Believe it or not, Calcutta is my one of my favourite places in the world. I was reading about a blogger’s life in Calcutta, and I remembered another era. Not even remotely like her’s. But what an era it was!
The 12 hour train ride in a ladies’ coupe in Danapur Howrah Express.
A station with more cars and less porters. And murals?
The freedom to wear brighter, nicer, lighter sweaters away from the biting cold in Patna. The freedom to not look like a fat version of Vickey from Small Wonder.
The Flury’s of the 80’s and 90’s. The high tea, eclairs, beans on toast, and stolen sugar cubes in paper napkins. And Christmas evenings in the middle of decorations fit for the queen!
Christmas mornings spent shopping in New Market, buying Christmas goodies – colourful pencils, trees and decorations, toy bugles, flowers and cakes. And stockings and caps.
That one Christmas mass I attended.
Momo shops in refugee living rooms.
Long walks along Park Street, picking up Enyd Blytons from footpaths full of books.
The best Chinese food I have ever had, at Bar-b-Q. Being pushed forward to speak to the Captain at the restaurant, so everyone could be sure I wouldn’t grow up to be an “introvert” :-) Boy did they succeed!
Passing by Loreto’s on weekday afternoons, and being a tad jealous because their skirts were shorter than what Notre Dame, Patna would ever allow.
Nizam’s. Astor’s garden restaurant.
Earl Street. Didis from my aunt’s neighbourhood.
That park in Earl Street. Long walks for the many dogs my aunt kept (and once even cats that walked all over you at night – not my best memory!) and early teenage ogling for me.
Spending winter afternoons in the lawns of Dabur House. Sipping cola, being driven around, feeling important, and pretending to myself that I was in my office.
China Town. Mum’s birthday at the Taj. Bengal. My sister and I, in our identical frocks and ‘boy cut’ hair styles, at our absolute best behaviour. Meeting and getting pecked on the cheek, and autographed by Md Ali. My dad remarkably more excited about him though, I had no idea who he was!
And Puja. And pandals. And pandal hopping. And the bengali thalis at The Park. Being overfed. The bengali sound of celebration to drive the bad vibes away. I don’t know what that sound is called.
Hobby Corner. Choco chip ice creams.
AC Market, the closest I got to a mall then. All the shopping in the 3 short weeks we spent there. Summer, winter, or Puja.
The smell of Bengali food that the cook made, moong daal, maaccher ghonto, maachher ghonto in moong daal.
The distinct sound of hyperactive, early morning ‘clean behind the door/ dust the shelves today’ conversation in fluent Bengali.
Driving past Moulin Rouge/ Waldorf, and mum reminiscing about her very few and far between experiences inside a pub.
Victoria Memorial and faces hidden behind black umbrellas.
And sometimes, a drive to Haldia or a drive to the harbour to join dad on the ship.
While trips to Bombay and other voyages happened randomly and often impromptu, it was the immaculate planning and rhythm of Calcutta trips that clearly make them my first and most firm tryst with The Big City Life in my growing up years. The one place that showed me all the opportunities that lay ahead. That had me give everything I had, to the one chance I had of getting out of Patna – graduation :-)
So many memories. With Puja in the air and all, I am getting hopelessly nostalgic about my Calcutta sojourns. The next time I travel to those parts, there is no way I am not going to aamar shonar Bangla.