Calcutta: Two Years in the City

  • 320 pages
  • 0307454665
  • Anglais
  • Relié
Calcutta: Two Years in the City

ግ Free Relié [ Calcutta: Two Years in the City ] ፗ ePUB By Amit Chaudhuri ፸ Chapter One A Purchase It was probably three years ago that the poet Utpal Kumar Basu reported to me a couple of observations hed overheard in the nocturnal din of North Calcutta They both came from the same source, an old woman whom Utpalda calls, with some irony, khurima aunt and gyana bhandar treasure trove of wisdom The woman, herself homeless, would cook for the homeless on a porch near Sealdah Station The memory is from circa 2003, and Utpalda is pretty certain that the group of people he saw that year must have moved on Utpalda possesses a context for Khurimas first observation a man had once come to the group of destitute and desultory wage earners looking for someonesay, Nipen with Nipens address probably a landmark and directions on a piece of paper Khurima had responded dismissively Thhikana diye ki hobe Soye kothhai seta bolo. That is What good is an address Tell me where he rests his head Utpalda had found the remark illuminating his word Quite true, he thought For the homeless, an address has no meaning Whats far important is where they find a place to sleep Her second remark was probably made in self defence and with pride, though Utpalda cant remember whom it was directed at Amra bhikeri hote pari, pagol noi Or We may be beggars, but we arent mad This may well have been addressed to a policeman Utpalda reminded me that, in the conditions in which people like Khurima found themselves, sanity must be a prized asset To be homeless, destitute, and mad meant you were totally defenceless As an afterthought, Utpalda recalled that there was a mad person in the queue of people who came to her for food Khurimas aphorism made me wonder about this city in which the difference between the beggar and the madman was near invisible and also immensely wide This, then, is the city as it is now not its only incarnation, certainly, but one of several It is always possible to glimpse it through a car window at nightor to walk through it it is possible to absorb it without being wholly aware of it For a long time, I didnt see this cityso formative, probably, were the impressions of the Calcutta Id visited as a child to me Erai amader nagarik, says Utpalda to me gravely, as we discuss Khurima Nagarik means, at once, city dweller and citizen These are our citizens My parents, after living in Bombay for twenty seven years, moved to Calcutta in 1989 During that periodfrom the early sixties to the late eightiespeople had been steadily departing Calcutta middle class people, of course, but also workers My father had arrived into, and left, the city twice Once, in the early forties, hed been a student here at the Scottish Church College, an institution then favoured by East Bengali migrant students for its boarding facilities Another Chaudhuri, Nirad C, had studied history at the same college, about twenty years before my father The fact that my father and the great memoirist shared the same initials sometimes led people to ask him with a disarming innocence, Are you two related or even, Do you come from the same family Not the same family, but the same part of the world subject, eventually, to the same shift in history the older Chaudhuri from Kishoreganj, my father from Sylhet, both bits of Bengal that would go with Partition My father claims that the present spelling of his surname was given to it by a registrars clerk in Calcutta University on the day he enrolled there This standardisation of the spelling of that variously spelt surname at the university might have been a practice at the time, and would explain why the spelling is common to alumni from two or three succeeding generations The story has had the effect of making me feel I dont know my father very well neither does he have a very clear idea of how he became who he is From him, I got a fleeting sense of North Calcutta as it was Those anecdotes, related intermittently over decades he doesnt repeat stories, as my mother does , weave into what little I know of the East Bengali scholars Calcuttaof the mess, the hos tel room, communal meals, cheap restaurants, and cabins from the writings of Nirad Chaudhuri and Buddhadev Basu He lived in the Hardinge Hostel, which, when he pointed it out to me for the first time seventeen years ago , was an unremarkable run down brick building, surrounded by numbing but entirely expected traffic on its way to Sealdah But, already, things had moved on to such a degreenot just for me and my father, but for Calcutta itself which had changed not visibly, but in every other way that I found it difficult to make a connection with what was just a building Yet there used to be a romance in my fathers allusions to the northern and central parts whether this was retrospective, or whether hed brought this romance to the city when hed arrived here in 1941, I