Sunday, November 15, 2009

The best-kept secret


As I write this, I'm over three decades old. Like people my age, wise or otherwise, I used to think I know a great deal about the city that has helped form my life, my existence, my essence over the ages. And then, I came to see Marble Palace.

It was always there, years, even centuries before I was born. And yet, no one in Kolkata had ever bothered to tell me that it had always existed in my vicinity, possibly mocking at my ignorance; its arms were always outstretched, it was my overconfident arrogant blindness that indulged me to overlook its presence.

As you entered the campus, you'd get the feeling that the palace absorbed you long before your senses could sink into its vastness, its mind-boggling authority, its seemingly innocent yet deceptively lethal beauty.

The structure seemed oddly familiar. I had seen it somewhere over the course of time. Was it Parthenon? Was it something else? Whatever it was, it looked like I had known it for centuries. It seemed as if I had been a part of this; I belonged there. My fingers sprang into some unprecedented movement, unknown hitherto to me, to grip something, something frantically. I wasn't sure whether it was the king's sceptre or the knight's bardische, the accountant's pens or the librarian's books, the saaqi's goblet or the tailor's finesse, the sculptor's chisel or the assassin's poison vial, but there was something that I knew for years that I wanted to grasp, to cling on to for life or for my sheer existence. I could never learn what it was, but I was sure that had I ever found it, it'd have become my most prized possession, and I'd have gone on caressing it for an eternity, with the same intensity of a man who immerses itself into his beloved during the few moments he can steal from his life.

The feeling didn't last; but it lingered. It had to linger. There was marble everywhere, as pure as the most virgin of milk that has ever existed: so white that it seemed that it might ejaculate froth any moment. The alleys, the passages, the humongous doors, the vast floors all seemed known: was I possibly a prince here, playing hide-and-seek with the plebeian children who had served my illustrious father in the massive courtyard? Or was I the spy who had been seduced by the queen's beauty into oblivion in the grandeur of the ballroom? Or was I the one whose soul was ripped apart when I saw my beloved melting into the lips of her teacher in one of the secluded alleys on the first floor, where children weren't allowed? If only I could find out...

The aura of the place clung on to me through every step my bare foot strode inside the premises. The imposing paintings and pieces of sculpture might send your emotions reeling, but that's not all about it. The sheer bulk of history bore down on one's shoulders, numbing your senses altogether. You simply cannot help asking yourself the "what if"s and "what could've been"s.

You stride through the music room, the ballroom, the meeting-hall; you can't miss the enormous Belgian-glass mirrors; your eyes automatically get glued to the Raja Ravi Varma masterpiece; you cannot miss the statues depicting the four seasons, or the smiling satyr, or the effervescent Damocles, or the youthful Venus, or the entirely unexpected presence of George Washington.

There's history you can only dream of, fantasise about, never feel; you might curse yourself for missing out on the era; but can never, never live through it, realistically. You can touch history, but you cannot be a part of it. Ever. However you might crave for it, history shall always elude you; always.

*** *** ***

And then, there are certain aspects of the campus as well: you get to see the wilder side as you take a small detour to a private zoo; you get to tread on soft grass on a peaceful November morning; and then, you marvel at the realisation that this is, actually, the best-kept secret in this city. Ever.

The Palace has possibly conveyed its secret to me, time and again, over centuries; but I was too haughty, too blind to notice; and there went 32 years of my life, wasted, without noticing it at all. Time, unfortunately, seldom throws up a second chance, but if there's another time, I'm sure I won't let it go this time.

