যাই হোক (Whatever)!!!

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যাই হোক !!!
তবে যে বললে সব পাল্টে গেছে
কই গলফগ্রীন হাওড়া মিনিবাস টার রূট এখোনো তো একি আছে
এখোনো কংডক্টর মানেই ‘এই ধর্মতলা রবাজ়ার হাওড়া, রোককে ল্যাডীস, আস্তে বায়ে ট্যাক্সী’
আর গড়িয়াহাট মোড় থেকেই ‘এই লেবু লজেন্স, ভাজা বাদাম, দলমুত বলবেন’ এর সুর,
আজো 5.10 এর বনগও লোকল মানেই পালা বদলের তুমুল তক্কো আর ট্রেন ওঠার মারামারি,
এখোনো ভরে গরের মাঠে ফুটবলে লাথি আর গঙ্গাএ স্নান
আর বৃষ্টি মানেই হাঁটু জল এবং জুতো মাথায় বাড়ি ফেরা,
আজো টিনের চলে বৃষ্টির সেই সব্দও তো একি আছে
যখন সহর টাকে ওরা লন্ডন বানাবে এসব কেও কি বদলে দেবে?


Jai hok !!!(transliterated)

tobe je bolley sob palte geche,
koi Golfgreen-howrah minibuser route ta to eki ache,
ekhono conductor manei ‘dhormotolla borobazar howrah, rokkey ladies, aste baey taxi’
aar Goriahat thekei ‘ei lebu logenze, bhaja badam, dalmut bolben’ er sur,
aajo 5.10 er Bongaon local manei pala bodoler tumul tokko aar trainey othar maramari,
ekhono bhore gorer mathe futbole lathi aar gongae snan
aar brishti manei hantu jol ebong juto mathay bari phera,
aajo tiner chaley brishtir sei sobdho to eki ache
jokhon sohor takey ora London banabe esob keo ki bodle debe?

Whatever !!!(translated)
so you said everything has changed,
where? the Golfgreen-howrah minibus still plies on the same route,
still conductor hums ”dhormotolla borobazar howrah, stop ladies, slow down taxi on left’
and from Gariahat you hear melodious cry ‘lemon candy, fried peanuts, dalmut’
even today 5.10 Bongoan local means arguments related to govt. policies and fight to get into the train,
still early mornings mean football at maidan and bathing in ganga
and rains mean wading through knee deep water with shoes on your head
even today rain drops on the tin roof sound same
when they’ll turn the city into London will they change all the above?
we often say things have changed but certain things about a city don’t change in fact they should not change as it gives the city its identity…

The poem may not make much sense to people who have not lived in Kolkata, here I have tried to get a glimpse of the things which are yet to change …those little things which still make me call the city as ‘Kolkata’…

Who or What am I?

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Well before I delve further into the question let me talk about how I came upon this question in first place. While post hopping I ran into a post “What or Who is a Bong ?” which ultimately lead to a post “The Bong“. These two are posts which describe in detail what does the term “Bong” actually mean. While reading  the posts sometimes I was nodding cheeringly though mostly it seemed the posts were very dated because whatever the characterics of a “Bong” mentioned in there are true but it was something the so called “Bong” used to be many years back. Then I found that one of the post was 4 years old and the posts were written by probasis( expat Bengalis). This fact gave way to the question Who or What am I?

In my earlier posts I have mentioned  that I was born in Hyderabad and spent my early childhood there and then spent 18 years in Kolkata and now staying in Bangalore for last 4 years. So before I go about the actual question let me quote from one of the posts above
“There are two kinds of Bengalis that I know. Probashi or Expatriate Bangalees, a fairly large and diverse group about which I can’t write as I am one of them.
And Bengalees who are from Kolkata. This group is incorrectly known as Bongs, as they are merely a subset.”
Isn’t it a strange classification but thats how we Bengalis are ‘quite strange’. Actually there is a clear distinction between the two mindsets which probably can’t be explained to anyone other than Bengali.
Now going by the above definations where do you think I fit because I have grown up in Bengal but now live outside. You would say a probasi but I really hate to be called that. No I don’t have anything against the expat Bengalis but simply I don’t want to be labeled one. There is another term in Bengali which is onabasi (non resident), I think this one suits me perfect as of now till I switch to any one of the  camps 😛 …( after living outside for quite sometime one becomes a probasi)
PS: As far as my information goes the term “Bong” was initially coined by expatriate Bengalis and I first came across the term in English newspapers referring to bollywood actresses who are Bengalis as “Bong beauty”.

