Tag Archives: Kolkata

Sonar Kella: A Memory of Detective Stories

Debashree Sinha writes about her childhood experience of listening to detective stories!

feluda

I was just watching a part of the many downloadable sections of Sonar Kella. It reminded me of those lazy afternoons in Kolkata of the early 90s when alongside my elder brother, uncle I would sit and hear stories of detectives with rounded eyes.

My pupils would dilate as my elder brother, lovingly called “Dadamoni,” would rush us younger cousins through stories where the detective in chase of the killer was actually pursuing one of his multiple selves , as the murderer. With lot of gusto he would speak and like muted, stunned spectators of a thriller show we would listen to him as we remained suspended in disbelief. To make his story more believable he would call it “Detective Jhkhon Nijei Khuni” which roughly translates as ‘when detectives turns out to be the murderer’.

Sherlock-holmes-and-magnifying-glassAs we listened in stupified silence even the drop of a pin would seem to be a disturbance. Soon the resolution of the big drama would be achieved and the story would begin to end….Consequently, a sudden glut would develop in my throat, a certain a reluctance to leave that the world of suspicion and high drama would overcome me and to avoid the breaking of the spell one would just go for a nice long siesta in one of the dark rooms of the 125 year old ancestral house with lofty ceilings.

I still remember that feeling of “being safe”,of being able to absolutely drown my senses into one thing. I wonder at the safety that I felt, each time I would be read or hear from a detective book full of grim crimes. It’s ironical that pursuit of a reader (alongside the detective) for the criminal could prove to not only be adventurous but feel so strange and safe! May be it was empowerment, a realization that my own reasoning faculties are as alert as the great crime master’s. In participating in the chase a part of me would vicariously be running through the labyrinth of life to emerge at a certainty and safety. So thank you feluda, Holmes and Kakababu for making my childhood such a success.

Advertisements

Calcutta Chromosomes – II

Sampurna Majumder continues with the series about her stay in Kolkata.

college-street-calcutta

Since the Boi Para or College Para was a new addition in my daily routine, I used to look forward to it, every evening. Reaching the university campus was an adventure in itself for me. For I somehow, always felt the ride to be bumpy all along. Though I boarded the same bus everyday, and got down at the stop nearby, I invariably lost the way, criss-crossing through the by lanes of the famous Kolkata locale.

After much ‘tribulations’ and walking through almost all the by lanes I would finally reach Ashutosh Building. Our classroom was in the first floor. Walking down the long, dark corridor was enough to take me down the stairs of nostalgia. As I entered the classroom and occupied a seat for myself, I found myself sitting amidst unfamiliar faces. Minutes later I saw K and S making their entry. My eyes greeted them and vice versa.

presidency-collegeI always found sitting in the class to be quite boring. Specially the lectures on printing. Though this was a completely new arena for me, I could not help but to doze off in between lectures. I yearned for the break very much so that I could rush down to grab a cup of tea. K and S would invariably join me. Me and S shared a common interest, tea. We both just could not stop having enough of this beverage.

Somehow the tea stall down the road just below the university building, had its own charm. Sipping tea from a kulhar (small mud pot) on a busy evening had its own magnetic appeal. Me and S would sometimes bunk classes only to catch a sip of the heavenly tea, or at least it seemed so to us. We would spent hours chatting over numerous cups of tea. We loved each other’s company.

Sometimes we would walk down to footpath lined with bookshops to indulge in shopping which would simply touch our intellect just like a tangent. We would spend hours with the bookseller to reduce the price of a second hand or probably a third hand John Grisham thriller to almost seventy-five percent. Nonetheless we loved it. I was finally experiencing what I possibly missed out as a college going Kolkatan would indulge into.

The hours after class was a welcome change for all of us. We would sit at the staircase of the central library and go on chatting for hours together. We actually indulged into what the Bengalis fondly call an adda session. Finally I was blessed enough to taste the Kolkata College Life or more precisely life at the famous College Para. I was living my young adolescence and of course loving it.

