Tuesday, April 05, 2011

The Mistress

Tonight ends my month-long holiday, during which, for the first time in my working life, I was technically jobless and therefore not answerable to any boss. I was answerable solely to my desires and curiosities, which took me around the roads and streets of Kolkata, partly on foot and partly by taxi. My constant companions were a notebook I'd purchased from Chennai airport and a black matte-finish Sheaffer fountain pen that I treated myself to on my very first evening in Kolkata.

Until now, Kolkata was my hometown-in-law, where I made the annual obligatory visit, usually during Durga Puja. Today Kolkata has become a mistress to whose arms I would like to go back as often as I can. She's like the bespectacled woman living next-door all these years who you never gave a second glance until one afternoon, when you spot her on the balcony, fresh from bath, her long lustrous hair left loose and her eyes wearing not a pair of specs but dreamy sensuality. I got seduced easily.

Give a dilapidated look to the buildings of London, then suck the permissive air of Paris and implant it over London and people it with Bengalis -- Kolkata would be that city. It is a different matter that most people living in Kolkata may not realise this -- most of the time they are too busy being agitated or angry. The cause of their anger could be anything under the sun, but it's mostly about politics, sports and work.

When India lost to South Africa in the World Cup, the family friend I was watching the match with remarked angrily, "India te ektai captain chhilo, shey holo Sourav Ganguly!" -- India has produced only one able captain, that was Sourav Ganguly.

I also happened to watch the final with him. Moments after Dhoni hit the decisive six and the Indian team rejoiced on the field, he remarked, rather bitterly, "Ei shob to Sourav-er ee toeri kora chhele" -- These boys have been groomed by Sourav, after all.

That's the typical Bengali man. He is, however, effectively neutralised by the Bengali woman. She can be deliberately coy or outright blunt, but she is almost always ravishing and intelligent. She loves to talk -- though, unlike the man, not about things that do not have a direct bearing on her life -- but also knows how to let her eyes do the talking. Doesn't matter if she is English-medium or Bangla-medium, south Calcutta or north Calcutta, domestic help or the lady of the house.

Oh! Calcutta!

Some images and sensations shall always remain etched: her hair sweeping across my face while I leaned to light the cigarette dangling from her lips as the taxi zipped through the wide empty road along the Maidan; hanging on to every word spoken by Sunil Gangopadhyay, the most popular writer in Bengal after Tagore, as he recalled the time spent with Allen Ginsberg ("He taught us that poetry is a 24-hour occupation"); the taste of aam panna sold on College Street; walking up and down Park Street, as if I was in Soho; sitting 80 feet above the Hooghly, on the deck of a ship turned into a hotel, sipping chilled beer while being caressed by the river breeze; digging the fork into delectable kebabs at Peter Cat and Mocambo; and, above all, the voice of Kishore Kumar! Every other song played on FM channels in Kolkata happens to be either sung by Kishore Kumar or composed by R.D. Burman -- listening is believing.

I am back in Chennai now. I had to be. Tomorrow, I take up a new job and return, after five long years, to Mount Road. It was on Mount Road that I worked for the first five of the 10 years that I've lived in Chennai, and those were the happiest years of my life so far. Tomorrow, hopefully, is the beginning of another happy phase. Kolkata, please wait for me.

33 comments:

Paresh Palicha said...

Welcome back :)

Diptakirti Chaudhuri said...

I read somewhere that when you are in love with a city, you don't get jealous of other lovers.

Thank you for taking me home.

wildflower said...

She will. Always does.

Meenakshi said...

glad to know u finally discovered Kolkata... and are so madly in love with a city you once dismissed as boring and irritating

Anonymous said...

You sure know how to love a woman/city! Welcome back to the arms of the old one...:-)

Kasturi said...

Hey Ghosh, where are you joining??

Santosh Sadasivan said...

It was like storm after a calm..
Good one, really enjoyed..

Meghpeon said...

The city breathes and exudes charm. 'The mistress'...it surely is, 'the muse' too for some:))

Sincerely,
Displaced Calcuttan :)

Anonymous said...

She's like the bespectacled woman living next-door all these years who you never gave a second glance until one afternoon, when you spot her on the balcony, fresh from bath, her long lustrous hair left loose and her eyes wearing not a pair of specs but dreamy sensuality. I got seduced easily.

I wish such a woman materializes before me right now, but on second thoughts your writing is as good as a real sensuous woman.

Don't let this sensuousness have such long intervals.

J. Alfred Prufrock said...

Lovely. I've read your book and liked it, but this piece is superior to anything in it. Perhaps because it's closer to your heart.

J.A.P.

Janani Sampath said...

welkum back to blogosphere :)

Desi Babu said...

Dear Ghosh Babu,

Welcome back! Wish you all the best with your new job.

Yes, Calcutta has to be experienced to believe the things people say about it. And it is not to hard to fall in love with the city of joy.