The Historic Journey

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That’s what SB my friend had named the journey back from Kolkata. Reason? Simple, it was a journey which technically spanned two decades but was only lasted 36 hrs. Puzzled? We boarded the train on 30th Dec 2009 and landed, No! We don’t land from a train!! Ok we reached Bangalore on 1st Jan 2010. Hua na ‘Oithihasik jatra'(tr: Historic Journey).

SB was complaining that we should welcome the new year/decade in a particular city that is either in Kolkata or Bangalore not somewhere between but as usual the tickets were not available so we had to undertake this historic journey. We had decided that we will meet directly at Howrah station. Earlier we would have said we shall meet below boro ghori or the book stall but with cell phones around who cares about the landmark meeting points. Actually we reached well in advance(2 hrs before departure time) but I find spending time in a busy Railway Station like Howrah Station not an issue at all. After meeting SB we went for the book store naturally to pick something to read for the lonnnng journey. I spotted ‘Feluda omnibas’ the entire collection of Feluda series by Satyajit Ray but SB suggested that it is more of a collector’s item not something for the journey, so after checking many options and arguing over them we settled for Ahem! Chetan Bhagat’s 2 States: The Story of my marriage. Let me mention here I have read all CB books in train journeys. Of course with due respect to CB, I think his books fit the bill perfectly.

Equipped with CB we boarded the train. Which itself was an adventure as the queue for the General compartment was covering the entrance to our A/C coach and we had to bulldoze ourselves with the luggage into the compartment and in the mêlée my mother got into a different compartment which none of us noticed. But luckily she used her brains and stayed near the gate of the compartment she got into and after some frantic searching by me we were reunited and a potential crisis was averted(She doesn’t carry cell phone). Hindsight: Badi Badi rail gadio mein aisi choti choti batein hoti hai Senoirita!!! (tr: In big trains such small things happen).

Once everybody settled down I realized that this time the compartment was primarily occupied by mostly Senior Citizens, little children and their parents. Naturally the entire journey was uneventful with SB reading 2 states and narrating in bits. One more thing I celebrated my birthday on train with Britannia Cakes and Sprite purchased from the Railways. So 31st night myself & SB had snoring co-passengers, A/C coach attendant and the Ticket Checker as company. A point to note here is since I am in Bangalore SB has always been there by my side to welcome the new year. Yes we have many ‘New Year’ stories but they cannot be put in public domain.

At exact midnight we were at Tirupati and we saw some fireworks also some houses along the tracks were decorated with lights felt good that somebody atleast was celebrating the New Year out there. As mentioned earlier the compartment was filled with senior citizens so next morning people woke pretty early and switched on the lights and created commotion to get their
luggage at the gates beforehand and jam them. I don’t blame the poor souls first time I also had the same anxiety as officially the stoppage time is 2 minutes but every time I have been able to get down quite comfortably. So we were relaxed moreover Bangalore is now a known city so we can get down anywhere and can still get home. Finally this historic journey made me realize that 31st December or 1st January is just another ‘normal’ day for many people like the engine driver, guard, TTE and all the railway staff who relentlessly make sure the trains reach their destination hassle free and on time.

This is the last post of the series which covered my trip to Kolkata. Generally these kind of vacation posts have pictures of the city or events but it never occurs to me to carry a camera to the city where I grew up and once lived.

Nothing much has Changed

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Why is that when we visit a place after a gap we plot the change I mean I always do that. Change is then only constant phenomenon and when we are there we don’t register it but if we are away we notice it. Like OMG this apartment wasn’t here last time or look a new restaurant opened up over there or excuse me dada where is the auto stand that used be here or what happened to Chaitali di’s Beauty Parlor over there.

Actually all this talk is because during the initial days of the trip to Kolkata we had gone somewhere and while returning we got down at Esplanade and wanted to take a bus for my home so I was walking towards the bus stand for my place’s bus. My mom called from behind and told “Where are you going? Ask someone from where we will get the bus I think everything has changed Are you sure they still go from where they used to.”

Yes number of things have changed. We were seeing new swanky, state of the art low-floor, wide bodied buses, new flyovers, new roads, new stores/malls/apartments, the traffic jams have grown many folds, roads are crammed with new green colored LPG Auto Rickshaws(which are ‘green’ as well environmentally speaking), nearly non existent night life has improved a great deal I mean much better than Bangalore(I had thought I’ll not drag Bangalore into this but couldn’t resist I apologize Bangaloreans), you get see more profound PDA(Public Display of Affection, yes kissing etc) near Jadavpur University campus.

