), time of discounts and plenty of shopping. This is the time of the year when gods, goddesses and people are celebrated, with pomp and glory. For me, Calcutta’s flavour remains a stand out.

Let me be very blatant and poignant here. Calcutta’s Pujo aura is seldom understood unless you belong to the city of joy. For locals, its a celebration of life. From an outsider’s angle, its a gorgeous mess. Well, let me tell you why, sighs!.

Curatively, Calcutta is a featherbed for worshipping ladies (pun intended as the scenario today is quite frivolous) and ‘Maa’ is a given honorific for the elite and alas in what is synonymously known as the cultural capital of India. It does have dimensions but in the context of Durga Pujo, the statement holds large, and with oodles of glory.

The devout begins with Sashti, Sapthami gets you roaring, the madness reaches its zenith on Ashtami and Nabami, and Calcutta waits for yet another year as we bid the goddess a tearful adieu on Dashami. Like life, Calcutta doesn’t believe in goodbyes and the next Pujo is just around the corner.

For me, it’s a unique gulp from the normal Dusshera festival that engulfs rest of India. Honestly, I don’t expect mortals to understand the fervor of Calcutta Pujo. Yes, you need to be a Bangali (yes, it’s not Bengali) and a staunch Calcuttan to digest this crazy euphoria. And remember, this is the time of the year when Calcutta is a chaos of blessing.

 
One of these insane years, I urge you to plan and be in Calcutta during the festive season. Be it Mumbai’s Ganpati or Tirupati’s Perumal, Calcutta’s Durga Pujo remains India’s most adoring extravaganza.

Reliving Byomkesh

Calcutta. Cha aar singhada. Country savaged by war, cities torn by partition and hatred. People in clutches of political propaganda and heist, witnessing victims of brutal animosity. Saradindu Bandhapadhyay’s witty and courageous Byomkesh Bakshi. 

 

Well, for me, Byomkesh Bakshi embodies the waters of above. And surprisingly, he hasn’t been an ardent flavor of Cinema, as such. Satyajit Ray’s Chiriakhana, amongst the few, stands out. Ray’s class of realistic horticulture and Mahanayak’s belligerent performance made a cult out of it. Basu Chatterji’s Byomkesh was a television icon and I used to go crazy to see a young, lanky detective solving unusual mysteries with his writer-friend, Ajit Banerjee.
Honestly, I have not watched much of the contemporary Byomkesh. Though, would love to.

Let’s come back to Dibakar Banerjee’s Byomkesh Bakshi.
I must admit, was indeed a tad apprehensive about DBs Byomkesh. Evidently, I hate spoilers of legends. At the pretext of rejuvenating classics, we sometimes, churn shit out of garbage and package it with EFX to poke the audience. Worst, we buy it, eat popcorn and there ends the myriad story.
Thankfully, no fingers burnt.

Its the first episode, wherein Byomkesh encounters crime and his to-be partner, Ajit in a series of embroiled kit. The way Byomkesh is thrown at us is quite reluctant – arrogant but with a piece of an intelligent eye. We hate protruding people in our lives, and Byomkesh kettles himself with youthful bogeys to trade an investigation.
DB is aware of Byomkesh’s preceding reputation, and collages his characters carefully. And, to an extent, he succeeds at will. Couple of sequences with Ajit stood out for his uncanny resolve and respect for his relationships. If you have followed Byomkesh closely, he does remain aloof but treasures his novice helpers – Ajit and later, the oblivious Satyavati. Tales of treason loom large as Byomkesh gets embroiled in a lethal game of conspiracy and power hordes.

Few sequences stood out for sheer gobble mania – Gajanan Sikdar’s death scene, his frequent tabs with Ajit and bullish conversations around his dad’s disappearance, escape through the black cab and subsequent blood splatters in the dentist’s clinic, the roundtable climax with veritable protagonists. Byomkesh’s legend couldn’t have a better start in the tinsel world.

  

Byomkesh and Calcutta are an inseparable couple. The partition fed city, the usual flair of Calcutta streets, the Sealdah bound tram in Shyambazar, newspapers smirched with the next bombing tales, the morning bath in the water pipes across the streets, the Esplanade signal and the conspicuous hand laden rickshaws.
Brilliantly nostalgic!

Sushant Singh Rajput as Byomkesh is convincingly astute. His partner in crime, Ajit as Anand Tiwari does a neat job. Other notable characters come in small packages and rally around the plot diligently. But Neeraj Kabi as Anukul Guha is astounding. His caveat of emotions, a chameleon like naiveness and staggering screen presence is stamped all over this mystery tale.

Dibakar Banerjee has triggered a fortune, and I want filmmakers to lead the baton ahead.

Create a website or blog at WordPress.com

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: