Saturday, October 16, 2010

অষ্টমী তে ফের পুরোনো পাড়া

I dedicate this post to my parents, who despite odds brought me and my sister up the best they could. And for those of you who know me personally, would agree they didn’t do such a bad job after all :))

IMG_1112 Mr. and Mrs. Arora

It might be fair to assume most of you reading this post have moved on in life. Leaving behind your humble beginnings. Roots are an integral part of who we are and how we deal with challenges life throws at us. I grew up in one such neighborhood – Bangur Ave. Those were the days of load-shedding – a term invented in CoolKata, mosquito bites, water scarcity and tube-wells in this part of Calcutta. However life in a certain way was less complicated. This locality sits on the VIP road, the expressway (I am taking some liberties here :) that connects the city to the airport. 

I was born in Bangur Ave, which is part of a twin city township - Lake Town. My grandfather had bought a piece of land here, in what used to be a forlorn zone then. For the record – my present place of residence – Salt Lake, was precisely what it’s name suggests – A salt water lake. Folk lore has it that neighboring areas were infested with jackals ! Quite understandably, my Late grand-father was warned by his well wishers to not go in for what was a ‘steal deal’ back then. He persisted amidst stiff opposition and sound advice. He built us a 2 storied house where I spent all my infancy, childhood, teenage, adolescence and part of my youth.  I moved out of Bangur, back in 1999 to greener American pastures.

After spending nearly a decade out of the country, we relocated back to Bangur Ave, Calcutta, India. Bangur was no longer the place I remembered it to be. Part of a bustling greater Kolkata, it was now.  There were more people, lesser old neighbors, more buildings, lesser parks so on an so forth. The locality as I recalled had been completely metamorphosed. Changes galore – some good, some bad.

However certain things have remained the same – some of it’s old citizens. The Goodfellas. It’s people. Some friends of my dad’s and my grandfather’s. However truth be told I could not relate to it and wanted a better quality of life than it offered. So we decidedly moved across the canal and into Salt Lake.

My parents still live in Bangur. In place of the house that my grandfather built now stands a tall tower. Nearly complete in structure .However in a legal tangle with the developers of the building. It has been a very bitter pill to swallow – the joint venture project that it, was supposed to be with a local builder, went south. Presently the matter is sub-judice. My parents have had to move into a rented apartment, though still in Bangur Ave.

We have Navratri Pujas that are observed at our home. On the penultimate day of the Navratras, we always visit our parents for the Puja and a sit down lunch on this day. It was the same this year, except I decided to take a tour of my পুরোনো পাড়া (old neighborhood) . I walked the lanes where I grew up. Met up with people who know me since I was a kid and held their hands. I felt a sudden burst of emotions on this day, even as I have deserted the place where I grew up. Innocence is lost.

I am including some pictures of place and people who I have known and met on this way.

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Have many fond memories of this store, while growing up. As I held the hands of my grand-parents and parents while insisting that they buy me a certain treat or a toy. I also chatted up with the owner of the store(not in picture) - ‘Dasu da’ as everyone called him. Dasu da was visibly happy to see me after must be ages. He recalled me as a naughty kid with a head full of hair. If you have a recent picture of me - the scene is a decidedly different now, apropos hair. Naughtiness is retained, though !

In the picture below,  is our news paper vendor of years and a local electrician who went to the same school as I. IMG_1090 

This gentleman in the picture has not lost a single strand of hair from the time I remembered him. Albeit they are greyer now. He has been selling fruits in the local vegetable and fruit market since time immemorial. We do not know what is the name his parents gave him. He was introduced to us as ‘Miya ji’ / मिँया जी by my grand-father and the name stuck. Miya ji is a shy person, who almost shied away when I asked his permission for clicking a picture of him.

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In picture below is Ratan. He runs a small grocery store, but I always remembered him for the bread he sold. These were uncut loaves of bread, which he would slice it for his customers in a trademark fashion. We could ask for thinly or coarsely cut slices. Ratan, more often than not would oblige.

