Tag Archives: Kolkata

Thoughts on Love on a Grey Calcutta Morning

By Devjani Bodepudi

“When love beckons to you follow him, Though his ways are hard and steep. And when his wings enfold you yield to him, Though the sword hidden among his pinions may wound you. And when he speaks to you believe in him, Though his voice may shatter your dreams as the north wind lays waste the garden. For even as love crowns you so shall he crucify you. Even as he is for your growth so is he for your pruning. Even as he ascends to your height and caresses your tenderest branches that quiver in the sun, So shall he descend to your roots and shake them in their clinging to the earth……

But if in your fear you would seek only love’s peace and love’s pleasure, Then it is better for you that you cover your nakedness and pass out of love’s threshing-floor, Into the seasonless world where you shall laugh, but not all of your laughter, and weep, but not all of your tears. Love gives naught but itself and takes naught but from itself.

Love possesses not nor would it be possessed; For love is sufficient unto love. And think not you can direct the course of love, if it finds you worthy, directs your course. Love has no other desire but to fulfil itself.”

But if you love and must needs have desires, let these be your desires: To melt and be like a running brook that sings its melody to the night. To know the pain of too much tenderness. To be wounded by your own understanding of love; And to bleed willingly and joyfully.”

Kahlil Gibran, The Prophet

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When I was about thirteen, I came across these beautiful lines in a poetry anthology I was given at school to study. I was in love then, so I memorised the lines then, not knowing what they meant. I only knew they were beautiful and talked of love being vast and holier than anything that I had known before.

There is so much love inside us all. The love in me is destructive sometimes. It comes out with a fierce desire to protect and as a result it may destroy. I’m thwarted at every turn because the ones I love will make the choices that they must. I describe it as shouting at a soap character on screen, willing them to make the right choice but they can’t hear me. The script must play out, the show will go on, and in the end, the hero will be heartbroken. There is simply nothing I can do.

The love here, in Calcutta seems magnified. Everyone loves to extremes. It’s like watching a strip of magnesium burn brighter than the sun only to be left with the remnants of a memory. It is a starburst in the darkness and clinical correctness of a laboratory.  I think everyone here is chasing that starburst, that momentary elusiveness of wonder and lust.

I’ve heard stories of couples who have been married for years, have children, respectable positions in society, just let it all fall away because they’ve ‘fallen in love’. It happens everywhere, I suppose, perhaps more so in the West. People get divorced all the time. But somehow, it feels like it’s been sought out here, deliberately. It’s necessary because the poets have written about it for centuries. We’ve taken Romeo and Juliet to heart and Tagore’s heroes and heroines must befall heartache and tragedy, as it is the only way to love. Despair is a prerequisite to happiness and truth, it seems.

Growing up and in my teens we were exposed to the story of Sarat Chandra’s Devdas, in all his cinematic glory. That tragic drunk, inebriated with his own sorrow, the courtesan, made transcendent through her grief, the simple girl next door, within reach but tainted through poverty. As Indians, I think we’ve come to worship such love, but I was able to move on thankfully. I think it’s like dancing in the rain; there is pure joy in drowning in the tears of the gods. To fully experience love, one must drown in it first. One must first be left bereft of hope until an angel appears and lifts you up and whispers in your ear, “you will love again and this time it will be for an eternity.”

But what is Love? I did not know what it was until it filled me up with contentedness and content. It is that which stopped still the longing and searching and swallowed the void until light poured forth from every pore. Every droplet of self was wrung from my being until there was only elation.

Love asks of nothing. It is whole. It will be you, who will give, willingly, as you are nourished with its enduring strength and its midday warmth.

I suppose we must all learn the ways of heartbreak and rejection first, like rights of passage. Perhaps our hearts need to be broken and set in the form of the perfect vessel to allow Love to enter. I wish I knew.

All I know is that I am blessed with Love. I pray that those whom I love, will find it too, that many-coloured bird that sings of joy and strength and patience and peace.