But we still have the Yellow Ambassador taxis, there are still queues in B. B. D. Bag in the evening for the office babu to return to their homes in minibuses, CSTC bus route No.5 from Howrah  to Garia still exists though now there are many more buses plying, still you get moya, notun gurer(Jaggery) Sandesh/Rosogolla in December, still you wake up to the ‘Sarega regama gamapa’ of the little girl next door doing her daily riyaz with Ganer didimoni(Music teacher), still my cousin is over-stressed about her son’s oncoming Madhyamik(Tenth board exams), still there’s utter chaos, mayhem and disregard for elderly women(my mom had nearly got trampled, had we not pulled her out in time) in Kalighat temple on Saturdays, still its a feast to go shopping at Gariahat (bargains galore), the beauty of bong ladies has not gone away at all.

Strangely ofcourse people were addressing me in Hindi or English and looked surprised to hear impeccable Bengali from me. I am tall(you know that), dark, handsome(ahem I think so) and was sporting a mustache but that does not make me a South Indian I am and will be a Bengali. So what I was little apprehensive to take the seat behind the driver of minibus which used to be most coveted seat earlier.

To cut the long story short four years is too short a time for a city to change its soul. Whatever is happening is cosmetic which is happening to the entire country that’s why we call ourselves the emerging nation. Lastly I would say in Bengali

Tumi bolo sohorta onek bodle geche,
Tui kintu parbi na eke chinte.
Ami boli dhur Kolkata to Kolkatei ache,
khali amay chinte ektu deri korche.

(tr: You say the city has changed a lot
I won’t be able recognize it
I say come on Kolkata is still in Kolkata
just taking a little time to recognize me)

PS: I have deliberately left out Howrah Bridge, Victoria Memorial, Rabindra Sadan or Kolkata’s Trams because my identification of this city is beyond these symbolic landmarks.

Images from http://www.kolkatamusing.com/2007/11/move-over-amby-indigo-is-here.html
http://www.india-tourist-places.com/2008/08/09/south-city-the-biggest-shopping-mall-in-kolkata/

Saga of the Sandwitch Berth

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Before getting any further with the post just have a look at the picture on the left. Do you see the blue arrows pointing something? Yes I am going to talk about that seat or rather berth. Those of you who have traveled by sleeper or AC III-Tier coaches of Indian Railways must know about it rest look at the picture and try to figure out.

The berth is called ‘Middle Berth’ because its in middle simple. Incidentally its the least preferred berth due to obvious reasons. Since the time I have booked railway tickets I have always somehow managed to avoid the berth. This time fate had something else in store and my mother was allotted the dreaded berth. Though could successfully convince one gentleman for the lower berth who had already traded his middle berth with a family that was separated by coaches(Quite complex right? Nah! Its a  normal procedure if you travel by Indian Rail). Quite naturally I had to forego my favorite upper berth in the deal.

My worst nightmare was coming true and I was to spend 2 whole nights dangling between two other people. The inconvenience was aggravated considering I am a tall man. What 5’11 should be by Indian standards Huh? Normally I enjoy traveling by train but this berth fiasco was making my journey worrisome. After much calculations I figured out that once in the berth I have to stay in there come what may. So without much of a choice I climbed into the berth surprisingly with less difficulty actually my height(you know right?) helped with the job.  Once I settled(I mean lied down) in I found it was not that ‘dreadful’ infact it was cosy as the AC was not directly pointed to me like its at the Upper berths(by the end of night you are frozen unless you are wrapped in all the covers provided by Railways). The light and other switches were easily accessible. The best part was the cell phone charging point was completely under my control so I took charge of it and drifted into the lalala land.

In the middle of the night I woke to some hushed voices and some hand groping near my head searching something. I would have jumped in normal circumstances but remember I was in a train in the dreaded middle berth where one cannot even situp straight. So I moved my head slightly to look what the issue was and saw a PYT(ahem well she was not so young but she was pretty) smiling sheepishly. She politely said that she needs to charge her phone and the cell phone charging point under my control was supposedly the only working point in the vicinity. Had to oblige with a smile and said that She can come back after sometime when the phone’s charged. But she continued to wait right there saying that in her earlier journey the cell phone was gone when she returned after sometime so she was fine keeping a watch meanwhile I can continue my sleep.