Peter Cat is great, but if you want to have real spiritual experience with authentic Bengali food, you have to visit "Suruchi" on Elliott road. It is hard to believe that an old restaurant in dilapidated surroundings can whip up such great fare. I didn't really want to leave the last time I was there, and thankfully for me, they don't have bouncers.

My wife tells me that Elliott road used to be much better looking in the past. I can only imagine...

Great to have you back!

Abhishek Mukherjee said...

I've never left Kolkata in a eleven-years-long career. Kolkata itself is a strong reason for that.

For a long period of time, I couldn't relate to people who have left the city. Now I pity them. I mean, giving up Kolkata for some obscure American city or an Indian city trying its level best to impersonate an American city?

Do you know Dhakuria Bridge? There have been multiple occasions when I've simply stood at the highest point of the bridge and looked at the trains pass by. It's incredible that you have a spot so serene this close to one of the busiest regions of South Kolkata.

Do you know Gariahat? There's a flyover running over Gariahat, about a decade old. There's a car park under the flyover. On the railings of the flyover you can see people, mostly in their 30s, sitting: they aren't boozing or eve-teasing - they're playing chess. It's an incredible scene.

Have you ever taken the first tram ride through the Maidan, with the city waking up to a cuddly yawn?

Have you ever stooped and watched the step to enter Golbari, and then had that heavenly mutton kosha of theirs, with that cross between a ruti and a porota?

Have you ever been appreciated because you do not earn a lot, but find the time to act on stage?

I love my city. More than anyone I know does. I am a product of this city - which is why I feel strange if I leave, even for a single day.

PS: The most popular writer in Bengal after Tagore is possibly Sukumar Ray, by whatever definition you go.

sanjay basak said...

Very nice...

Anonymous said...

hey Bishi welcome back.....boy did i miss you...checked your blog regularly ....wondering where you are.......nice write up on calcutta....all the best at the new job .......

Anonymous said...

the city of paradoxes that elicits feeling just as paradoxical in me. Oh Kolkata, how I love to hate and love u.

margee said...

AS always...amazing use of metaphors!!
SUPER LIKE....
and yes ! WELCOME BACK...

MaihoonDON™ said...

Thank you for taking us back to Kolkatta.
And please don't give yourself such long breaks from the blog - your readers begin to have heartbreaks.

The Weekend Blogger said...

Calcutta...the city of nostalgia.

Sanjeev said...

OMG! That's an awesome piece. Hats off.

Krishnan said...

Welcome back, have you joined Mount Road Mahavishnu by any chance ?

Adi Crazy said...

Beautiful post. I am still to discover Calcutta, though I find myself at its airport so very often. Now, I am determined to stop by and experience it :)

Anonymous said...

Sorry to be posting off topic. I remember somewhere in your blog you mentioned about a yellow color book on india written by a firang. I think it is a travelogue. You said it is the best every book written on India. I have been digging through your blog to locate that post, but so far no luck.
Can you name the book here for me please? Thanks in advance

sree said...

quite a piece. was in kolkata this week... feel real nostalgic. Good to know u had a great time. all the best for your new job!

Ardra said...

'She'sounds ravishing.

Sindhu Kaushik said...

I have always been enamoured by Calcutta although I have never been there before. I am a big sucker for everything Bangla - I am neither a Bengali myself nor am I married to one. Thanks for this intoxicating piece on Calcutta. I hope to experience it someday.

Anonymous said...

For Mr.Abishek Mukherjee: Great to know that you have never left your hometown. But you need t ostop pitying people who live in any other city or make their choice of going abroad.You soke for yourself and you should leave it at that! every city churns out its loyalists and I have my own bad experiences in so called kolkatta.But now after many years of the nonsensical chaotic and absolutely "dirty" existence I saw there I was surprised to find myself seeing it in a totally different light now.I was there last year and had the best time ever.So,time you read about other Indian cities and learned about appreciable nooks and corners and gave it a shot rather than sitting like a stiff lipped,tight arsed bong,like the one that wants only bengali captains and OPEN YOUR MIND TO EXPLORE FOR A CHANGE! time you changed your address. I almost fell over laughing at your comment.

Bishwanath Ghosh said...

My heartfelt thanks to those who read my recent post on Kolkata and left some very kind words in the comment box. I shall cherish the comments also because the post was very special to me -- it marked my return to the blog after a gap of nearly two months, the longest absence so far, and also accurately summed up my emotions about a city I've fallen in love with.

Janani Sampath said...

well, thanks to you for coming back :))))

Sunil Deepak said...

"Give a dilapidated look to the buildings of London, then suck the permissive air of Paris and implant it over London and people it with Bengalis -- Kolkata would be that city." Very alluring this mistress!

Anonymous said...

lovely post...started to fall in love with your posts:)

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Anubhuti said...
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