Monday, November 9, 2009

রবাট আর তার দলবল


এটা কিসের ছবি? আমি বলতাম, ছোটবেলায়, eraser; আমাকে তাই বলতে শেখানো হয়েছিল; কারণ এটা দিয়ে erase করা যায়। অনেকে বলত rubber, কারণ eraser rubber দিয়ে তৈরি হয়। হত হয়ত, যখন ডাইনোসরেরা পৃথিবী দাপিয়ে বেড়াত, আর উঠতি ম্যামথেরা তাদের অল্পবয়েসের ভুল (লেখা) মোছার জন্য rubberএর তৈরি eraser ব্যবহার করত। আজ vinyl বা plastic দিয়ে হয় সাধারণতঃ, তাই rubber বলাটা (এই প্রসঙ্গে বলি, আমার যখন মনের কানায় কানায় টলটলে innocence, আমার জীবনে যখন Penthouse-Playboyরা সদ্য আসতে শুরু করেছে, তখন eraserকে rubber বলতে শুনলে হাসি চাপা ছিল অসম্ভব) বোধহয় অনুচিত। তবে আরও অনুচিত বোধহয় robber বলা, কারণ eraser আবিষ্কার বা উাৎপাদনের ক্ষেত্রে দস্যুবৃত্তির অবদান সম্পর্কে ইতিহাস সম্পূর্ণ নীরব। তবে (মূলতঃ যার অনুপ্রেরণায় এই লেখা), হয়ত রবার্ট ক্লাইভের প্রতি অপরিসীম শ্রদ্ধায়, বা অন্য কোনো দুর্বোধ্য কারণে, eraserএর একশো আট নামের মধ্যে আমার সবথেকে প্রিয় সম্ভবতঃ রবাট। কিভাবে rubber থেকে robber থেকে রবাট, সে বিষয়ে আমার বিন্দুমাত্র ধারণা নেই, কিন্তু আমার শোনা শ্রেষ্ঠ নামকরণের তালিকায় রবাট প্রতিদ্বন্দ্বীহীন। আজকের এই অদ্ভুত লেখা রবাটদের উদ্দেশ্যে, পৃথিবীর অজস্র অসংখ্য রবাটভাষীর উদ্দেশ্যে আমার শ্রদ্ধার্ঘ্য।

Eraserএর অনিবার্য আত্মীয় পেনসিল, আর sharpener। পেনসিল দেখতে বেশ নিরীহ হলেও তার ক্ষমতা অপরিসীম, ইতিহাসের পাতায় পাতায় তার সগৌরব উপস্থিতি। কাজেই তাকে নিয়ে বিশেষ ভুলভ্রান্তির অবকাশ নেই, যদিও কখনও (বোধহয় শিলাবৃষ্টির তোড়ে) তাকে পেনশিল হতে হয়। তবে বহু আগে তার পোশাকি নাম ছিল Wood-pencil, আর বাংলার মাটিতে সবাই আদর করে ডাকত উটপেনশিল, হয়ত বা রাজপুতদের বীরত্বের প্রতি শ্রদ্ধায়। কিন্তু বেচারা শার্পনারের রেহাই নেই, পেনসিল-কাটার (ছোলার) কল হয়েই তার জীবন কাটে, আর কখনও-সখনও সে শুধুই কল। Jaquar-Hindwareএর গালে চড় মেরে "কল" শব্দের একমাত্র মানে হয়ে সে ঘুরে বেড়ায় হাতে-হাতে, পেনসিলবক্সে, পেনশিল-রবাটদের পাশে অনায়াস স্বাচ্ছন্দ্যে।



ফুলকপিকে ফুলকপি বলা ন্যূনতম ভদ্রতা: ফুলকোফি কোনোমতেই সঠিক উচ্চারণ নয়। "কোফির ডালনা খেতে খুব ভালো লাগে" বললে আমার নিজের রুচির কথা বলা হয় না, রাষ্ট্রসঙ্ঘের প্রাক্তন সচিবের (অনুবাদটা আমার নয়, আনন্দবাজারের) প্রিয় খাদ্যের কথা বলা হয়। গত দশকের ইতিহাসে আন্নানসাহেবের অবদান অপরিসীম হতে পারে, কিন্তু পৃথিবীর ইতিহাসের পাতার পরতে পরতে গরম মশলার গন্ধে ফুলকপির কথা যা লেখা আছে (পেনশিলে), তার সঙ্গে তুলনীয় নয়। আর দিনের বাদবাকি সময়ে হয়ত মানা যায়, কিন্তু "দুফুর" বেলায়? অসম্ভব! আমরা প্রতিজ্ঞা করি, কপির কপিরাইট প্রাণ দিয়ে বাঁচাব, তাকে কোফি হয়ে "টমাটম" বা "টমেটম" দিয়ে রান্না হতে দেব না। ওরা উন্মাদের মত "সন্মান" হানির চেষ্টা করুক, আমরা সম্যকভাবে "সম্মান" বাঁচাবই। রবাট হব না।

*** *** ***

অকারণে ইংরিজি শব্দ কিছুতেই ব্যবহার করবনা। পাউরুটি (অথবা পাঁউরুটি, চন্দ্রবিন্দু আছে কিনা নিশ্চিত নই), মাখন, বউ বা স্ত্রী, খবরের কাগজ ইত্যাদি বলব। বাংলায় দিব্যি প্রতিশব্দ যখন আছেই, কেন খামোকা bread, butter, wife (বা আরও অসহ্য, Mrs), paper বলব? কেন? চেয়ার বা টেবিল বলতে হয়, কারণ স্পষ্ট বাংলা নেই (কেদারা বলতেই পারি, কিন্তু সেটাও তো বাংলা নয়!), কিন্তু যেখানে আছে, সেখানে বলব না কেন? কেন "আমার Mrs" জাতীয় অসহ্য কথাবার্তা বলব?

