Friday, June 01, 2007

I Wonder

Five years is a long time.
To be away from home. And family.
Long enough to make one homesick. Long enough for the mind to wander.
And wonder.
I hear there has been a lot of change in Calcutta. For the better.
And I wonder how much things could have changed.
I wonder.
If they are going to change my childhood. My growing years. My memories.
I wonder.

If you still have the sudden clap of thunder and the ominous darkening of the sky with the mad frenzy of a rainshower bringing respite on a sweltering Summer afternoon. Kalbaisakhi they used to call it. And ek poshla brishti.

If Kaki still closes the shutters on the window to keep out the scorching sun. If she still turns on the radio and listens to the Bangla natok as she prepares for her siesta in the afternoon. Ghori Rahashyo. I still remember the name of the natok.

If Didibhai's Thakur-ghar is still exactly the same. If she gives batasha proshad. And sandesh on Thursdays. If she still has to keep a lookout for the tiktiki that threatens to eat the proshad.

If people still stop by to see you in the evenings. Unannounced. Without calling to check if it will be a convenient time for you. If Ma still makes jolkhabar every evening just in case someone turns up. Unannounced.

If people still flock to Monginis in the evening. For pastries. And chicken rolls. And patties.

If the corner shop still sells hot, deep-fried shingara and jilipi in the morning. That you could pick up when you go to collect your Mother Dairy milk pouch. Somedays if you got lucky you'd get kochuri. With chholar daal.

If Satya-Kaku still stops by the paan shop to buy a paan on his way to work. Light a cigarette from the burning rope that hangs by the shop. Chit chat with the paan-wala, take one last long drag of the cigarette as his bus pulls up, squishing the cigarette-butt into the ground with his shoe and fight his way into the overcrowded bus. B.B.D. Bag Minibus.

If pasher barir Boudi still comes to the terrace to hang her saree out to dry on the clothes line. A towel still wrapped around her hair. If she leans over the pachil and calls out to my Mom and carries on a conversation across the street for over an hour. Until she realizes the time and has to rush to pick up Gogol from school.

If Chhoton and Sanjib-da still play cricket out in the streets and break a few windows making everyone mad at them. If Pijush-da still tries to catch Padmini-di's eye as she stands in her balcony watching them play cricket. And if Sanjib-da ended up marrying Bulbuli. If they all still live where they used to.

If Kumar still carries a small comb in his back pocket. And if he stops by every parked car to comb his hair in the reflection of the side-view mirror. If he still bullies all the kids who play on the street. If he still jumps in to volunteer anytime anyone needs help. Kumar na thakle ki je hoto.

If Ghosh Kaku still parks his car in front of Mr. Chatterjee's garage. And if Mr Chatterjee still raves and rants about having his garage blocked. Every morning. And if the neighborhood kids still giggle when they start fighting. Eta kintu bhari onyay.

If school kids still throng to Nalanda Tutorial. And Prabir-Babu still keeps the girls away from the boys in separate sections. If the boys still throw stones at the girls from outside the window. And leave messages for them carved into the benches. If they are still excited at having a girl say "Excuse me" as they deliberately crowd the narrow stairs of the tutorial.

If Niloo still meets Tintin-da in the secrecy of Nandan. If Niloo's Dad finally let her marry the love of her life. If Raka and Rana still give into throes of passion in Rana's moonlit terrace. If people still get caught stealing kisses near the lake. If hand holding with a guy is still taboo and earns you a frown from the neighbors. If people meet at a roadside stall, share a bhar of cha and a thonga of chinebadam and still call it a date.

If the SFI dadas will still storm a class and throw issues at you from the podium. If a crowd of protesting millions will bring the city to a screeching halt. Michhil, slogan, bandh. We were happy for the free holiday.

If the hawkers still crowd the pavements with their wares. If you still hear the fervent cries of Chaitra Sale trying to coax you into stopping and buying. If Partha-da still has his little shop in Gariahat selling costume jewelry. And if he still does Dhunuchi nach at Samajsebi Pujo. If Naru Kaku sells chanachur and chhola-chyapta to the people who line up outside the liquor store.

If people still buy pastries from Flurys. Or do they go to some fancy bakery. If they buy ice cream from the Kwality man who comes every afternoon with his cart. Or do they go to Baskin Robbins. If people eat an egg roll. Wash it down with a cold Thums Up. And suffer from acidity. Chowa dhekur ebong ombol. Or do they go to KFC. Drink Coke instead. If a child's face still lights up with joy when you give her a bar of Cadbury's Milk Chocolate. Or does it have to be Swiss Lindt instead.

Change is inevitable. Progress is good.

But I still wonder.

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