Saturday, March 27, 2010

Under the glare of Neon lights...




Many may not know but Jhontu da makes the best Jhal Muri in Calcutta. Maybe he doesn’t know himself. I wonder would that make him proud if he knew.

For 18 years Anindo have been a regular customer to him. On his way to Esplanade Tram Depot he always stops near the Grand Hotel junction and with a faint smile of acknowledgement Jhontu da gets busy to mix all those myriad flavours and a handful of Muri.

Extra Aam chutney and no green chillies. Green chillies cause acidity to Anindo. And after that as sun slowly sets behind Victoria Memorial, Anindo slowly walks toward Tram Depot. It was as if both sun and he knew what lies ahead in the darkness of the night and have stopped expecting miracles long ago.

TR-114.Thats his tram. For all these years he spent most of his evenings serpentining through the neon streets of Calcutta. But it still brought the same excitement inside him.

The soft hum and rattle of the tram, and the occasional electric flashes of the power line, still brings creates the same fervour inside him.

---------------

It was a summer evening of long lost year when Anindo saw her.

The evening twilight was losing battle with the growing glows of the street halogens. Both the bogies of the Tram were crowded. Last group of Office babus were in hurry to catch the last ferry to Howrah. And young couples were on their way to the evening show at Metro or Globe Theatre.

That was when Anindo saw her waving her hand frantically to stop the tram. She was wearing a dark yellow sari with maroon embroidery. The starch of the sari was long lost in day long perspiration. But still the folds of the aanchal was neatly held by hidden safety pin.

With eminent tiredness of the sultry day she climbed up the tram and took a window seat.There was a strange melancholy in her eyes. Or maybe it’s just how fatigue looks in those big black eyes. Anindo could see the beauty hidden under the sweat ridden face and beneath the wheatish complexion. It was a beauty that was losing battle to the dust and pollution of Calcutta.

In an instant Anindo knew, he was in love, and he regretted it.

---------------

She always wore 2 saris in rotation throughout the week and rotated the same combination of sari every 5 week. By now Anindo could successfully guess what she will wear that day. It was as if without any words they reached a mute agreement. A symphony. A routine.

Year have passed and seasons changed. Every cool breeze of evening reckoned the arriving monsoons. The rain washed streets of Chandni Chowk glittered in the glory of streetlight. Big black umbrellas and tiny pink umbrellas together made a cocoon for lover’s respite.

But today she forgot her umbrella. In the merciless streets of Calcutta Anindo saw her shivering in the chilly breeze. The wet sari was obscenely outlining her most intimate features.

A pang of jealousy passed through his spine for all those men whose eyes seemed to pierce her.

She dint even noticed. She was busy reading a obscure magazine made of cheap grey paper.

---------------

In some other year, it was winter in the city. The hazy sun in the evening Maidan failed to provide enough warmth. So the lovers found warmth in arms of each other. Safely wrapped in the descending fog, they dreamt of their happy future.

Government finally found out someone to blame the poor traffic management. In the soon arriving 21st century, trams were to be erased.

Roads were less and people were more. So government came up with a new plan. In the dark underground demon trains will ferry people through the gutters of the city.

Robi da says Doomsday is near. We are day by day moving nearer to hell. They are even naming those demon trains as Patal Rail.

Anindo's marriage was called off 4 days before the engagement. If trams are not there, how will he feed our daughter, they blamed.

Anindo was happy. Tightening his muffler a bit he rattled his tram forward. It was the festive season. Bakeries overflowed with sweet smell and spread it across the streets. Twinkling stars and garlands of light gave the dying city a new zeal to live.

She stood there with her friend and a packet of cheap oversweet fruit cakes. She looked at him and their eyes met.

Somewhere someone skipped a heartbeat. Her friend called out "Archana,Wont you come?"

And Archana climbed in.

Of course, she was Archana, he wondered. What else could she be? She justified the name, she justified the beauty behind it.

---------------

Spring was never a season of Calcutta. It mysteriously lost its glory in parts to winter and summer.

All that was left was a few weeks in end of February, when the Babus of Writer's building get the imperial ceiling fans cleaned up for the approaching summer.

The nights still held on to the winter chill.

Archana today sat just behind the driver's coach on the tram. And it was as if Anindo could smell her scent. The export quality roses of Barabazar lost their fragrance to her. It was a scent of a woman.

In the thinning traffic of College Street, Anindo turned to steal glances of her. Maybe he should approach her one day.