Calcutta Chromosomes – I

Sampurna Majumder narrates her sojourn to the City of Joy for a year. Although born and brought up in Kolkata, her perspective of the city changed when she returned to Kolkata after a Sabbatical of five years.

howrah_bridge

Kolkata, popularly known as the City of Joy, is considered to be the cultural and intellectual capital of the country. Locales, such as the College Street Boi Para and the Coffee House will stand witness to this statement. These are the hubs within the city that beam with intellectuals and budding artists. This the city’s nucleus where one will find some of the best minds flocking.

mile-long book stalls on college st in calcuttaBookshops or rather kiosks strategically positioned all along the footpath is an unique attribute of the street. Apart from these, the street definitely boasts of an array of premier institutions, right from the University of Calcutta to Presidency College. This is where the youth of Kolkata comes to life. Comes to live life.

However, I belong to the category of the not-so-lucky ones to have lived the experience. Though this city happens to be my birth place, I never really got to experience or live my youth in this city, because as a young adult, I moved to a different city, probably in pursuit of something ‘bigger and better’. Nonetheless, my destiny took a different turn when I returned to the city after a hiatus of six years.

30-calcutta-universityMy hands were empty just as my mind was. I had completely lost control of myself. Could not figure out what to do with my ‘doomed’ future, as my Mom said. After sitting idle at home for five months I enrolled for a Diploma at the prestigious Calcutta University. I thought probably this would give some meaning to my meaningless life, a direction to follow in my seemingly directionless life.

Classes were held in the evening from 4pm to 7pm. Thus began my year long association with the age old renowned university and more importantly the College Street.

I still remember my first day at the university. Despite my mother’s explaining the bus route and the stop, I lost my way to the university the very first day. Nonetheless, I managed to reach the esteemed institution after a long walk from MG Road. While walking down the street I could not help but stare at the kiosks and the booksellers in awe.  The amount of knowledge these people had regarding books! Books from almost every field from literature to science to engineering, law, competitive exams. The list moves on.

CU 3A week into classes, I had made a few friends with whom I started hanging around after classes. It was then that I began my tryst with the intellectual hub of this age old city. I shared a good rapport with K and S. However, what was interesting was, the variation in the age group of the students. Since the course specified that there is no age limit, the eldest student was a retired college principal of sixty-five and the youngest being a fresh graduate of twenty-one. This distinction made it unique and all the more interesting to know and associate with people with myriad personalities. Somehow, I could feel a certain flamboyancy raging through, whenever I interacted with the group.

We first met at the College Street campus of Calcutta University. Little did I know that the year long association would leave behind such indelible impressions, which would force me to pen down a memoir, after much time has lapsed and I have again moved away from Kolkata, probably in pursuit of my dreams.

Dilli ki Hawa – 3

Howrah_Rajdhani_ExpressIn the third part of Dilli ki Hawa, Sampurna Majumder talks about her tete-e-tete with a stranger in the train. 

After I moved to Delhi, train journeys became a significant part of life. It was a rather series of firsts for me when I moved to Delhi. For the first time in seventeen years I boarded an AC coach of a train. From then on I graduated to the third AC of Rajdhani then got used to travelling by the flight; and yes I learnt travelling long distances all on my own. A feat which seemed rather impossible to me earlier.

It was one of those train journeys that was a little out of the ordinary. I remember a week into my post-graduate lectures, I took a break and  went home. After a week’s relaxed stay and home it was time to go back to square one. With a sullen heart I reached Sealdah station and boarded the train.

I grabbed the window seat and made myself comfortable. Somehow I always preferred the side-lower seat of the Rajdhani Express while travelling alone. As the train started, I was absorbed into the journey and lost into my own world.

‘Excuse me!’ I woke up with a jerk. ‘Would you please keep a watch on my luggage? I will be right back!’ I nodded in affirmative. The concerned person left and was back just in time. ‘Student? Delhi University?’. I repeated my previous gesture. He made himself comfortable on the seat opposite to me. Rest of the evening was spent quietly with me gazing out of the window and a very few monosyllabic conversation was exchanged.