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Indian Middle Class Life And Stories

india, indian middle class family driving on scooter in bangalore

By Pinaki Pratihar

Every day when I wake-up and get prepared for my office, I pack my lunch made by my maid and miss my mom. How she helped me get dressed for school or how she used to pack my favorite dishes during my college-life when I use-to go home every weekend!

Or at early night when I used to chat with my dad, queries regarding health, job, life, parties, future plans and more. Sometimes the whole conversation turned into a simple question by my mom, “When will you come here to meet us?”

And I remained silent like ever. Mom has a power; she can feel some unspoken words. She naturally did-not repeats the same question. She left the topic the moment she felt I am uncomfortable with that.

He is a father, who has invested all of his savings for education of his children and to earn their minimum daily needs and wants. A perfect representative of Indian Middle Class society, who preferred to invest on Education, rather increasing his bank balance, whose expenditure, is same as his income, at the age of pre-retirement. He had invested his time to his children as much as possible and now he deserves to get the same attention from his children as he knows he is also experiencing the old-age problems and he need some-one apart from his caring wife, who is also struggling from fevers and pains due to age and nerve conduction and is failing to keep in check with his physical condition. He deserves a hand who can help him reach the nearest reliable hospital and can bring the medicine on time.

She is a mom; she had a general ‘mango-people’ homemaker mindset of having the best of possible things. Her only happiness in life comes from seeing her children attain a position in life. She still wishes her son could be a schoolteacher in a nearest high school and can stay at home at-least.

And me! Once I dreamt to be near my parents and failed, when I felt that life can be easy but career is not secured in Kolkata. Negligible economic growth and industry-related statistics and HR-satisfaction survey and un-predictable responses never encouraged me to be in Kolkata. The dream has busted. I never realized when.

I am a person who enjoys the cheap ride in Kolkata, cheap food and the lazy moments with family and friends. I do not feel the same in Delhi though I have a core set of friends and experienced colleagues. I am well convinced that this is not a place to grow well for a non-IT profile.

Everyday I wake up early morning and reach home at night; in between I mix with so many identities. I am a daily passenger who pays the same for a ticket to reach office, a colleague, who can do his job, a friend, with whom some information can be shared, a researcher who try to study things in-depth, an executive who interact with clients regularly and try to put some value in the business process, a junior, who try to follow senior’s instructions, a judge, before putting the instructions and a dreamer who try to put something new in front of the management.

And a Govt.

In my childhood, I participated in debates against brain-drain, but later-on realized watching so many unsuccessful businessmen in West Bengal that every state is not open like Gujarat.

I am not happy, but satisfied just by calling and considering my days as ‘The Struggling Period’, where I am struggling to learn some more, to earn some more money, respect and more happiness around me. I am convinced that this time, forget about your emotions and family. Here I wish you find your life different from me.

From Iran to India- Chronicles of the Biryani

chicken-biryani

Grand feasts define weddings across boundaries. Muslim weddings are no exception. Known for their culinary delicacies, the biryani is an integral part of Muslim wedding feasts. The following article traces the history of the royal dish along the Indian subcontinent.

Introduction

Culinary delights of India leaves its own inscription on history. Annexed by numerous intruders across borders and boundaries, Indian cuisine has over the centuries become somewhat a melting pot. The culture of feast in India was largely introduced by Muslim invaders like the Arabs, Persians and Afghans. Developed during the 15th to the 18th century, Mughlai cuisine continues to enthrall gourmets as well as laymen across the Indian subcontinent.

One such dish that continues to fascinate millions across the subcontinent is the grand old Biryani. Once accepted in India in its full form, the biryani endured numerous deviations depending upon the region such as Hyderabadi Biryani Awadhi Biryani, Kolkata Biryani and so on.

The Origins of Biryani

The word biryani is derived from the Persian word Birian meaning ‘fried before cooking’. This exotic dish is believed to have been invented in the kitchens of the Muslim invaders. Today, the dish is largely consumed by the populace inhabiting the Indian subcontinent and it is an essential part of Muslim wedding in not only in India but also in other parts of the world.