But she might get scared. She might even complain. He was nothing but a background prop in her world. Why would she care?

He looked back and she looked up. Their eyes met and recognised. It was gripping, those big black eyes. And then a faint smile of understanding appeared on her lips.

A lips discoloured by those chemical impregnated local lipsticks glittered with the colour of her smile.

It was an acknowledgement, of all those hidden glances over the years, of all those yearnings, of all those dreams that were to come true.

It was a smile of love. Of new promises to be made. Of new life to be led.

Moment broke with a loud shriek. A jolt shook the tram and few flares of electric discharge sprinkled in the streets from over head lines. Anindo held on the brake, and passengers bumped off their seats.

Many have heard of those moments when earth stand still. Today it did. Cars screeched to stop and people stood with open mouth. The breeze from the south was too scared to flow.

Anindo peeked from the window.

She must be 25-26, returning from college maybe. There was still a freshness of life in her face. Maybe death was even confused to engulf her.

There she lay in front of the tram. Eyes closed in a peaceful sleep, but the dark maroon blood overflowing through her nose betraying the illusion.

The brake was bit too late. Life slowly seeped out of her.

Last thing Anindo remembered was running frantically through the by lanes. Behind a reeking smell of a burning tram and a faint roar filled the air.

Anindo ran for his life. Ran till he was exhausted to the point of death. And then he lied down on the concrete streets of Calcutta. Under the glare of a neon light.

---------------

Today also Anindo finished his Jhal Muri. The sun has set but the evening glow persisted.

He started his tram. It rattled a bit and then got in rhythm and them started to roll slowly on tracks.

Anindo many times tried to recall the face of that girl. But oddly every time that face transformed into face of Archana.

Today also Archana climbed up the tram and sat behind Anindo. But Anindo looked straight.

His Archana was dead, or maybe his love was.

Love lost.


P.S: Ahh!! its been about 2 months I am off blogger. Sorry for the delay,to anyone who care :) Its a bit of a long post...so apologies if u had to strain ur eye muscles longer.Let me know da guds and the bads in comments!!


P.P.S: Well I am myself not sure about the timeline of my story. But I assume I have tried to restrict it within late 70's to early 80's. Which was times way before I was born, and have no idea of.... so if by any chance u are resided in Calcutta during those times...do let me know the authenticity of the descriptions i used!!

46 comments:

oRange* said...

Eh, that was lovely!
You should write more often. Your stories are really gooood!

and Jhal Muri :P
are u bengali?

eNiGmA said...

hey... this again was one of your trademarks, I simply adore the way u describe smallest of things. again one of those delicately penned down stories....gud job!

Urvashi said...

Welcome bk..A Kolkata background story 4m u... I always love them... :)

n starting of ur post with jhal muri..Umm...I like tht toooo.... n hey, whats ur name btw??it seems a bit odd adressing u by ur on-blog name. :)

buckingfastard said...

@orange:yaaa!! i kno re i shud write more often...but u kno hard work leave less time to write...i can hardly manage 17-18 hrs of sleep per day... :P

aar ami ki bangali?? bhebe bolte hobe re!!! :P

buckingfastard said...

@enigma: i hope trademark dunt turn into a stereotype!! but noticing lill details is kinda my habit...more of a bad habit!!!

thnkx for dose good words

buckingfastard said...

@urvashi: thnkeee!!!! and yea jhal muri rocks all da way!!! :)

yea...i kno my blog name seems like slanging me!! i like it dat way!!

still my real real name is sayantan...and if u fail to pronounce it correctly....my frnds call me sandy!!

gargi said...

Ok so I have been following your blog.. this is the second post that I read here. I love the way you write. I totally saw it happening in front of me! I have never been to Calcutta but it sure did paint a picture for me.

Brilliant writing =)

take care
xox

suruchi said...

Okay...firstly the “yiyee...yiyeee” for a new post here...that I gave to u on my blog n reverberating here too...:-)
But it was worth the wait

I am not too much into fiction but this gripped me till the end
Like all the previous ones of u that I have read....
I love this too...
Screw the length...good things are always long:-)

It is with so much ease that you take the readers from one phase to another and the years most perfectly fall into pieces as they roll by as though happening right in front of us
I felt like I was reading a chapter in one of these literature books that I teach my students from...the effective descriptions n mind pictures that u create are awesome...:-)

Though I liked the entire post...I am highlighting the sentences which really made me smile with admiration for the outstanding expressions:
“The evening twilight was losing battle with the growing glows of the street halogens”

“There was a strange melancholy in her eyes. Or maybe it’s just how fatigue looks in those big black eyes.”