dont know Some of this romance is difficult to disentangle from remembered sojourns to eating places, and private, momentous discoveries of food Most of those eating places and discoveries, once removed from the forties and that romanticism, are disappointing In the late seventies, my father, executing one of his childlike plans that now and again inflected his very successful professional career, took my mother and me, in Calcutta on a visit from Bombay, to the famous Anadi Cabin to taste its kasha mangsho traditional dry mutton and Mughlai paratha, an oily, flattened piece of bread fortified by egg which always impressed my cousins and me when we were children for its royal provenance This crowded cubby hole with damp tabletops alienated us and I remember the other customers had their eyes averted but were curious My mother was uncomfortable, and her bright sari probably made her very visible but she tried to be fair minded about the kasha mangsho, and judge it on its merits Actually, it was not so much the food the Calcutta of today was already upon usthe one without space, without a past, and, as in our case, without a real appetite My father left twicebefore returning here for what seems now the final time In his memoryas in any memorynational and world historical events are indistinguishable from personal detail The year he joined Scottish Church College, 1941, was also the year the poet he and his friends adored died and I already know that he became a part, for a while, of the great crowd accompanying the body Although its a struggle for him these days to articulate sentences, he still informs me indignantlyas I attempt doggedly to ascertain the yearof, at once, Tagores death and the abrasion on his calf that led to some bleeding, the result of a poke from someones umbrella in that suffocating crowd Its a detail I havent heard before and, for a moment, Im unsure, as he lifts the bottom of one pyjama leg, whether hes speaking of something that happened yesterdaybecause hes now prone to accidents But its the crowd hes thinking of as he passionately stutters the words From the other snatches of stammered speech, I learn that he withdrew from the city for a year a third departure, then, of which I knew nothing to Sylhet, after the Japanese dropped a bomb on Hatibagan in North Calcutta Maybe he thought theyd blow up the whole place He came back gingerly the next year, and began an articleship in incorporated accountancyas hed been advised to, shrewdly, by his best friend and still to be brother in law, because salaries in this line were said to be generous, and prospects generally excellent because, whatever the fate of engineering companies and medical research, people would always need accountants Unobtrusively, irrevocably, an important development took place incorporated accountancy and chartered accountancy merged into one body After being a relatively unemotional witness to the inevitable moment of Independence, shocked at the nights of post Partition violence in the city, but recouping and resolving to travel towards becoming a chartered accountant, he made his first, official egress from this metropolis in 1949, sailing to England He was there for twelve years My mother, who knew him since childhood, and was taken by surprise by his proposal of marriage before he left, was reconciling herself to his never returning when he invited her to join him in London She flew in 1955 from Shillong to Calcuttawith her mercurial younger brother, Dukhu, who was going on a training course for civil engineers in Germany Customarily, its the bridegroom who makes the journey from his town or village or neighbourhood to the brides home to marry her this was an eccentric, but unavoidable, inversion My mothers never been one to romanticise Calcuttaas I, for instance, havebut her first and brief impression of the city was one of beauty and clean airthe latter, if it lasted for than two or three days that year, is not something that Calcutta has possessed for several decades Perhaps its because it was a first encounter, or a transient acquaintanceship, or because she knew it would be her last vision of India for a long time, that my mothers memory of Calcutta in 1955 is like a personal intimation My father, at last a full fledged chartered accountant, with other professional qualifications like useful appendages, returned, with my mother, to a job offer in Bombay in 1961 Soon after, she was pregnant, as an Indian doctor in London had predicted she would be Childbearing has a lot to do with happiness and mental peace Coming back to India, at least in those days, was a matter of fulfilment, an occasion for optimismsomething we tend not to remember or acknowledge Dukhu had returned earlier from Germany, and had a job in Calcutta he insisted my mother come to his house to have the child The reason for this was a combination of practical need and common sense and the precedent of tradition, the last anyway being a consequence of the