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Posts Tagged ‘Kolkata

Kolkata bound (yet again) and Mumbai musings

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This hasn’t happened in the last decade: touching home base twice within an year, far less the same calendar year. It wasn’t planned, but so much in life isn’t.

So there it is……waiting in Singapore to catch the evening flight to Kolkata. Much business to be taken care of in Kolkata, involving lots of loitering around the passport office. Then to Mumbai, briefly, and back to Kolkata, hopefully finish the business there if not done already (the more likely scenario), then back to Mumbai for the main business(this is opposed to the original plans for staying in Mumbai all the time).

Question in my mind: will it be worth it ?  It is a sort of closure, so we have to go through with it. But, as a prominent blogger-friend asked, do we want it ? It is a philosophical question, answerable only after a few martinis.

Sorry about the vagueness, just in a mood for rambling….

Anyhow, hoping to meet up some people in Kolkata, and having fun celebrating a very close cousin’s birthday – last time was ten years ago just before we had left homeland and her age could be counted on one hand. Now she is into modeling and physics !!

Also looking forward to being in Mumbai after ten years.

Mumbai must have changed, although I might not even notice much difference as even while living there, I mostly cloistered myself within the Powai campus,  usually not hazarding a local train journey unless on weekends. But have fond memories of walking from VT to the Marine Drive, all the way down to Nariman Point. Or, catch a dinner first at Bengal Lodge  and then walk to Marine Drive. The best meories of Marine Drive was actually once when my train to Kolkata got delayed by 12 hours and I had to  roam around with nothing to do. The monsoons were on, it was windy, and the sea was spectacular.

Not so fond, in fact , nightmarish memories of the daily commute from Powai to Anushakti Nagar for about three months (summer internship). It started out well, there was a direct express bus right from the campus door-step, easy to find a seat and got there in less than 30 minutes. But wouldn’t you know, it got cancelled two weeks after I started commuting, forcing an additional bus/auto trip to get down the hill and then catching the dreaded Route 399. That was a bus that meandered all around town and took more than an hour (sometimes worse as the monsoons set in and traffic got worse). Sometimes I would spend about 4 hours a day commuting (which, to be fair, wasn’t as bad compared to what many Mumbai commuters face all through the year).

The pain of the commute was more than amply made up by the availability of government subsidized canteen food at BARC. The food was tasty too – hot jalebis with savory upma – try the combination sometime. And Friday lunch chicken biryanis – Rs 10 only per plate e my very second one in the city.

The worst Mumbai commuting story, however, would have to be my only second experience in the city. Again, this was monsoon season. It was my first visit to the city, and somehow I had managed to reach the Powai campus from Dadar Station without any adventures. Now, having finished the business at the campus,  I had to reach my cousin’s place in Thane, with no money for cabs, and a very vague idea of where Thane was located geographically or how to get there. Someone told me I could take bus and numbers such and such – so I stood at the bus-stop. Now this was when they had decided that no Arab numerals would be used on the front of the B.E.S.T buses,  only Marathi on the front.  So unless the bus actually pulled up, I would have no idea what route it was and where it was headed and this being Mumbai peak hour, by the time I realised I should step into a particular bus, it was either full or it simply rushed off. Took me a while, but I eventually learnt the Marathi numerals (which helped in future as well) in the two hours of waiting in the constant downpour that is the Mumbai monsoons. Eventually, I did find my cousin’s place, after reaching some place in Thane by bus, then wading through knee-deep water for a while to get to the wrong rickshaw-stand and therefore charged 40Rs extra (a princely sum for a poor student at that time), only to be dropped off at the wrong gate of this humongous apartment complex where people in one block of the complex did not know the location for a block at the other end and oh – it was still raining, and there was a power-cut, and hence quite pitch dark. I never loved the sound of my cousin’s voice nor found chicken curry so delicious after a hot bath as I did on that night.

Hopefully, I can avoid such nightmares this time around.

Written by BongoP'o'ndit

July 30, 2008 at 12:06 am

Posted in Immigration, India, Kolkata, Life, Personal

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The reverse culture shocks….

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…..when I went home recently after a gap of 3+ years did not involve the burgeoning number of new shopping malls, or the new fly-overs, or the sudden new-fangled fad for Mehendi (Gariahata crossing was chock-full of Mehendi-wallahs adorning nubile arms), or even the (as Dipanjan had warned) inflated value of the rupee (although I did pause for a brief moment when I heard the cost of phuchkas, one rupee now buys less a phuchka!).

But I did a double-take when I saw two teen-aged guys blithely walking with their arms around each other!

Took me a second to remind myself it was all quite normal: Boys (and some girls) of all ages from kindergarten to college-bound, walking with arms around each other, or holding hands. Did not have any additional meaning. [Not that there is anything wrong with people of same gender having mutual affections, its just that my automatic thought for the first few seconds was how India had progressed socially to be accepting such a behavior 🙂 ].

And there it was – the things that hadn’t really changed in Kolkata, the mundane managing to catch me off-guard. Amidst the mental preparations for the various transformations you hear about in India, I had forgotten how much living away had changed me.