“It was as if without any words they reached a mute agreement. A symphony. A routine.”

“Big black umbrellas and tiny pink umbrellas together made a cocoon for lover’s respite.”

“Spring was never a season of Calcutta. It mysteriously lost its glory in parts to winter and summer.”

At the risk of sounding a bit carried away now...I wish u’d write some more:-)

Yemiledu said...

Hey Sandy ;~)

Calcutta,love story and the name Archana...Well Everything I love in one story is sure a yummy treat to me :~P
Awesomely written:)
Really loved it !

Only 17-18 hours of sleep everyday?? Come etna hard work isn't sahi for your health...
And can I call you Yantan?? Sounds like some Chinese name though!

:)

Madhu said...

hello? Firstly u write after so effing long..and whats with that font? i simply cant read it..Light blue with white background?? change it ya..ill comment only when i can read it!

buckingfastard said...

@gargi: hey welcome to my blog!!!

btw do visit calcutta and lemme kno if i was able to build a proper picture for u or not!!!

thnkx fr dose nice compliments :P

buckingfastard said...

@suruchi: yiee yieee yieee...see i luv jumping in joy for watever reason it be...

see now u said gud things are always long...try to avoid to say these things in front of indian male...size is one domain that thoroughly hurts our ego :P

awww!! dat was a sweet comparison to compare with literature for kids...i think da best stories i hav read till date are from my school english book

spot on picks...i luv those lines too...i kno i sound snobby...wat da heck!!

hmm frequency of post is one thing dat i too desperately desire ;)

buckingfastard said...

@yummyladdu:

oohoo...archana was a sweet coincidence na!!! :) so let me hav the pleasure to dedicate this story to u!!!

THIS PIECE OF FICTION IS HEREBY DEDICATED TO YUMMYLADDU(SIVARCHANA)!!!

thnks fr dose over the topcompliments :D

thnks fr understanding the hard life of this poor kid :(

yes u can call me yatan!! yatan and yummyladdy...we can start a superhero comics featuring us!!!

buckingfastard said...

@madhu: eh??? dats not my fault!!! my blog background is not white...well lemme come to ur blog and give expert comments

bliss said...

okay, thankfully you finally wrote a post. and that was some good story. as usual, loved your expressions about little details. 'fatigue looks in those big black eyes' and 'i knew i was in love and i regretted it'.
i was only wondering, does love really happen that instantly? one look and you are in love?
i wish his love hadnt died, you know. its not the details about the city that sets you apart, although that is a major component but its the way you put little things into words. if i were to quote every one, i would be writing almost your entire post here again.
i think i sound too enthusiastic about it but i think you should write more, a book maybe. i will definitely buy it!!!!

Shruti said...

That was a beautiful story. The imagery was quite good!And Sayantan is a beautiful name. :)

Madhu said...

firstly i care...so why have u been lost for so long??

and this one is well written.I admit it did strain my eyes but then i did the reading in installments..the best of all was the title...neon lights..wow! I finally did manage to find a system which had flickr eneabled cauz i do most of the redaing from college..:)

wirite more often!

Urvashi said...

Sayantan..thts a nice n different name.... :) :)

buckingfastard said...

@bliss: ahh!! thankfully i wrote a post after so long!!!?? come from a person depriving us of her incidents of life for 2 months...

cummon wats wrong why r u off bloggin!!

abt love...am not sure....coz i never fell in love so quick...and trust me i fell in love pretty frequently...

yes my frnds hav cnfrmd of love in first sight!! but u kno human hav a chauvinism abt beliving dat only their own love is tru rest all is fake!!

a book huh!!! :P thnk god atleast u will buy it!!! me and u...dats 2 copy sold!!

buckingfastard said...

@shruti:thnk u dear and welcome!!

well i had no hand in naming myself..but i will inform appropriate authorities(read sum distant uncle)dat he made right choice...

btw scribble sum clouds in ur "clear blue skies"...we r waiting!!

buckingfastard said...

@madhu: ohh!! i was lost in search of true love...sadly LSD got released and brought me bak to reality!!

ohh heck wid these college authorities who ban all porn and social networking sites :P

thnks fr nice words and ur orders will be followed captain!!

buckingfastard said...