first two, not to mention economic hard headedness Tradition asks the childbearing woman to journey temporarily to her fathers house before giving birth In this way, the nuisance of birth is wished away and literally transported to the other place Importantly, the psychological closeness between mother and pregnant daughter is seen to be a necessary condition for the birtha small bending of a regulation to briefly replace the mother in laws vigilance with maternal attention and the general support and care of her own family is essential to the mother to be My mother had no in laws to escape from my father was an only child, displaced by Partition both his parents were dead So she kept putting off the journey to Dukhus flat on Fern Road, where their mother lived with him and his new wife She knew it was going to be intolerably hot by the end of April Still, because there was no family at all in Bombay, she arrived in Fern Road early that month By temperament a nervous insomniac, she found sleeping difficult because of the yowling of street dogs at night and the passage of traffic at the Gol Park roundabout My grandmother contributed to her well being by knocking firmly on her door at around 6 a.m., just when shed embarked on her first slumber, so she my grandmother might walk to the adjoining balcony and receive the citys sounds and sights As a result of decisions taken without conviction, and slightly regretted in retrospectall, of course, is transmogrified by a mothers eventual joyI happened to be born in Calcutta in the middle of May a difficult time of year to be here My father changed jobs Leaving Bombay, he took up a position at the head office which was then in Calcutta of Britannia Biscuits We lived, for a year and a half, between 1964 and 1965, in a recent suburb, New Alipore I seem to summon, without too much effort, a memory of a veranda or porch, and the courtyard and the main road beyond it could be, of course, that Im imagining I remember these things Their shapes and unremarkable colours, and the daylight they inhabit, are pretty consistent, though This is the time that my mother is jotting down, in a book with a white hardback cover, all the relevant information concerning Your Childs Name and Your Childs First Word I would see this solemnly inscribed book after growing up, but I think it is finally lost I could have grown up in Calcutta, and had a very different relationship with it, but I am a Bombay person By just a few years, I missed the trauma and the impress of change that would come upon this city Britannia, anticipating labour unrest in the wake of radical left wing politics, relocated its head office to a amenable metropolis What remained in Calcutta was a husk called the Registered Office It was the usual story of the time this gradual emptying of the city of commerce the absolute reign over it of what it had always harbouredpolitics My father, on the ascendant, left it for the second time It takes a while to understand that a city has changed, and that change, like most change, is irrevocable By the time my parents moved back to Calcutta from Bombay in 1989, roughly seven years after my fathers retirement, the city itself had traversed a great distance from where it was when hed left it in 1965 Besides clearly being in decline, it had the strange air of something thats been a symbol of the zeitgeist for than a hundred years, and now embodies nothing but its severance from whats shaping the age It had become a city that was difficult to connect with in an emotional and intellectual way For me, in many ways, it was not the true Calcutta What was true Throughout my childhood, Id encountered Calcutta during the summer and winter holidaysas a place of freedom from school and a realm of childish anarchy My uncles houseDukhus house, now no longer in Fern Road, but further south, in petit bourgeois Pratapaditya Road, in a lane lined with two storeyed, different shaped houseswas my playground Ive written about that house and that Calcutta in so many works of fiction and essays that, when someone suggested I write a non fiction book on this city, I put it off for years, because I felt I had nothing to say about it The Calcutta Id encountered as a child was one of the great cities of modernity it was that peculiar thing, modernity, that I first came into contact with here without knowing it , then became familiar with it, and then was changed by it By modern I dont mean new or developed, but a self renewing way of seeing, of inhabiting space, of apprehending life By modern I also mean whatever alchemy it is that changes urban dereliction into something compelling, perhaps even beautiful It was that arguable beauty that I first came across in Calcutta, and may have, without being aware of it, become addicted to I ran into it again in New York in 1979, on my first American trip, after a stifling ten days among the monuments of Washington and the sweet prettiness of California Walking in Manhattan, I was