Tuesday, June 29, 2010
I get to travel a lot because of my job profile. But this trip was different.
The plane is taking a longer time to land. It is going around in circles. Our captain has announced turbulence due to lightening. I am seeing scared faces around me. Our plane is 4th to land in a sequence and we have to kill time mid-air before the rest of them land. As the plane starts to descend, we loose sight of the foggy amorphous clouds. I peek from my little enclosed window on the wings to stare at the strange city we are descending on – Small houses, A Long River, Small Water Bodies, Huge Green Playgrounds. I smile! After 6 long hours of flight, starting from the West, touching base in the South and then finally flying to the East. Yes Finally. I disembark saying - Hello Kolkata!
Every bit of the city reeks with a flavor of culture, art and literature. It is the 150th Year of Tagore’s Birth. Every monument that you see is a testimony to the Colonial times. The architecture is so beautiful and stunning that it is as if the time has stood still. Some of the relics of revolution and freedom struggle still stand strong. The breeze on the banks of Ganges slowly hums in your ears and plays with the loose strands of your hair. One stands on the Banks of the calmly streaming Ganges and wonders how beautiful the river looks on the backdrop of the setting sun- as if the sun has burst into several shards of sparkling pieces that now afloat on the river. The Howrah stands tall and looks misty on a cold rainy evening. As if challenging the existence of new bridge.
Small canopies float on the steadily drifting water, carrying people from one shore to the other. The quintessential Boat men clad in their Dhotis and red Gamchas push the boat off the jetty with a rover and embark on a pleasant journey. The water is pale blue, similar to the color of the skies. You start wondering if at a distant point - the Ganges meets the sky mixing the hues of clouds in the river. In the night time the lights are aglow in the whole city making it look even more resplendent.
Transportation here is easy and cheap. I used to wonder where all the Ambassador cars went from India. I have my answer now! All the yellow taxis in Kolkata are yellow Ambassadors. I had heard about trams but never seen them as they were discarded in Mumbai long before my birth in 1983. I was both amazed and amused with a child like alacrity when I saw trams carrying people around. Reminded me of sequences from Full house shot in Florida. Like Ahmedabad you find the green and yellow CNG auto rickshaws. Then there are also human rickshaws but as an outsider you don’t opt for those. You can easily make out the dialect as it is very similar to Hindi and Marathi pronunciations. Just a lot of “O’S” are added. Like SONDESH and RASHOGULLAS. Beautiful Bengali sarees and cotton kurtis are the things to shop for.
Here the Policemen are clad in White uniforms. Traffic seems to be congested due to narrow roads but the air around is fresh. Several small man-made ponds catch your eye. It reminds me fairly of my own city Thane. The staple food here being pond fish and rice, they are reared in these ponds. The puchkas are very much “like“ panipuris but still very “different” from them. The nightlife is not much active here. But the food joints are superb especially the China Town. You should also try biriyanis, mustard fish preparations, ellesh, prawns and other fish curries. One cannot really claim to have visited Kolkata if he doesn’t have the exquisite sweet preparations like all types of Sondesh, Phirni, Abhar Khabo, Mishti Dohi etc. Nothing tastes better than a Cha in small earthen pots on a rainy evening.
The people in Kolkata are as sweet as their delicacies. They love to show you around the city. The Maa Kali temple, Victoria House,Museum, Howrah Bridge and New Bridge etc as very beautiful places. A tour in the buggi makes the ride even more thrilling. Kolkata has a massive football following and you can see the city is clearly geared for the current football season. There are large expansive grounds where young “Ronaldinos" are enjoying their football in rains.
My work here is done…The plane is leaving Kolkata ground. I wave away to this very Celestial City in my own country. I will cherish you in my thoughts Kolkata – I promise as I take off for home!!
I would like to quote few lines from Tagore’s Gitanjali that spell out my KOLKATA EXPERIENCE the best!!
I have had my invitation to this world's festival, and thus my life has been blessed. My eyes have seen and my ears have heard.
It was my part at this feast to play upon my instrument, and I have done all I could.
Now, I ask, has the time come at last when I may go in and see thy face and offer thee my silent salutation?
- Rabindranath Tagore
Saturday, June 12, 2010
For the last few days I was seeing Manu all alone of the road. Manu is this cute little black dog in my lane!! If he was down, it was implied that Limaye kaku had to be sitting at her patent seat of the steps of the verandah of her Wada. About one and half year back, I chanced upon Manu and was playing with him. That is when a very soft hearted and sweet lady came forward to claim his ownership. Spotting our common interest in dogs, we started chattering about why “Manu” was such an adorable dog.
We used to meet every day in the evening when I used to return from my office. She used to stop me and we would engage in silly banter about everything under the sun. She had told me how lonely she had become after her husband passed away a few months back and that Manu was like her own son. She spoke about all the Marathi soaps, the new cotton sarees she got from the nearest shop and told me strange yet interesting stories of the tenants she had. I would sit there beside her for hours and patiently listen to everything whatever she had to talk. She used to laugh a lot. It used to amaze me- her jest for living and the way she was determined to get over her adversity!!
She always invited me to have dinner with her and to see her home. I never went. I just kept postponing it as I was always in a hurry to rush back and fix a meal or study. I regret it now! She had introduced me to her children. On a Diwali Day I had introduced my Dad to her. She was a very nice lady. She always called me and spoke to me whenever I used to walk with my headphones in my ears completely unaware about everything around me. She was atleast 30 years older to me. But I liked her and she liked me. Our bonding had been mutual.
So when I switched job and didn’t take the same lane, I missed meeting her and talking to her. The other day I was looking for her. But I only spotted a lonely Manu all by himself on the street. It was a while that I had seen her. I decided to check on her. So I asked the Chemist who knew her well. He said she passed away about 2 months back. I was sad and shell- shocked. He said she had got hurt in her leg and being a diabetes patient she got gangrene- slipped into Coma and passed away. I remember her telling me that she had hurt her leg. But I never knew that it would claim her life in future.
The whole point is – I would have liked to know her better. I didn't even know what her first name was. But indeed she was a very charming lady who was acclimatizing herself to her lonely life. But with a very brave smile on her face.
There are some people who are not connected to you- They are not your relatives, they are not your friends- they are just people whom you meet! But they touch your lives. More importantly they give a tug to your heart!! Limaye Kaku was a very special lady. I have been on an amazing journey since the last 2 years and have met all kinds of people. Limaye Kaku was someone I will never forget!! For all the love and happiness she brought to people around her- May her soul rest in peace!!! You will be missed, Limaye Kaku!!