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In this one are a couple of electricians once estranged but now back together. They are Sanjay and Jadob da (left to right) Sanjay’s father one Mr. Naidu was once the only electrician in town and was the go-to person for all things electrical. He was also my dad’s friend and we always called him Naidu uncle. Trust me to commit a faux-pas by asking if Naidu uncle was still around.  He is now an old man with arthritis in both his knees. He was no where to be seen, but Sanjay assured me that was he doing well for his age. And Jadob da was the local refrigerator expert. They were thrilled to see me and simply loved it when I asked them to pose for me.  IMG_1094

Finally, I came across this ‘flour-mill’ where we bought our daily wheat flour from. This is run by a young man whose name I have never known. We always called him ‘Chaki da’ as he ran a আটা চাক্কি / आटा चक्की.

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Done with fond remembrances of my child hood, I moved onto to visit the local Pujo pandal and fair ground.

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I continued to roam the lanes and streets of Bangur for a little while longer, as lunch was being readied at my parents’.

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What you see below is the harbinger of Chinese cuisine in Bangur Ave. This used to be a small eatery run by a mother/daughter pair who lived up-stairs in the same building. The daughter went to the same school as I did. For the life of me, I cannot remember her real name. But she was popularly nicknamed ‘Monalisa’ – thanks to a mysterious smile she sported. I can vividly recall, there wasn’t a boy in our school or the neighborhood who * WAS NOT * absolutely smitten with her charm. I was no different :) As I walked by ‘Hot Pak’ I wondered if she still stays there. I could not pull up the courage to walk up to their door and re-introduce myself. Nostalgia indeed, is a strange animal. This is where I first tasted ‘Chicken Sweet Corn Soup’. Sweet memories.

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Below are a couple of newer additions, late entrants into the Bangur economy.

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All the walking and talking made me hungry. I headed back to my parents’ for a wholesome Ashtami lunch.

PS: If any of you readers are from Bangur, please share your memories of the place with me, by commenting on this post.

17 comments:

  1. This was another moving post. The pics and the descriptions did bring in a surge of childhood memories.

    We both grew up in the same neighbourhood, played cricket in the same playground, had "adda" with the same friends and left our roots for a better future.

    I know these people and I guess we both still call Bangur - home. I have always had a strange irresistible urge to know about them since I had left.

    Somehow I still feel that attraction to Bangur - like that familiar fly attracted to naked flare of a candle in "load shedding" night.

    Thanks for the glimpse of that light.

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  2. @Suman - Thanks for your comments. Yes, indeed a part of me still lives in Bangur. I gave into the urge, quite like the fly you so beautifully explained. I heard you were in Bangur for a day, were you not ? Life has really gone by in a hurry. Let us at some point in life meet up and drink to it, buddy. What say ?

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  3. I dont have words to say how I feel. My heartfelt thanks for this post.

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  4. @Soma - Thank you for your kind words. Are you from Bangur Ave. too ?

    Thanks to some interest this post has evoked - I am already planning a sequel :)

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  5. I was guessing as much. I remembered him having an elder sister called Soma. Glad he shared this with you. Stay tuned in :)

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  6. Good post Vineet-I am almost there.Remember me.....and good ole Lebuda

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  7. @Ashit - Thanks for your comments. Sure remember you and sure as hell, remember Lebuda :)). Let us plan on eating at 'Hotpak' one of these days, what say brother ? :)

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  8. Though I am not from Bangur Avenue, I can feel the nostalgia and the adrenalin (or is it some other hormone) rush that one feels looking at a place where we grew up.

    I grew up in Salt Lake, and whenever I go back I feel the place has evolved so much. You made a mention about jackals. Well I really did see jackals (or may be foxes) in Salt Lake at least 3-4 times. Snakes in monsoon time were also not uncommon. You also had to clarify to your relatives (staying outside Salt Lake) that jackals were not our neighbours.

