CalcuttaScape : Simi K. Rao

Presenting a new section to the readers : CalcuttaScape. It would be a guest column on One and a Half Minutes, in which published authors will write about their experiences on visits to Calcutta. I will be approaching non-resident authors who have visited for a vacation or stayed in Calcutta for a short while.

I know, dear readers, the first question cropping in your mind would be, why Calcutta? I’m not sure if I have a satisfactory answer for this one. It is my city, at times it has been my muse, it has been a companion in my early adult years, it has been a witness to a major part of my life. This is probably my way of paying a tribute to Calcutta, by bringing to you words flown from famous authors, on a city that never ceases to amaze.

The fourth article in this column is from Simi K. Rao, the author of ‘An Incurable Insanity.’

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Calcutta For The Soul

Image Courtesy: Rajdeep Mukherjee

Image Courtesy: Rajdeep Mukherjee

It’s said that memories fade with time which is probably a good thing or some of us would find it impossible to go on. But there are certain reminisces that cannot afford to be forgotten. They are like precious keepsakes that need to be extracted from the dusty realms of time. They have to be caressed and fondled with affection; reinforced and perhaps refurbished before being tucked away securely again.

One such precious memory that I’ve guarded fiercely is that of my trip to Calcutta. Over the years it has been revisited a million times; edited and imbued with subtle nuances so to add color and character.

I was perhaps ten, twelve or thereabouts (my mother stresses on the later and she is probably right because I’m pathetically poor with specifics.) The trip would never have come about hadn’t it been for my father, who after one of his numerous travels brought back an exquisite Bengali handloom cotton striped sari of olive green and cream. It became my favorite. My mother looked lovely in it. He also spoke of a land rich in culture that had produced the likes of Rabindranath Tagore, Vivekananda, Satyajit Ray and of course the indomitable Kishore Da. Therefore armed with miniscule amount of education and barely suppressed curiosity, I embarked on my sole journey to the east, with my tiny family in tow.

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CalcuttaScape : Laxmi Hariharan

Presenting a new section to the readers : CalcuttaScape. It would be a guest column on One and a Half Minutes, in which published authors will write about their experiences on visits to Calcutta. I will be approaching non-resident authors who have visited for a vacation or stayed in Calcutta for a short while.

I know, dear readers, the first question cropping in your mind would be, why Calcutta? I’m not sure if I have a satisfactory answer for this one. It is my city, at times it has been my muse, it has been a companion in my early adult years, it has been a witness to a major part of my life. This is probably my way of paying a tribute to Calcutta, by bringing to you words flown from famous authors, on a city that never ceases to amaze.

The third article in this column is from Laxmi Haraharan, a Kindle bestselling author and blogger for Huffington Post.

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The Calcutta Comeuppance 

Image Courtesy: Author

Image Source: ehttp://wordhavering.wordpress.com

Over the years my father has let small clues spill about his past. He lived in Calcutta when he was starting out on his career as a trainee bank officer. I pieced together a picture of the girl he had met here. One who loved to dance the twist and drink lots of cha. She was a widow, someone who flaunted societal rules to enjoy life. He had been enamoured with her but chose

to move on, knowing he wasn’t strong enough to face up to his family and society to marry her. At least that’s what he told me. When he speaks of her, I see the look of a man frozen at the crossroads of life from which he has never really moved and yet lived a lie. But leave he did. Then it was my turn to meet the city.

Calcutta had always seemed to be in a dimension apart. As if it were this planet existed on one plane and that exalted epitome of imagination on the other. Did I have enough soul to be accepted into its fold, I wondered as I walked through Park Street hand in hand with a man who was born in a street not too far away. He, whose parents met in this city fifty years earlier; they had been together since.

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The Serpentine Kiss

Circa 1975, Bombay…

James had invited me to a party at his place. He said it was a debut party for someone. Since I was not alone in Bombay anymore, I decided to take my new friend Marie to his party as a plus one. We reached his place at Parel on the particular evening. Marie was more excited than me as she was about to meet James for the first time. A man servant ushered us inside the huge duplex apartment. I had come here twice before, though I doubt if he had recognized me. He led us directly to the floor above where I had never been in my earlier visits. As we entered the hall through an unusually bolted door, it felt as if we had stepped into a different world altogether. It was an extremely strange and eerie hall for a debut party. The entire room was lined with cages as far as I could see. They had live snakes. And frogs. And baby alligators. The hall was dark except for soothing matted lights above each cage. I wasn’t absolutely dumbstruck, knowing James, but I surely had forgotten about Marie. As soon as I spotted James under the light of a cobra cage, I turned to Marie for an introduction. But she had vanished into thin air.

Image Courtesy: Google

Image Courtesy: Google

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I was confused as to what astonished me more: The weird debut party by James? Or the disappearance of Marie? It was dark, but I could gauge at least thirty more people in the hall. Marie could have sneaked into the other side, though it was more likely for her to have fainted by this time. I had not revealed to her till now that James was a reptile supplier for the Hindi movies. She was crazy about movies and the tall heroes prancing around trees. I had just mentioned to her that James worked in those movies and she was ready to come to the party with me. Marie was actually a distant cousin of mine. I had stayed with her and Aunt Lily for a month in their tiny flat in Colaba when I arrived from Calcutta six months ago. As of now, six months later, Marie was my only friend in Bombay though I had known James since childhood.

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CalcuttaScape : Nalini Rajan

Presenting a new section to the readers : CalcuttaScape. It would be a guest column on One and a Half Minutes, in which published authors will write about their experiences on visits to Calcutta. I will be approaching non-resident authors who have visited for a vacation or stayed in Calcutta for a short while.