reminded, at once, of Calcutta New York was in economically troubled times, and still possessedeven for the short term adolescent visitoran air of menace and fortuitous unpredictability The addict of that particular strain of modernity, to whom noise and stink are oxygen, and odourless order death, can sniff it out quickly in foreign places, and swiftly connect it to their own history 1979 was probably the last year of its reign New York no longer reminds me of Calcutta with globalisationmaybe even before it happenedthe paths of these cities diverged With Giuliani, New York famously gentrified its seedy areas while Calcutta became one of those strategic, deceptively populated outreaches that the wave of globalisation has never quite managed to reach.Engrossing and impressive Anita Desai, The New York Review of BooksFascinating Chaudhuri explores ideas of modernity and globalization in this essayistic appreciation His insider outsider status allows him to probe the citys eccentricities with both affection and unease The New Yorker A lovely account Marked by the strength of Mr Chaudhuris prose and the acuity of his observations His very personal story is a welcome contribution to the literature of the city It also recalls another author who first set foot in Calcutta in 1962 V.S Naipaul The Wall Street Journal Equal parts memoir, literary history, sad eyed sitcom Calcutta is rich in presence and sings a beautiful tune all of its own All the richer for presenting the city as a series of unexpected memory tugs The Guardian London Chaudhuris writing has a strangely mesmeric quality, using the quotidian to draw the reader into the authors mental world, his own way of looking His prose displays an ability amounting to brilliance for finding the right words to catch an emotion, a thought, a personality Financial Times Simply stunning Calcutta should be mandatory reading not only for those unfamiliar with the place but for those who imagine they know it well Blending reportage, meditation, history and critique, it draws a fascinating portrait The Independent London A complex patchwork of topics, scenes and even genres Its a crazy quilt of a book that shows the authors ear for reproducing speech and his knack for sketching not only personalities but also smells and, especially, tastes Pittsburgh Post Gazette Indias great cities have been the subject of many outstanding travel books and now it is the turn of Calcutta Chaudhuris stories are spun out of a mix of history and family memoir, but the joy here lies in his digressions, his wanderings through the city, his remembrances and conjectures The Sunday Times London Chaudhuri approaches his chronicle of the city of his birth with a practised eye London Review of Books A splendid read an introduction to a city, or confirmation of it a meditation on expression and on the authors own development as a writer Chaudhuris prose is delicious, his humour wry Australian Book Review Beguiling Chaudhuri makes Calcutta sound like just the place to be The Spectator London Concussed by the noise of the new and beguiled by echoes of the past, Chaudhuri maintains his novelists eye and ear for Calcuttas character and citizens He combines the serendipity of the flneur with the sensitivity of the social historian The Times London Chaudhuri is a writer, academic and musician He uses his consciousness of all three in his narratives Hes curious, hes edgy hes incisive, reflective and sometimes poetic The Tribune India Chaudhuris Calcuttahas a different scope and intention to Suketu Mehtas Maximum City about Mumbai and to William Dalrymples City of Djinns about Delhi , but like those books, it succeeds brilliantly in making sense of a place few of us can know The Observer England Unique and fascinating Chaudhuris masterful prose style lingers on the tiny, quotidian details and draws out their significance Scottish Herald Chaudhuris most personal and perambulatory book to date Calcutta is a modernist canvas that mirrors the complexity and diversity of the metropolis itself and is in turn mirrored by Chaudhuris idiosyncratic style, blending autobiography, literary reportage, and personal essay World Literature Today Kolkata Wikipedia Kolkata k o l t listen , also known as Calcutta the official name until is capital of Indian state Mother Teresa dies at years old after heart fails Mother Teresa, saint gutters battling debilitating ailments Calcutta A Cultural History Krishna Dutta, Anita Anita Desai on FREE shipping qualifying offers travel guide to one world s great cities looks The Grill Premier Seattle Bellevue Please note that we cannot guarantee patio seating for all reservations The If you would like be seated patio, may request it in your Stanvac Gallant Ship Fought a American tanker Stanvac battles German raider Stier during World War II Shimano D Series Casting Reels Brand new Shimano Reels are next generation round reels They combine classic 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