However, the origin of Biryani in India can be traced to several anecdotes surrounding the same. Let us take a quick look at the same.

Though biryani is essentially associated with the Mughals, some evidences trace its origins to present day Tamil Nadu. Evidences show that a rice dish named ‘On Sooro’ was widely used to feed the military people in south India. The dish was made out of rice cooked in clarified butter. Other ingredients used were meat, coriander, pepper, bay leaf and turmeric. This is very close to what we know as biryani today.

Another interesting story surrounding the origins of the biryani revolves in the court of Emperor Shah Jahan. It is said that one fine day, his queen Mumtaz Mahal made a surprise visit to the barracks where the entire military force was stationed. She was shocked to find that most of the soldiers were malnourished. She immediately ordered for a dish to be prepared by the chef that included rice, meat and other ingredients. The objective was to provide the soldiers with proper nourishment.

evt091210114900194One legend claims that, Timur the Lame, founder of the Timurid Dynasty and also the great-great grandfather of Babur (founder of the Mughal Dynasty in India) brought this exotic this to India from Kazakhstan via Afghanistan to north India.

It does not end here. One more anecdote traces the existence of the dish among the Nomads. The Nomads would bury an earthen pot filled with rice, meat, and spices in a pit. When dug out, the sumptuous biryani was ready.

Types of Biryani

With the passage of time and due to geographical and local influences, the original biryani underwent several changes. This gave rise to the various types of biryanis existing in the Indian subcontinent and south-east Asia as we know today. Let us take a sneak peek into the same.

biryani_1Lucknowi/Awadhi Biryani: Biryani and Lucknow almost share a symbiotic relationship with each other. Also known as Pakka Biryani, in this dish, the meat and the rice are prepared separately and then put together and cooked in slow flame for a long time (Dum Phukt style).

Sindhi Biryani: Originating in present day Pakistan, the Sindhi biryani is cooked with meat and some vegetables like tomatoes. This variety is predominant in Pakistan and in parts of North West India.

mughlai-treat-1Calcutta Biryani:  Boiled potatoes are unique only to the Kolkata biryani. It is said that the biryani was brought to Calcutta by Nawab Wajid Ali Shah in the mid- 1850s. Deported by the British to Calcutta, however, the Nawab remembered to take along with him the royal chef. However, since meat became expensive it was increasingly becoming difficult to afford the same. It was then that potatoes replaced meat. Almost more than two centuries now, the tradition still continues.

Hyderabadi Biryani: Relished all across the country, Hyderabadi Biryani was popularized directly from the Nizam’s Kitchen which is known to prepare 49 varieties of Biryani.

Apart from these, several other forms of biryani exist viz. Ambur Biryani, Memoni Biryani, Bhatkali Biryani, Malabar Biryani, Dindigul Biryani and many more. Whether served at wedding or relished just like that, the exotic dish of biryani will always remain a favourite.

draft_lens3252712module60149732photo_1254237043Hyderabadi-mutton-biryani

In Pictures: Calcutta’s Fading Trams

Kushal Sakunia profiles the fading Tram services of Calcutta (now Kolkata) in this memoir