@urvashi: thnkx dear...even urvashi is sweet if not ruined a bit fr da song..."urvashi urvashi...shaadi ke baad...." :D

blunt edges said...

wonderful! some neat story-telling ability u got there!

bliss said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Sorcerer said...

Dude..coming here after a long time..
WOw!! This is another great post from you buddy.
:)

Nipun said...

Awesome post again man!!
Typical one from u..
Write more often..:)

Cheers

Nuts

buckingfastard said...

@bluntu: thnkx re!!! will try to keep up!!

@sorcerer: never mind...even i m posting stuff after long time!!

thnk u fr da praise

buckingfastard said...

@nipun: thnk u dear!!! but this typical thing scares me...hope i m not stereotyping..i need to venture new domains it seems!!

Chhaya said...

Sorry for being so late :)

loved reading this. Having spent close to 3 years in Kolkata, I m very nostalgic about Trams. I often used to take the Esplanade – Garia Tram on Sundays when I just wanted to be alone in a chaos. (i dont know if it still runs)

about your writing, it always feels very mature to me. Hope u will be more regular now :)

subu.ps said...

tears are sure to rain reading this post !!

Ana said...

Okay, the first thing in your post that caught my eye were the terms "Jhal Muri". I'm off to making one of those now.

bondgal_rulz said...

Apologies for being late here to comment.

Wow, wow, wow!!

Loved the desciption of the city...haven't been there ever though....

Beautifully woven and cool twist towards the end....very life-like, not like some idiotic romantic chic-lit book or a karan johar movie.

Cheers

Rajlakshmi said...

Wowwww is what came first in mind... amazed by your narration skills... brilliantly penned and described...
you should definately write often.

buckingfastard said...

@chhaya: as dey say...der aaye durust aaye or something!!

hey if those 3 yrs are recent the last 3 yrs...den am sure...we hav crossed each others way in esplanade or shared a coach in tram!! :)

luks like we are...2 lost soul living in a fish bowl...year after year!!

buckingfastard said...

@subu:not dat i want tears to rain..but in case they do..i may be selfish enuf to take it as a compliment :P

welcome here!!

buckingfastard said...

@ana: dey say ur likes and dislikes in real life...features in ur stories...so is da case!! i refrain from visiting my own blog wen i m too hungry!!

cheers to jhal muri and all dose myriad street foods

buckingfastard said...

@bondgal: wow wow wow!!!

do come to the city wen u can!! i will take u to da places described..so dat u may verify its authenticity wid the mental picture u created :P

dat will be a real test of da fiction i suppose :D

and dammit!! i cant never be soo gayishly cool like KJo

buckingfastard said...

@rajlakshmi: thnks nd welcome!!! well creating a clear picture in reader's mind is da only intention of my fiction!!!

i hope i can pen something real soon!! am already off for too long!!

Nikita Banerjee said...

Waah! Very nice! :) Very vivid...I could see the story unraveling...

Riddhiculuos said...

real nice twist in the tail. Like nikita says very vivid indeed.
loved the building up to the end. I mean the trope of the 'tram' / jhalmudi/ archana and how the dead girl becomes she.

The metaphor of the tram runs throughout your story and the journey of his unfinished love parallel to the ever threatening consequences of modernism. Very nicely laid... waiting for the next one,

Yemiledu said...

Woooooooooowwww!!
Thanyou a ton!
Thats really very sweet of you!
:~)

Yatan and Yummyladu- The super heros.
Lol sounds good. Lets work on that ;~)

buckingfastard said...

@nikita: :D thnkssss...means a lot coming from u!!

buckingfastard said...

@riddhi: wow!! for pointing out the metaphors spot on!!! actually the post was in tribute to dying tram...but i dint wanna make it obvious and mushy!!!

luvd ur dissections and thnkee for the good words!!

hope 2 see ur around!

buckingfastard said...

@yummyladdu: hey i m soo working on our yatan and yummyladdu chronicles....

u kno what will be our power dialogue...."yanna rascala" and our goddess of power..."yana gupta"...ohh well dat dint came out right!!

TurbulentMind said...

i came by your blog..loved the story..kolkata-r nijorsho essence ta phute uthechhe :) and i love jhal muri too!!

will look forward to more :)

buckingfastard said...

@turbulentmind: thnkx fr stopping by and going thru the blog!!

well amio jhalmuri aar kolkata bhalobashi!! so common needs satisfied it seems!! :)