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Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Bombay = Calcutta

17th nov 2013

the mumbai of the 80's and the early 90's. especially the mumbai around fort and churchgate. the victorian architecture, the stone buildings, with their pillars and arches... the book stalls under these buildings , walking the cobbled path below these arches... walking, browsing, purchasing... the books, the odd curio..

my father would have the saturday and sunday off from work each week.

on the 1st saturday of the month, he would leave home leisurely around 10. am. he would be casually dressed in a handloom shirt. yeah... casual meant a shirt. he was never a t-shirt man. the handloom fabric bought from handloom house... the fabric arriving home in a bag with the famed peacock motif.

i am going to Bombay, "bombai vochhun yetta" , he would tell us and he would be off. and when he would return, it was always with something special.... something from bombay store or something from chimanlal or from khadi bhandar, something from akbarally's or from asiatic. a swiss roll or an eclair from mongini's - monginis had a corner at akbarally's. , music from Hiro and rhythm house . a shirt for him from double bull. a saree for mom from khatau or KVIC and then later for me , from vimal's or garden's..

fort and the surrounding area always held that fascination for me . dad took us out for a treat there , once in a while. a movie at sterling, lunch at gopal ashram, a konkani jackfruit based delicacy - 'muddo' - at west coast, or a bhel at vittal's... a snack at rasna - the restaurant with the apple shaped entrance.

then when i began working at maker towers, i , who had been fascinated by 'bombai' forged my own love story with the area.

the khaddar kurtas , ethnic jewellery, kolhapuris and the honey laced limbu sharbat at the Khadi Bhandar, bandhani dupattas from the street opposite the central telegraph office, books and bags from the pavements, chimanlal's for the handmade paper and the golden khadi printed sheets, litchi juice at an outlet near kayson's (Rustomjees??) satyam's for the crazy greeting cards, asiatic again for silver jewelry, gurjari.., and then just for the simple pleasure of walking down those lanes which were a part of history - of the city and my childhood.

the work place then moved to BKC. the children arrived and i became a stay at home mom. but as a special birthday treat , we would go and spend the day in 'town' . my dad's 'bombai' was now the 'town side'.

we would drive upto WTC and MT , then satyam's , walk along the shaded streets of Wodehouse road, drive upto the gateway, khadi bhandar, strand, and the rasta book stalls, bombay stores.....

there were the changes... handloom house had long gone up in flames.. time, modernization, glitz, the swank had changed the face of the area.
the pavement stalls had shrunk or disappeared.. the chaos had given way to order.... but for me the charm was soon lost. the uniqueness of the place, the beauty , the flavour, the soul ... was lost.

calcutta... kolkata doesn’t come naturally to the mind or even the lips..

1st impression - oh wow, the yellow ambassador taxis... ambassador taxies !

the park street and the store facades which remind me of apna Fort and churchgate.. the pavement bookstalls every few meters, the esplanade which reminds me of the stretch outside and opposite american dryfruits at flora fountain... stalls selling everything from socks, sun glasses, key chains , junk jewellery, bags, t-shirts...The heritage buildings, the old world charm ... they all look as if they have been frozen in time... like one from the sepia toned pictures. the not so very wide streets in their golden light in the evenings, the unhurried pace of life...

other parts of the city resemble colaba, or even parel.
.
calcutta charms, attracts...

calcutta is dirty ,i had been told. the son wondered why we were going there. calcutta looks like the mumbai of 10 yrs ago, said the son. and yeah , he was not wrong.

calcutta manages to retain its flavour.

the people are warm.. where u are not a 'sir' or 'madam'... not even the behenji (eeeeyow!! ) anywhere u go u are welcomed with a "Ashoon didi"... “boloon dada”.. the bond immediately forged. and it sounds sweeter to the ears than the bolo 'sister' that u get to hear in the streets of mumbai.

calcutta is not the impersonal metro yet . it doesn’t suffer from the ' u could be in any city ' syndrome, yet. u r in calcutta and it feels like calcutta. the people, the loud chatter, the accented hindi and even the english.. yes,, it is distinctly calcutta.

where in india can u see a tram which chugs along the streets looking like a baby train.. and the pleasure of crossing the track right in the face of an on coming tram …. some cheap thrills !

calcutta looks like the mumbai of 10 yrs ago... calcutta looks like its 10 yrs behind Mumbai, the son had said. i am not angry with him or offended. i loved the bombay of my childhhod and my youth.. Calcutta… the son was spot - on when he said what he said... and i loved calcutta some more for it.

Oh, Calcutta !!

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