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Kolkata is the only city in India that still has trams. This year, the city’s tram service is celebrating its 150th Anniversary. However, over the last two decades, lack of investment,
inadequate maintenance & a sharp fall in passengers have led to a decline in their status.
Pic 2
The first tramway service in Kolkata was run between Sealdah and Armenian Ghat Street on 24 February 1873. The service was discontinued on 20 Nov. Again Metre-gauge horse-drawn tram tracks were laid from Sealdah to Armenian Ghat. The route was inaugurated by the Viceroy, Lord Ripon, on 1 November 1880.
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By the end of the nineteenth century the company owned 166 tram cars, 1000 horses, seven steam locomotives and 19 miles of tram tracks.
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Electrification of the tramway was done in 1900. Calcutta Tram is the oldest operating electric tram in Asia. By 1943, it had a total track length of 42 miles.
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There are seven tram depots and nine terminals and one workshop. Today, the fleet has a more than 300 trams, but rolls out around 125 trams a day because of low passenger traffic & lack of funds for maintenance.
Pic 6
According to the state transport department, though CTC earns about Rs 50 crore a year from its tram and bus services, it spends a lot more on salaries to its workforce of about 6,500.  There is a yawning gap between earning and expenditure. According to reports, it sometimes finds it difficult to pay its employees on time.
Pic 7
Over the years, a number of services have been shut down. With the CTC finding it difficult to find funds for the daily maintenance of an old fleet, more and more tram cars are being taken off the road.
Pic 8
The trams in the city carries around 16,000 passengers a day, but the traffic continues to fall.
Pic 9
The image of the good old tram trundling along rickety roads and a rain drenched Maidan may vanish forever under the horrific image of a tram full of the stench and stink of fish and vegetables. The CTC would soon be using the second-class compartments of some trams as goods carriage to ferry goods.
Pic 10
In a bid to rescue and revive its old glory, the CTC has recently rolled out air conditioned trams. It has to be seen if this struggle for survival yields any result.
Hoping this make you relive the charm if you had been a user ever 🙂

Kolkata Biryani

Sampurna Majumder writes about Biryani with aloo!

Kolkata Biryani

Culinary delights of India leaves its own imprint on history. Annexed by various invaders across borders and boundaries, Indian cuisine has over the centuries have become somewhat a melting pot.

The culture of feast in India was largely introduced by the Muslim invaders like the Arabs, Persians and Afghans. Developed during the 15th to the 18th century, Mughlai cuisine continues to enthral gourmets as well as laymen across the Indian subcontinent. Once accepted in India in its full form the, the biryani underwent several variations depending upon the region such as Awadhi Biryani, Hyderabadi Biryani, Kolkata Biryani and so on. Needless to say, my focus lays on Kolkata Biryani in this particular note.

My last trip back home cajoled me to pen down this sumptuous note on the famous Kolkata Biryani. This time I took a stroll across landmarks such as Park Circus and the New Market area with my cousin T. T also cultivates a good taste for food just like I do. From Park Circus we went to New Market and initially wanted to try some chicken pasta. However, once we arrived near the famous Elite cinema T started cribbing about having something else and then our eyes fell on the famous Mughlai joint Aminnia. Biryani!!! Aha! Without any second thoughts we both stepped into Aminia and made ourselves comfortable at cosy corner. We placed an order for the royal biryani and some haleem (a gravy dish made out of lentils and meat).

As the royal delicacy arrived we could not resist ourselves from gulping it down. However, we savoured it at the same time. The boiled potatoes are unique only to the Kolkata biryani. It is said that the biryani was brought to Calcutta by Nawab Wajid Ali Shah in the mid 1850s. However, abject poverty in the then Bengal forced the commoners to replace meat with potatoes. Thus continues the legend of Kolkata biryani. Almost two centuries now, the tradition continues till date. Some of the best places to have biryani in Kolkata are Zeeshan, Arsalan, Aminia and Shiraz.

Dilli ki Hawa – 4

Sampurna Majumder narrates her ‘bitterly-wonderful’ experience of getting drunk in the fourth part of Dilli ki Hawa!

3 girls

College life and teenage can make us do weird stuff at times. Sometimes. I remember the day I got terribly high for the fist time. I was pursuing my Master’s and had just completed by 21st birthday. D, S and I were flatmates. Every month we ended up throwing a small party at our den. Party without some tit-bits is definitely incomplete. We usually got chips, spring rolls and soft drinks as our accompaniments and of course the party comprised gossip sessions and sometimes stupid games.

smirn offIt was one such party which was a little different from the rest. This time three of us tried our hand at vodka. On D’s suggestion we decided to go the nearest local liquor store at north campus. For the first time we stepped into a liquor store. Three of us were a little perturbed as we could feel pairs of eyes ogling at us. Hurriedly we placed an order for a small bottle of vodka and returned home with our prized possession including chips, a bottle of limca and a few other tit-bits.

