“Invoke the Goddess in you!” shouted a billboard lit by the strong halogen , next to the crowded flyover. Of all the places that I’ve stayed in , Calcutta has the most powerful design message in its traditional jewellery. Women all over India do love to play dress up and ironically its the age group above 30 that is more experimental and loud.
Come Poila Baisakh ( Bengali new year) and you would see “Goddesses” everywhere. Kolkata gets its name from the famous “Kali” temple at Kalighat, the fierce looking form of Durga, the feminine personification of “Shakti”.
The color blood red therefore is found almost everywhere. Whether the powdery sindoor, the reddened lips, that pallu of a shaada palla shari, the hibiscus offerings or simply the round red bindi on the forehead to signify the third eye.
Contrast it with pure white of jasmine flowers, coconut & pure crisp cotton.
Kohl eyes complete the look, eyes outlined aka the goddess removing any leftover vestige of mortality and transcending into the next dimension.
Welcome to Kali Ma land.
A North Indian Spectator.
Moment 01 This time last year. Last walk on marine drive. No longer would I meet this friendly dog. No longer I would get irritated by the group of walkers talking loudly. No longer would I enjoy the soft morning sea breeze.
Moment 02 Excitement in a new city. Explored calcutta with help of mobile apps. The GPS guiding me. Taking me to the hidden parts of the city, its crumbling facades and colonial vintage experience. Google maps recommended, Ola got me there and Swiggy got me food.
Moment 03 Exploring the jewellery of the Eastern part of India for a jewellery event.
Moment 04 First exercise given at NIFT Calcutta.
Moment 05 Setting up tools in a new lab with help of students.
Moment 06 Students show their gratitude. The rain played a spoilsport, so couldn’t attend the Teachers day event, but the plant stays.
Moment 07 Got caught unaware while appreciating art and picture featured on front page of the local Sunday supplement.
Moment 08 Experimented with a drawing workshop launched called ” You Can Sketch”
Moment 09 Certified course has takers. Social media presence. Getting warmed up.
Moment 10 Shopping for Poila Boisakh (Bengali new year) theme event.
Left:Caramel, our cat rescued from Mumbai rains and now living with us in Calcutta.
Right: Unnamed stray tom cat who has made the shaded area in nani’s backyard a visiting home.
Caramel : ” Oh, its time for my nap before my whiskas. Let me rest myself in middle of this unmade bed. Let me hold on to another kitten.”
She sprawls lengthwise.
Tomcat : ” Whew! This summer heat is intolerable, such soft grass and cool damp mud!”
He hold his ears erect just so as to bolt at the slightest indication of human feet.
Two cats. Two personalities. A typical day.
When the Spring Equinox ends, the day is celebrated in many places in India by various names. In Bengal its called “Pohela Boishakh”. A north Indian might call it “pahela Baisakh” with a lot of tongue curling.
The little pavement shops were dressed for the occasion. A lot of Red, glitter, pottery painted with designs and a Haal Khaata, or an accounts book ready for the morning ritual.
I sometimes wonder the need of an accounts book. Majority of the Bengali Hindus are not really known for their business acumen. That is left to the Marwari community and this prosperity is evident by their really large houses in the poshest localities of the city. Even then, they would get down from their Audi, or the least a mercedes, as the entire family, and extended family, would plan a sunday trip to the Jhalmuri wala. The matronly mother would then order a dozen or so jhalmuris (a kind of a mixed salad with puffed rice), keenly noting the amount of sufficient almonds to go into it. The eldest male member would then make the payment after sufficient negotiation with the roadside vendor.
The rest of the Bengali community has two major occupations, one is slaving for the above community and the second is the intellectual class; who’s children leave Calcutta for better prospects as fast as they grow up. And they do extremely well, …. but outside Calcutta.
Then the mind wanders to intellectual Bengalis and the name “Amartya Sen” comes to the mind. I haven’t googled him yet, but I believe he is known for his studies relating to poverty which got him a noble prize.
The gaze then shifts back to the roadside dweller, a sickly thin lady, wearing nothing but a blouseless sari and eating the scraping from a used curd bowl.
Wonder if she has heard about him too. I suspect not.
I forgot the password. It actually took a year to recover. Do I have a simple explanation to it? If I were to give an excuse, there would be many. Ever since we have this trend of alpha numeric codes with multiple special characters interspersed, password creation has become a chore. Increasingly most of our dealings are going online. Password creation increasing directly proportional. Need to remember and age both take their toll as the mind stresses itself to juggle with many new characters, meant to be different each time.
Over the last one year from the previous post, I’ve changed residence four times. A physical “home” to be took precedence over a web “homepage”. Real locks and keys took precedence over the digital ones.
The experiences, though were gained. Traveling through Calcutta. Discovering new places, to eat. Thanks to mobile apps , travel and food is both available at click of a button but the joy of discovering the hidden markets beneath temporary plastic sheets, on either sides of the road is unexplainable. I feel a certain sense of joy at discovering a 100 year old sweet shop, sampling roadside food, picking a kalamkari skirt at a bargain deal from these streets. Then, the frustration while communicating with a sleepy shopkeeper at 2:00 in the afternoon as Calcutta shuts shop for their siesta.
Watching the palash tree bloom, then the copper tones and then the gulmohars. I must say that I have a nice view. Sometimes, its good to be locked out. Now I’m back.
If you were to travel or stay in India, you can be certain about one thing. The flavors would change when you move from one state to another. That wouldn’t mean less or more spicy, but the entire culture would have a traditional favourite one or two fruit ingredients appealing to local palette. While most of the country may have its own version of a mango species and the raw mango or Ambi would find its way into most preparations, there are some flavours which are predominant in some regions than others. In north be prepared to encounter the purple Jamun fruit, its colour staining the lips. The Imli, ( tamarind) would travel in most of the plains with you; but come west coast and you would find a red fruit called Kokum. I encountered this fruit for the first time in Goa in a vegetable dish. It’s natural red colour was a pale pink after cooking. At the steps to the east, across the country, a date and jaggery mix, called Nolen Gur is found. Move south and even the hotels could offer you a beverage “cold TC water” or Tender Coconut.
It was 5.30 am. The sky had just started clearing up the slumber of the night. A Coppersmith Barbet held a twig of grass in the beak and prepared for the dawn ahead.
Next, a grey headed Mynah announced that it was 7.00 am and that the sun was unbearably hot.
A Black headed Oriole “hid” behind a tree, but her colours and call gave her away.
Kolkata sleeps early. So when by chance I met a certain gentleman (whom the local newspaper later reported was a Mr. Poddar) at around 9.00 pm somewhere on the street, we were intrigued by his car.
“It’s a custom made car….” He said. The vehicle was a twin seater with huge wheels resembling a Go-karting sportster. We were amazed at the unusual vehicle. What we didn’t know that he was probably just returning from an exhibition of these jet setting beauties at a prominent mall.
Fast forward to Chetla market. Nestled at the backside of the outrageously priced Alipore Road is this humble settlement on both sides of the road. Gracious local shopkeepers invited me to view their merchandise.
“No, I’m not interested in the fishing nets, but can I stand here and wait for my cab?” They seemed surprisingly courteous.
The road was lined with buses. Tomorrow is Election Day. Cars are moving at snail’s pace. Its takes us 45 minutes to cross a 2 km stretch. Somewhere in a building nearby, a supervisor seems to be giving instructions to party workers in Bengali. A hand cart vendor tries to negotiate the road. A pedestrian tries his luck as well in an attempt to board his bus. Among this chaos, a premium styled Jaguar is also stuck with the same fate. With traffic, it equalizes the rich and the poor. No one furthers faster.