আমরা কোনো এক রহস্যময় কারণে ঢ্যাঁড়সকে ভিণ্ডি (কখনও ভেণ্ডি) বলি, যদিও বাকি সবজিদের দিব্যি বাংলায় ডাকি। কেন? কেন ঢ্যাঁড়সের প্রতি এই অদ্ভুত পক্ষপাতিত্ব?


*** *** ***

উচ্চারণের সময় বানানটা ভাবার চেষ্টা করব। "গর্দভ" যেমন নিখুঁতভাবে লিখি, ততটাই নিখুঁত উচ্চারণে বলব: কথাটা কখনোই "গর্ধব" নয়। তেমনই modernকে মর্ডান (morden) বলব না (আর কেউ বললে তার গর্দান নেওয়ার চেষ্টা করব)। "সম্মান"কে "সন্মান" বলে তার অসম্মান করব না। বাস কণ্ডাক্টার "পাখি স্ট্রিট" বা "ধনতলা" বললে শিউরে উঠব, তেমন হলে উত্তেজিতও হব।

মনে রাখতে শিখব, Esplanadeকে Splanade বলা কেতাদুরস্ত উচ্চারণ নয়, নিছকই অশিক্ষার পরিচয়। প্রসঙ্গতঃ (শেষে বিসর্গ দিলাম, কারণ দিতে পছন্দ করি), Esplanade একটা দারুণ শব্দ, যার মানে নদীর কাছে একটা বড় খোলা জায়গা।

Mongini'sকে মনজিনি'স না বলে মনগিনি'স বলা তাও ক্ষমা করা যেতে পারে, কিন্তু Cookie Jarকে কুকি Zআর কিছুতেই বলব না, কারণ এর সঙ্গে রুশ সম্রাটদের আদৌ সম্পর্ক নেই।


*** *** ***

ঠিক জায়গায় ঠিক শব্দ ব্যবহার করব। রেস্তোরাঁ বোঝাতে গেলে রেস্তোরাঁই লিখব, কিছুতেই হোটেল লিখব না (রেস্টুরেন্টও বলব না, কথাটা ফরাসি, আর তাই শব্দের শেষটা উচ্চারণ হয় না; সে না হয় ক্ষমা করা গেল)।

Fried eggকে পোচ বলব না; যে মুহূর্তে তেল ব্যবহার হয়, তা আর পোচ থাকে না: আমরা যাকে জলপোচ বলি, সেটাই আসলে পোচ। আর হ্যাঁ, poached fish জাতীয় কথা শুনে হাসবনা। ওটা নির্ভুল, যেকোনো কিছুর পোচ হয়। Fried egg মানে অমলেট নয় অবশ্য, সেটা সর্বৈব আলাদা জিনিস। আর হ্যাঁ, অমলেটকে মামলেট একেবারেই বলব না, কথাটার অস্তিত্বই নেই।

*** *** ***

অনেক কিছুর ক্ষেত্রেই কোনো ব্র্যাণ্ড (আরো একটা শব্দ, যার ঠিকঠাক বাংলা নেই, তবে সেই প্রসঙ্গ এখানে টানছিনা) এতটাই জনপ্রিয় হয়ে যায় যে ব্র্যাণ্ডের কোনো জিনিসের সঙ্গে তুলনীয় কোনোকিছুকে বোঝানোর জন্য সেই ব্র্যাণ্ডের নামই ব্যবহার হয়। খুব ভালো উদাহরণ হল photocopy বোঝানোর জন্য Xerox, off-road SUV বোঝানোর জন্য Jeep বা rubber (eraser নয়)-soled ক্যানভাসের জুতো বোঝানোর জন্য Keds। আমরা অনায়াসে মাহিন্দ্রার SUVকে Jeep বা Bataর tennis-shoeকে Keds বলি, বলার আগে ভেবেও দেখি না ঠিক বলছি না ভুল; কিন্তু এগুলো এত বেশি প্রচলিত যে আজ Xerox-Jeep-Keds প্রায় অভিধানের শব্দই হয়ে গেছে, যদিও সেটা যে খুব ভাল তা নয়। কিন্তু এটা নিয়ে যথেচ্ছাচারিতা বোধহয় কাম্য নয়: Bisleri, Cadbury, Lay's, Coco-Cola, Nutrela, Band-Aid, Google, Polaroid, Vaseline, Walkman, iPod, Photoshop - এগুলো আমরা যখন-তখন, যেখানে-সেখানে বলি, এই ব্র্যাণ্ডগুলোর থেকে কোনোরকম কমিশন না পেয়েই।