    Pujas used to be very homely affair with lots of community bonding, Laboni used to be the biggest puja. I think now 50% pujas in Salt Lake have good budget and the no. of people visiting Salt Lake Pujas have also substantially gone up. The community feeling is probably less prevalent now. And the following one is remarkable.

    Mishra's used to be the only bar in Salt Lake. You've to be very careful to visit that place. Very often you'd meet some friend / acquaintance of your father's. Once we saw one of our friend's father when the friend was with us. Both behaved honourably and pretended to not notice each other. Can you count how many bars are present in Salt Lake today?

    The place would be dead after 8 (or after sun-down should I say). In my recent visits, noticed that Azad Hind and few other places are open till wee hours in the morning.

    Liked this one very much. May be you can do a piece on life after dark in Salt Lake.

    Thanks.

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  9. Tapan - So very nice of you to take time to respond to my post with a perspective of Salt Lake ! Even though Bangur Ave was where I grew up. I am still infatuated to it. It still is like my girl-friend who I first dated. But Salt Lake is who I am married to, both physically and metaphorically speaking. My love affair with Salt Lake goes back to the 1990's, it always was used to be different world across the canal for me :))

    Be sure to expect a piece on Salt Lake. Watch out for it, coming soon this winter :)) Thanks again for being an avid reader of AllThingsCoolKata :))

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  10. This was a wonderful journey down memory lane. I did not grow up at bangur, but chose this place to be my home quite accidentally when i took up a new job in Sector V and moved from Mumbai. I had no idea about this place whatsoever. One of my colleagues took me to an apartment that time still under construction. Something about thar small strech of road between VIP and jessore road struck me and i decided instantly this is the place where i can spend rest of my life. I got my first home in Kolkata. And these were the days when I was dating my wife. So next couple of years that small stretch of road and lake town was the most happening place on earth for us. Just in front of our door, there was a durga puja (beside 46 no biye bari??). The fuchka stalls, colorful GOLAs ( did i spell it correctly?? crushed ice mixed with some colorful liquids), the beautiful gals around:), the list is never ending. And ofcourse Hotpak. We used to frquent there. I still remember the lady. The last time we spoke to her, she was planning to move to Lake Town. Hope she is still there at bangur.

    Couple of years and we left for US. But still we are eargerly awaiting to return to bangur, the place we love to be with.

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  11. Saggy - So very appreciative of your comments. It is amazing to hear your story and having like Bangur Ave, even though you came from all happening Mumbai. For the record - can you tell us, which years did you spend at Bangur Ave. ? Are you referring to the 'Residents Association Pujo' ? I am trying to think 46 no - 'Biye Baari' - which block were you in ?

    And you said it, the dating years the most wonderful years in one's life, ask me about it :)) and then we get married and reality strikes home ;-)

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  12. It was 2003-2004. "46 no Biye Baari" is in block B, if you start going down from Swimming Pool towards Jessore Rd, this one is on your left (opposite Roy Apartment just before Monginis).

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  13. Got it 'Saggy'. Thanks for the info !

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  14. Dear Mr.Arora
    Hi
    I am Ms.Singh a resident of lake town came up with my own research based institute for kids development , initially we thought of starting it from Bangur..the research went well and we got success. Now on the demand of parents of those students we are planning a school, for which we need a property of 2000 sq.ft. but getting harassed with the brokers being an happening and interesting resident could u provide some help? As I really don't want to move out..... I was searching for that and went through your post... its written with through modesty.... first time came through their identities and liked it a lot ... by the way I must appreciate that your writing skill posses quite organised descriptive pattern .

    God Speed
    Singh

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  15. Nidhi,

    Apologize your comment was buried under few others and I did not see it until now. I am afraid as I am even myself no longer a resident of Bangur as to what help I could be myself. To tell you the truth, one of our properties also lay there in a legal battle with some people. As far as writing is considered, it was simply a way to find to vent my feelings. Good to see you trying to do something for children in Bangur and may your venture find success. Please keep me posted.

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