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 :))
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.
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 !
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.
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.
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.
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.
Done with fond remembrances of my child hood, I moved onto to visit the local Pujo pandal and fair ground.
I continued to roam the lanes and streets of Bangur for a little while longer, as lunch was being readied at my parents’.
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.
Below are a couple of newer additions, late entrants into the Bangur economy.
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.