Kolkata’s own:Passion and its Legacies
“Calcutta beckons me
In familiar names,
Calls me close in the midst of anonymous crowd
On an intense, familiar bent,
I fall back on its stones.”
The wheels rattled on the tracks, with each turn it was mindfully weaving the intricacies and stories of the adored city, intriguing the adorer in him. Seated in one of the oldest living legends, the “electrical reptile”, each passing scene seemed to breath the charm of Calcutta.The shouts of the young boys rented the air as the tram stationed itself in front of Maidan.Half-clad in shorts and vests, they kicked the ball with the sand turning against the wind. The game which has been in the pedestal hitherto of every Bengali heart –uniting them in unputdownable joy.The feet tangles,the chest clash against each other and the final kick-“GOAL” ,hands flung outside ,the boy celebrates his victory –for a moment it seems football is the extension of every Bengali personality, a potent non-verbal language of joy.
Football has been an instrument of camaraderie that Bengalis are proud of accepting from the British.The three clubs, Mohun Bagan,East Bengal and Mohemmedan has completely taken sway over the moves of any footballer,marking the social structure in disharmony that underlies the unified facade. It is aregular scene how the Bengalis get engaged in an endless argument defending their teams, he himself has been a part of many. The zest and passion of the game seemed to attract him, as his heart and mind in unified harmony agrees with the famous song,
“Sob Khelar Sera Bangalir Tumi Football!
Aha Ki Modhu ache oi tomar namete bawa Football!
(Oh the lord of all sports, you the Bengali’s Football,
How your very name spreads sweetness to one and all!)”
But no can at the same time supersede the passion Kolkata nurtures for its heroes –Hero worship is an integral part of every Kolkata household be it Baichung Bhutia in football or Sourav Ganguly in cricket.They stand by as an instituition of pride and honour for generations.The Maharaja of Calcutta ,Sourav Ganguly rules uncontendedly in every Bengali heart.
The smell of unfinished cigarettes was knitted in the cacophony in the warm environment of the Mecca for building poets and aspiring writers ,standing at the junction of Bankim Chatterjee street and Baithak-khana road,the Indian Coffee House.Basking in nostalgia,he retraced his steps to the antique chairs ,stained with coffee and cigarette burns,seeing each one getting thoroughly involved in the Raison d’être of Bengalis,the adda. Coffee House and ‘adda’ has become synonymous to each other.The addictive essence of adda in Coffee house has played an important part in Kolkata’s cultural history since its inception, putting many mouths jabbering and many minds pondering.
Taking a sip of “Infusion” (the mast famous coffee), he soon plunged into a world of passionate debate from politics to art.The waiters even remember serving legends from Satyajit Ray to Aparna Sen, till now the legacy persist from the portrait of Tagore to the frills of the waiter’s turban.In a few moments he was revisting the paths aside memory lane- the spicy puffed rice in front of Victoria,mutton omelet in Presidency canteen and Flury’s itself is a shadow of glory of Kolkata-reminding the passionate foodie in every Bengali heart,coming down from ages.His walk down the memory lane was suddenly intersected by a youthful voice, ”Impossible! She has to step down”. Nodding in earnest debate, he slowly made my way through the crowd ,beaking out from the quintessential part of the Bengali character, the ‘Adda’.
Right across the street stood the structure which has rendered many Bengalis an edge, the “Presidency University”.Each time he entered the place, in spite of the energy he loved to disappear into the sea of humanity,love and politics.The gates which has been crossed by Satyajit Ray,stairs stepped down by Netaji, laboratory used by S.N. Bose and corridors walked down by the greats including Vivekananda, still holds the legacy of politics and education.The political river which finds its origin in Presidency,punctuated by several fights,raids and marches, has been the life,breathe and passion of Kolkata.His eyes stopped on the wall paintings and banners echoing the zeal of the students from generations be it our Indian President or Bose.Seated in the famous backyard, he remembered how they had recast Tagore’s lines into their belief which drives their politics,
“If no one responds to your call,be not afraid to walk alone”
The canteen scene had not altered yet –the impromptu music,rebellious lyrics and unmistakable quotations with beats on the table-the “bench bajiye gaan” still victimizes the listeners.Turning away from Kolkata’s passionate cradle of politics, he moved towards “boi para” mindfully recapitulating his task for the day.
Running his inquisitive eyes through the book shops, he finally found the book he was supposed to buy for his brother,”Feluda”.A character which has for once ignited the wish to be a sleuth like Pradosh Mitter in a young Bengali mind. The Ray novel is an essential part of the growing up,be it a middle school child or a teen.His unique style of storytelling has introduced logic and passion for literature in young minds along with Leela Majumdar and many others.The huge expanse of the academic hub of Calcutta emphasizes the Bengali’s hunger for literature or art which is not found in any other part of the world for which Ashima in Jhumpa Lahiri’s Namesake tries to recreate Kolkata in United States.From Amit Ray in “Shesher Kobita” to Nil lohit in Sunil’s novel, Kolkatans redefines itself each time.The hanker for pure literature proves “Calcutta is philosophy”.
Adding on humming the Tagore songs make him prod on each syllable, an embodiment of all kinds of emotions running in the heart.Tagore has been a golden treasure passing down from elders to youngsters, He is stitched in the highs and lows of a simple Bengali.His eternal appeal concentrates Bengali passion as the famous lines reverberate in the ears,
“Where the mind is without fear and the head is held high”
Calcutta can never forget the patron saint who had put Bengali literature in the numero uno stage.
Heading towards his eighty years old ancestral house, which spells of the old world charm of Calcutta, he feels himself indebted to the city which has painted his future in the beam of light, shedding off oblivion, he only wanted to dedicate the Tagore’s lines for his beloved city,
“I seemed to have loved you in numberless forms, numberless times,
In life after llife, in age after age, forever”
Calcutta Girls’ High School
(This is an entry for Context Concord 2015-http://www.concord15.com)