Next morning our conversation graduated from polysyllabic to a few sentences and then into a full fledged tête-à-tête over breakfast. A was his name and he said he was pursuing his MBA from an institute in Noida. He seemed like a rather interesting fellow. He threw a trail of questions at me and I went on obliging. I guess even he wanted to speak about himself, however, I unknowingly never gave him the chance. Despite that he did managed to unravel his likings partly. He mentioned that Khan Chacha and Hard Rock Café were his favourite hangouts in Delhi, places which I had heard of but never visited.

mobile-phoneHowever, the small tête-à-tête gradually turned into a long drawn ’discourse’. We ended up exchanging our opinions about life in general in a city like Delhi. He spoke about his aspirations and also about his imminent examinations. Wasn’t he prepared for it? I wondered.

The train halted for more than an hour at Ghaziabad. Being a little restless I got down from the train. Walked a few metres away, bought myself  bottle of Coke. I enquired after the ticket checker (also roaming in the platform), as to how long will the train stop. He said may be two hours more.

Sigh! I made myself comfortable on a bench and started sipping on the coke. A appeared all of a sudden and asked if he could sit beside me. I nodded in affirmative. Needless to say we again delved into a conversation.

I was quite surprised as to how come I, generally being an introvert ended up speaking so much about myself to a stranger? Sharing my likes dislikes and many more. Did I have a crush on him all of a sudden?

Well… dunno…

Around 2pm Rajdhani arrived in Delhi. We got down and hired a porter. Walked together till the auto stand at the Paharganj Terminal. I paid the porter on behalf of both of us and went up to the prepaid booth, bought a slip and boarded the assigned auto. Just as the auto was about to leave A threw in a fifty rupee note saying ‘I sorted it out!’. I grabbed the note even before I realized his trick. He paid for the porter. My auto sped fast.

We didn’t exchange numbers.

Five Reasons KKR Don’t Deserve To Retain Their IPL Crown

kkr-win-final-630

As KKR lose another one, Ganesh Subramanian writes why he thinks Kolkata Knight Riders might not win the IPL 6. 

Captain RED: I call Gambhir captain RED because he has been a personification of anger all through the season, yelling and screaming at the bowlers and fielders. He looks more and more like a wrestler in a steel cage match than a senior pro in KKR. One could argue that Gambhir was always aggressive but venting out and yelling at players especially when your team is losing is not the right example that is expected from a captain. He can take a leaf out of MS Dhoni’s books but will he, considering the love-hate relationship between the two.

gambhir angry

The ineffective smiling assassin: Baptized as “The Smiling Assassin” by commentators, L. Balaji has hardly given any reasons for his captain to smile this season. In fact his smiles have reduced this season. Balaji has been at the receiving end of a volley of fire from his captain on more than one occasion. His effective performance was one of the reasons behind KKR’s title run last year with 11 wickets at an average of 14.72 and an economy rate of 5.40 in 8 matches. This year in 8 matches he has taken 5 wickets at an average of 52.60 and an economy rate of 8.34. Death bowling which was his forte looks like his biggest Achilles Heel.

The Unreliable Mr. Reliable: Jacques Kallis has struggled with the bat thereby negating the team’s need for stability at the top of the order. In previous seasons, when Kallis opened the innings he generally batted as many overs as possible thus making the other batsmen revolve around him or if he batted at one down, in the case of quick wickets, he provided the much needed stability to the middle order. This is lacking this season and Kallis lacklustre batting has robbed KKR of the stability needed. Although his bowling still remains potent, KKR would be expecting more form the bat of the South African veteran, if they are even to be in with an outside chance of making it to the playoffs.

Yusuf “Flop” Pathan: Yusuf Pathan has become a liability for KKR. With a reputation of a big hitter, he has hardly done anything to preserve the reputation this time. Even changing positions in the batting order hasn’t helped his cause. Although he has chipped in and been amongst the wickets, KKR needs Yusuf – the exploding dynamite, rather than a handy offie.