An hour later we spread out our accompaniments for the evening. Conversations started pouring and so did the vodka. The first round comprised vodka with limca. This was followed by a second round of the same. D had already started feeling a dizzy we could make that out pretty well from her occasional laughter and bitching about her ex-flames.

The vodka bottle was still more than half-filled. All of a sudden D threw a challenge, “who can finish the rest of vodka?” . We stared at each other and by that time the mixture of limca and vodka had already started taking its toll on me. I could feel it. However, I tried to be the brave one and before either of them could decide upon, I took the plunge.

Gulp! Gulp! Gulp! … and bottoms’ Up!!!

After that all I could remember was D and S helping me lie down in the bed so that I could have a good night’s sleep.

Next morning D and S narrated what exactly had happened. I had lost complete control of myself and was crying hysterically. God knows why? And the episode doesn’t end here. I was told that I started throwing up badly and it was all over D; so much so that she had to take bath in the December winters of Delhi. I tried falling back on my last night’s memory and I could vaguely recollect the throwing up!

“How I wish I had not thrown such a challenge!!!”. D lamented.

Calcutta Chromosomes – III

This is the third part of the series – by Sampurna Majumder 

calcutta-coffee-house

Days passed by. Our bonding became stronger with each passing day. It was K, S and I. Three of us became almost inseparable. Be it bunking classes, or bitching about classmates, or cursing the political system, complaining how back-dated the university is and possibly doing nothing about it…. All this and much more.

Communism has been ruling Bengal for more than three decades. The air around was stiff. We did not even spare that. Cursing the communist rule which possibly ‘ruined’ the state. I could feel the typical ‘Bangaliana’ seeping in to me. I was enjoying every bit of it.

K and S had a fairly good understanding of  the typical Bengali adda. Every time we met it was definitely a treat for me as well as a learning procedure. I learnt that the young Kolkatans had the habit of addressing their seniors as dadas and didis, instead of addressing them by just their first names. I seemed quite funny to me. The idea seemed funnier when they revealed that junior girl students from the departments even dated their so called dadas. I wondered if any of the bhais ever dated their didis or not?

Once we decided to the renowned age old Coffee House. I was quite excited about my maiden voyage to this famous eatery. We walked towards the connector of Bankim Chatterjee Street, where the Coffee House was located. The entry of this grand joint deserves mention. The walls on either side of the staircase seemed to resonate history. History was vibrating form every corner of this building. As we went inside, a completely new world welcomed me. Totally mismanaged  tables and chairs. No one ever seemed to fix them. The place was booming with life. People from all ages and walks of life were to be spotted. K and S told most of the Kolkata aantels, ( a term used to describe the Bengali intellectual) both the ripe ones and the ones in making were to be spotted here.

coffee_houseWe bagged a table and fitted ourselves comfortably. I ordered for a fish kobiraji and not to mention a cup of coffee. I was told that the kobiraji is a must try here. Suddenly I felt a little lost. Despite spending the formative years of my life in this city, somehow these little things were absolutely alien to me. Random thoughts passed through my mind when all of a sudden S pointed towards another table positioned diagonally opposite to us. Five Bengali aantels were engrossed in a serious argument about who is a better romantic poet, Keats or Wordsworth. One argued about Keats’ idea of ‘beauty is truth, truth beauty’ while another supported Wordsworth’s views on Pantheism. The third guy emphasized the importance of Keats’ theory of Negative Capability while Wordsworth’s idea of a poem being ‘emotions recollected in tranquility’ scored with the fourth one. K and S turned to smile at me. I was thoroughly enjoying it.

The fish kobiraji had arrived along with the cups of coffee. We three lifted the cups to make a goodwill gesture just as one does before sipping on a drink. It’s never too late to begin. I was on a high with the idiosyncratic Kolkata Kulture.

“Cheers to coffee!”