I know, dear readers, the first question cropping on your mind would be, why Calcutta? I’m not sure if I have a satisfactory answer for this one. It is my city, at times it has been my muse, it has been a companion in my early adult years, it has been a witness to a major part of my life. This is probably my way of paying a tribute to Calcutta, by bringing to you words flown from famous authors, on a city that never ceases to amaze.

The second article in this column is from author Nalini Rajan, her first novel ‘The Pangolin’s Tale’ was longlisted for the Man Asian Literary Prize, 2007.

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Calcutta

Howrah Bridge, 1945 (Image Courtesy: Wikipedia)

Howrah Bridge, 1945 (Image Courtesy: Wikipedia)

I have visited Calcutta three times, and I have mere fragments of memories of this city.

The first time I went to Calcutta, I was nine years of age. I was travelling by train from Delhi with my 12-year-old sister and a 20-year-old male cousin, Shekhar. “Girls, there are lots of things you should see in Calcutta”, our father advised us. “This is a city, brimming with history!” He looked somewhat dreamy. “And Howrah Bridge is something you see, anyway, from the train”, he added, as he waved us goodbye at Delhi station.

Right at the beginning of the 20-hour journey my sister and I knew one thing: we loathed our cousin, and he, for his part, simply forgot that we existed. It was lucky that our mother had packed loads of food for the train journey – else her daughters would surely have perished of hunger. For the most part of the trip, Shekhar would hang out with people his age, and usually of the opposite sex. Not once did he ask us, out of cousinly concern, if we needed anything! We were so puffed up with righteous indignation at this benign neglect, that we missed seeing Howrah Bridge altogether, as we approached Calcutta.

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CalcuttaScape : Timothy Jay Smith

Presenting a new section to the readers : CalcuttaScape. It would be a guest column on One and a Half Minutes, in which published authors will write about their experiences on visits to Calcutta. I will be approaching non-resident authors who have visited for a vacation or stayed in Calcutta for a short while.

I know, dear readers, the first question cropping on your mind would be, why Calcutta? I’m not sure if I have a satisfactory answer for this one. It is my city, at times it has been my muse, it has been a companion in my early adult years, it has been a witness to a major part of my life. This is probably my way of paying a tribute to Calcutta, by bringing to you words flown from famous authors, on a city that never ceases to amaze.

The first one in this column is from an American author, Timothy Jay Smith (winner of the Paris Prize for Fiction 2008) reminiscing two of his visits to Calcutta in 1978 and 1990s.

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Enduring Calcutta

I boarded the train at a way station north of Madras; and it was still called Madras then, not Chennai. I had managed to avoid buying anything resembling a Madras shirt—those myriad colors swirling in soft fabric worn so ubiquitously by the Sixties flower children. Perhaps now they are called Chennai shirts, but I hope they’ve retained the name Madras. The word defines an era well beyond a fashion statement.

Traveling third class, I stepped over dozens of feet—in sandals, sneakers, one foot bloated with Elephantitis—and found a spot on the wooden bench. I stowed my backpack under it and sat down. Across from me was the strangest man I had ever seen: stick skinny, smeared with green paint, naked except for a revealing loincloth, and fingernails so long that they had looped back on themselves. By contrast, I could not have been more ‘normal-looking’ in my jeans and button-down blue Oxford shirt.

And everybody on the train was looking at me.

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Of Rain, Calcutta, and Other Lores

It’s raining in Calcutta now. And I’m writing about it sitting in a sunny, humid, sweltering city a couple of thousand kilometers away. That itself should be proof enough of my yearning for rain, in Calcutta. Every year at the advent of monsoon, there is a part in me which unfailingly craves to be in Calcutta to savour the climate. The dilapidated city looks surreal, feels surreal, and infinite memorable moments are born with each earthward drop.

Photo Courtesy: Subhamoy Sinha Roy

Photo Courtesy: Subhamoy Sinha Roy

I have lived in Calcutta for eight years only. I have also lived in a few other metropolises of the world during rains. Miami – yes, Mumbai – yes, Hyderabad – yes, New York – briefly yes, London – briefly yes, Belfast – yes. I have watched the preparation, the actual precipitation, soaked and froze myself in those rains, and yet, whenever it rains anywhere it reminds me of Calcutta. I have eons of memories as I spent the crucial monsoons of my life in the city. The shadows of deep dark pregnant clouds on the moss-lined walls of our old Ballygunge flat used to bring out the poet in me each monsoon. They were not necessarily works of art, I must assure you, but they never failed to fill the pages of my diary. I was naive then, yes. Even an edged word from my best friend drove me to melancholy and made me seek solace in the rain. I could sit hours on the window sill and day-dream with incessant patter in the background. That is something I still do. The rains compel me to day-dream. They make even amateurish dreams seem achievable.

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Youtopia

There are some things which keep bubbling inside, and at times, froth outside desperately. Shades of sky wrapping my mind in layers, intertwining with each other, a cloudy silver peeking here and there. Each bubble a blue, a sky, filled with voids that only I know of. Is it just me and Gainesville, or it happens to anyone tangled to a place? Why do I even bother telling anyone where i want to be.

Someplace, with the lilac evenings of Bombay, spread over inconspicuous chaai-ki-taprees, interspersed with the diamond lights on Arabian Sea.
Someplace, with the skyscrapers and steel of Manhattan, where a twentieth floor balcony lets you dream over coffee and sunset while watching cute chinese shoplets wrapping up the day.
Someplace, with the skies and rains of Calcutta, deep crimson-lined clouds (the rare ones, I want them) overcasting shadows with one another on busy streets and old, red buildings.
Someplace, with the tall shady tree-lined lonely roads of Gainesville, puddles reflecting a purple sky with an occasional fall leaf, floating.

And someplace, where you’ll be there to touch me with your playful smiling gaze.