Narine KKR

Over dependence on Sunil Narine: Although Sunil Narine has been among the leading wicket takers in the tournament so far, the team’s over dependence on him has left Gambhir with few options. GG tends to use Narine often after the 12th over, thereby rendering the opposition’s batting onslaught ineffective. But as CSK showed the other day, on good batting tracks, the threat of Narine can be countered. The only wicket that Narine took in the match against CSK was more of the batsman getting out trying to up the ante rather than Narine outfoxing Hussey. Teams have started to play out Narine or better still attack him on flat batting tracks.

While die-hard KKR supporters may argue that these problems can be fixed before the end of the season and Kolkata can reach the playoffs, I think it’s difficult especially with Kolkata on 6 points with 3 wins in 9 matches. They have to win 6 out of the remaining 7 matches which is a tough ask.

Jazz by the Way!

Sampurna Majumder delves into the history of jazz in Kolkata on International Jazz Day!

International Jazz Day

The UNESCO organizes the International Jazz Day on 30 April every year. So being a music aficionado (or at least trying to be), I thought of delving a little into the journey of this musical genre in a country that already has an excellent musical legacy.

Well, the search for the same, again took me to my hometown, the City of Joy. I was not quite surprised as the Kolkata is officially known as the Cultural Capital of the Country. By the 20th century, many Europeans had  adapted the city as their hometown and their way of life began to be reflected in the city life. Pubs and nightclubs began to come up in the city that started belting out some outstanding jazz tunes.

Carlton Kitto

By the late 1950s and 1960s, Kolkata was already home to a few nightclubs some of which still continue to run. And what tickles in my mind, is the jazz veteran Carlton Kitto who continues to lighten up the jazz scene of Kolkata.

Kitto began his musical journey in the 1970s at Moulin Rogue. Owned by a French Lady, Carlton along with his band Carlton Kitto Jazz Ensemble lit up the evenings at Moulin Rogue. The only Jazz Musician from the city, recently a documentary named Finding Carlton has been filmed on him that traces the history of Jazz in India. The movie has captured many moments that showcased how Jazz bridged cultures and provided a common language of communication.

Moulin Rouge KolkataToday, restaurants like Moulin Rogue, Mocambo and the age-old Trincas are places where one can expect to listen to some amazing jazz music on a Saturday evening In Kolkata.

Once frequented by the likes of Amitabh Bachhan and Shashi Kapoor, Trinca’s Tavern continues to run the tradition belting out Jazz musical for over 6 decades now. Someplace Else is another hang out where you can soothe your ears with similar tunes.

Therefore if you have a soft corner and an ear for somewhat improvised music, Jazz is definitely for you – and now you know where to visit for some good Jazz musicals.

Chinese Breakfast @ China Town!

Continuing her series on China Town, Sampurna Majumder writes about the uniqueness of the locality.

Tiretta Bazaar

The variedness of Kolkata never seems to satiate me. From lip-smacking delicacies to some of the best known cultural events – Kolkata has loads to offer.

In my last article I focussed on the existing China Town of Kolkata. This time, I decided to take a step ahead and find out something unique about the locality.

It is a Saturday early morning around 5.30 am. The Tiretta Bazaar in Old China Town is already bustling with life. You can choose from some of the best Chinese delicacies that are served here. From yummy chicken soups to pork suimai – you name it and its there. On weekends, the breakfast platters are over by 8 am. Call centre employees and night-club hoppers comprise the main crowd.

Coconut Curry Chicken Soup

If you want to try something new and adventurous you can always end up at the shops selling Chinese sauces and other ingredients that are required for cooking. There’s one shop named Sing Cheung Sauce Factory that sells all kinds of Chinese sauces.

The spicy pork sausages taste like slimy scrambled eggs. You can also try having the spicier broths with a dash of Sichuan chillies and pickled garlic. The fish-ball soup that is found at every nook and corner of Tiretta Bazaar is a must have. The best part about the breakfast is you will not find the regular Chinese stuff – like noodles or rice, but an assortment of other delicacies with broths and soups taking away the credits.

Shrimp Sui Mai

Tiretta Bazaar is one of the remaining cosmopolitan food hubs in the city that has already started becoming somewhat conservative in nature. Whatever, be it, if you are in Kolkata do miss the chance of a sumptuous Chinese Breakfast in the heart of the city.