Among the other such experiences, which used to part of my daily life, but seems strange now:

  • The lack of personal space; not that I really expect it in an overcrowded country, but more than once I came across this irritating habit of the person behind me in a queue edging as close as possible (hoping no doubt that the extra few inches gained would allow him to get his job done mighty sooner).
  • The absolute and unabashed manner in which people delve into your personal lives, especially in regards to question of employment, salary and importantly, the issue of having kids (I am told that there are a few well meaning people – who aren’t even relatives or close friends – in Kolkata who are losing nights of sleep over the fact we haven’t had kids yet).
  • The fact that simply standing quietly in front of the butcher’s, fish-monger’s or vegetable-vendor’s, waiting for your turn to be called by the shopkeeper gets you nowhere. The trick is to push in and announce what you need – you will be served. But no one’s going to flash a smile and ask what you want.
  • The fact that duties of a good host involve force feeding people till they are sick. In most cases, I was actually the victim; but then there were couple of instances when I would ask guests if they wanted some extra food or sweets and when they say no, I would not ask a second time. Took a while to remember that perhaps they indeed wanted more food but were being polite; I was supposed to continue insisting a bit!

Sigh ! Just ten years away from the motherland and I am – as some of the relatives would not fail to point out disapprovingly – turning into a saheb !

Written by BongoP'o'ndit

May 12, 2008 at 7:22 pm

Posted in India, Kolkata, Life, Personal, Uncategorized

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Knight Riders Promotional Video

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Speechless, we simply sit and shake our head in dismay:

(more on the Knight Riders here)

The comments section at the Youtube host site provides a good competition for Rediff. Enjoy gems such as:

This ad-vid is awesome!!! Ignoring the stupid commentaries that underestimate our king, I hope that to these boys all turns into gold. Is so sweet the determination with which he promotes the team.

PS – if someone can explain what this video has to do with cricket, Kolkata or even Bollywood, I will be much obliged.

Written by BongoP'o'ndit

April 5, 2008 at 11:08 pm

The Knight Riders are coming…..

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I am positively excited; brimming – nay, overflowing – with anticipation and gutted by the intolerably long wait. I am figuratively salivating …………

……..because, ladies and gents, the greatest thing to happen to my old, beloved city since Parnab started gracing the quiz circuits, is here:

Yes ……. the Kinght Riders are coming – no nothing to do with David Hasselhorf – but our very own Dada-led, SRK owned, Indian Premium League franchise, the Kolkata Knight Riders !!!

Naysayers who frown upon the cattle-trade nature of the IPL player auctions will find plenty wrong with this picture. Snobs will deride the the golden yellow helmet as tacky. But little they do they realize the visual symbolism of a morphed image of a viking helmet with a cricket grill. It is exactly what provides confidence that the home team will ‘unleash…power, tear down …rivals’, ‘win every war in the battlefield’ , ‘fight for glory’ and other such amazing stuff.

The same spoil-sports may even complain about the overly ‘Flash’y website, but once you have downloaded the team anthem, a stirring composition in Bengali-Hindi-English combined, extolling you to ‘korbo, lorbo, jeetbo re’, how can it not stir the those long-dormant Robindrosongeet-suppressed Bangali-passions? If only we had this slogan 30 years ago, Kolkata would have been far ahead of the game.

And if all that doesn’t get your adrenalin pumping and rushing to the nearest store to get your own autographed helmet while singing ‘lorbo, jeetbo’ at the top of your voice, there is no way you can evade the charms of the lovable mascot, ‘Hoog Lee’! Yes a spectacularly genius piece of witty nomenclature from some enterprising copywriter. As SRK sez:”not Bruce Lee, not Brett Lee, but better than all the Lees“. Oh yeah !

Yessireee, along with jhalmuri, phuckka and the Campari mutton roll, add the Knight Riders to the irresistible delights of Kolkata. Lucky me, I get to be in Kolkata for their opener on the 20th April !!

Errr….is that John Buchanan sniggering ? How dare he……..

(Thanks to Well-Pitched for drawing attention to the Knight Riders)

Written by BongoP'o'ndit

March 12, 2008 at 3:17 am

Pujo nostalgia, the best there is…..

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Another year, another Durga Pujo not spent in Kolkata. But the memories, they linger….

This is what I wrote last year, and not much has changed:

It is as inevitable as the tradition that inspires it – feeling pangs of nostalgia while Kolkata1 gears up to welcome Maa Durga and her four children – Karthik, Ganesh, Lakshmi and Saraswati, worship and revel in her homecoming for the next four days.


Time to let off a small, silent sigh and think of the amazing energy, the electric (quite literarily) atmosphere, and most of all, the fun everyone is having back home during Durga Pujo, while I am several thousands of  ‘saat-samudra-tero-nadip-pare’ miles away – waiting to transfect cells, run agarose-gels, attend technical seminars and other such exciting (not!) stuff. Time for the Inbox to be flooded with pictures of eclectic pandals and protima designs and the Shubo Bijoya messages in a few days…….

Written by BongoP'o'ndit

October 16, 2007 at 6:08 pm

Posted in Kolkata, Personal

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