Sleep! How can a man sleep peacefully with a pretty woman standing at your head. Still I closed my eyes but kept twisting and turning till she was gone for good.  I woke up early in the morning but could not climb out of my berth because everybody else was sleeping and once out of berth I would not be having any place to sit(take a look at picture again figure people sleeping! Clear!). Rest is history as they as say. So thats the end of the story because the next night was eventless and I got a somewhat peaceful sleep in the middle berth.

So whats the moral of the story? I think at times in life things are not thats bad at it seems and sometimes when we are left with no choices then we should make best of what we get. I can’t get preachy and all that, so never mind the lesson. Finally if you are just curious about what happened to the pretty woman well I gave her some free advice on how to bring her boyfriend in line 😀 so that he marries her soon.

PS: Ok the last line is purely fictional in reality we never spoke again the entire journey. But my mom played the Agony Aunt and did give the necessary advice as she was asked for one. Ever heard it happens only in India!

PPS: This is second in the series …wait for more ….

Back to Pavilion

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Friends, Fellow bloggers as promised in my previous post I was away for a while but now I am back.  Yes did have nice trip and there a lot to write about so what I am going to do is spare you guys of a long post and split it up into a series sort of thing. Ok Not to worry it’ll not be many I promise only four including this one. Happy.

One more thing during my stay in Kolkata the little time I was online was spent eliminating Junk mails and replying to the Wishes in Social networking sites. So as a result now the google reader shows 340+ unread blog posts of yours of which I have read some and commented. Hope to clear the pile soon. I’ve been tagged again so got to do that one as well. Also I have an important event coming up in my family so will be busy on personal front and New year also means new work 😀 (I got to see the trailer today the first work day of the year). What I am trying to say is my online activity will be restricted for some time but I will be around so not to worry.[excuse the ‘Not to worry’ syndrome actually I picked it up from Aparna Sen in ‘Antaheen‘ a Bengali movie.(Review may come soon)].

Last but not least thank you for keeping the traffic flowing onto the blog and yes number of unique visitors has crossed 10,000 (a big round of applause! Cheers!!!). Watch out this space for the series.

Coming To You

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Dear Darling,

So finally I am coming to you once again. Yes I am so thrilled by the idea of actually seeing you once again the idea is not just sinking in. You know how difficult it is, I need to do so much planning and need to get leave etc, etc and this time I was not sure till yesterday. But now its all settled I am coming though I have seen you in February this year still its a long time.

I remember when I had first told my friends and family that I am planning to leave you they couldn’t believe it. They said you can’t do it. I had laughed at their silliness. I had thought it will be quite easy. I was very excited with the new opportunity and never had time to think of you.

I had shocked myself when I first saw you from above and realized that I may not see you in a long time and did not notice when my eyes got moist. I would have cried had that uncle and his cute daughter not been beside. Men don’t cry right that too in front of strangers. I was very sad but couldn’t understand why?

When I spoke to my friends first time away from you I had said I’ll be back in a year. Believe me I was damn serious but as they say ‘Man Proposes God disposes’ it has not happened yet. For the last 4 years I have come over every year barring 2007, when I could not come for full 15 months. It was awfully long and even more painful when friends showed your pictures. So finally when I saw you it was past midnight but still you looked so beautiful. I was very tired after the long journey still one look at you filled me with full of energy.

I realized how deep you run in my veins when last time I was able to see very closely as I had more time to re-explore you. Anyway I am coming again but its going to be very tight this time as I have a lot of important assignments at hand but still I’ll be with you and that’s the biggest joy. Also after 4 years I’ll celebrate ‘boro din’ (Christmas Yaar) with you.

Looking forward to seeing you once again and reliving those Golden days.

Yours truly madly
Dhiman

PS: I hope you have guessed who I am talking about. No? well its none other than Kollolini, tilottamma Kolkata my home city. Yes I am going on a trip to the city where all my memories good, bad & ugly are. As I said I’ll be hard pressed for time I might be absent from the blog and blogosphere(Enjoy the break guys like Vipul says ‘one less blog to track, read and comment’ 😀 ) till next year. Wish you all a Merry Christmas in advance.

PPS: Please Don’t mind if I am unable to answer to your comments and don’t forget me I’ll be back as soon as possible 😀 . Enjoy a ‘Little snow'(as wordpress guys put it) till 4th January (Yeah I too got it working)

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