Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Back to my roots... to a magic number called 30/2








It’s almost thirty years since I left Calcutta. Yet, no other city draws me as close as she does. I used to dream about living in Bombay, which eventually happened, just as Madras also happened… yet at heart I still remain a Calcuttan. It’s perhaps bound to be natural when it’s the place where you’ve spent the first twenty years of your life… where you first experienced the sunshine and the rain, where you learnt to play marbles and spin the top, where you sweated it out on the school fields and in the assembly hall, where you first got attracted to the opposite sex (it happened outside school, and I still remember her face!), where you had your first nocturnal emission (on the pillow!), where you first inhaled the cigarette smoke, where for the first time you tried a cocktail of beer and whisky and found yourself desperately trying to hold on to the railings of a tram, where you felt your first pangs of love (which after a while seemed to be infatuation of the sublime kind) and, that too, with somebody older to you, where you first tried to shake a leg or two on the party floor and knew in an instant that it wasn’t your cup of tea, where you knew that there really couldn’t be anything more beautiful and lovelier than the Bengali woman… well, let me stop this panegyric…

A few months ago, my sister (who is much more a Calcuttan than I can ever hope to be) and I decided to take a walk down memory lane. And it really was a walk from Modern High School and the Beckbagan junction towards the magic number called 30/2… Jhowtala Road was where we had lived for two decades and more… my sister probably since the late 1950s. What we saw horrified us – footpaths were encroached by settlers, buildings lay battered by old age, and a monstrosity of a mall was rising from the ruins that was earlier the electricity board campus. Plaster was peeling off and cobwebs hung from what was the post office – I used to go there many a time to buy inland covers and stamps. We could almost feel a ghoulish laughter as we kept on towards that magic number… 

Pictures show the Beckbagan junction, as familiar as home to many of us who have left Cal; the tents erected by squatters on the way to 30/2; the shabby state of the buildings en route; the pharmacy from where we used to buy medicines, which had seen much better times; the upcoming mall (not of the Darjeeling kind) that seems quite out of place here; the road we would all take on our way to school, college, office or club; and yet another of those side streets that almost seems to be crying out to get back to the 1950s and '60s.... what a shame!







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