তাহলে কি বলব? যদি রবাটের উপাসক হতে চাই, যা ইচ্ছে তাই বলব। আর না হলে?
  • দোকানে গিয়ে Xerox করাতে চাইব না, বলব "photocopy করাব"
  • Jeep বলে মাহিন্দ্রা কোম্পানিকে কষ্ট দেব না, বলব off-road SUV
  • Keds বলব না, বলব tennis shoe (যদিও বলা উচিত rubber-soled, canvas tennis shoe; বাটার যে জুতোকে আমরা Keds বলে শারীরশিক্ষার নামে প্রহসনে অভস্ত ছিলাম তার পেছনদিকে Tennis লেখা থাকে)
  • Aquafina বা Kinley চাইলে "Bisleri দিন" বলব না
  • Cadbury দিন বলব না (এখানে মনে রাখা উচিত, কথাটা ক্যাডবেরি নয়, ক্যাডবরিসাহেব স্ট্রবেরির ভাই ছিলেন না), আর যদি বলিও, "নেই, Amulএর আছে" শুনলে দোকানদারকে নিরক্ষর ভাবব না
  • Lay's চাইব না, potato chips চাইব; যদি স্বচ্ছ শস্তার প্যাকেট পাই, নির্দিষ্টভাবে বলব, Lay's চাই, না Uncle Chips
  • Cococola দিন বলব না: Thums Up বা Pepsi চাইলে তাইই বলব, আর যদি Coke চাইও, Coca-Cola বলব; কোকো অন্য জিনিস
  • সয়াবীনের বদলে Nutrela চাইলে Nutrelaর তেল পেলে রাগব না
  • "Band-Aid বা Handyplast আছে?"জাতীয় প্রশ্ন করব
  • "Internet search কর" বলতে শিখব; অনেকেই Yahoo! ব্যবহার করে, বা আরও অন্যান্য সার্চ এঞ্জিন
  • Polaroid বলব না, বলব instant photograph
  • Vaseline বলব না, বলব petroleum jelly (দোকানদার খুব সম্ভবতঃ বুঝবেনা, কিন্তু তাই বলে রবাট হব?)
  • Photoshop করতে বলব না, বলব picture editing software; The Gimp রীতিমত ভাল, কাজেই ভাল বা অশ্লীল শিল্পকর্ম সৃষ্টির জন্য Adobeএর পা চাটা নিষ্প্রয়োজন
  • Walkman বলব না, বলব portable cassette player
  • iPod বলব না, বলব portable mp3 player
  • Frisbee বলব না, বলব flying disc বা flying saucer

Saturday, November 7, 2009

A hundred and seventy five thoughts


I was amidst familiar people when 175 took off. All logic seemed to point at the fact that 351 was an unachievable target. All records, all documentation from the past seemed to pinpoint at the fact that Australia were in the most comfortable of positions. It was familiar, it had happened thousands of times (or maybe millions), and there wasn't anything new about it.

What was different, then? What gave me hope? What made me feel that this was different? Was it because He was there? But He had been there all along: I had met Him, thanks to technology, several years back; several others had invaded my life, I've had the Dravids and Kumbles and Laxmans swarming my memories. Laxman remains my "official" favourite cricketer. But somewhere deep down my subconscious, He had remained. And the fact remains that He still rules, and rules good.

He wasn't as great as you portray Him to be, they said. Possibly not. But the fact remains that when He holds the bat in air that extra second as a follow-through of that straight drive of His, your heart misses a beat. It's not about whether He bats brilliantly or not. It's about the way He seduces me into absolute submission. It's about the way He has overpowered my thoughts, my rational existence into an unconditional relationship for a lifetime.

At times I wonder whether it's a bat He yields. The bat seems to fit so naturally into His arms that it I often get the feeling that He might well have been an Egyptian scribe from some long-lost period of glory, marvelled at the realisation of the immense power of mastering a language. He might have been there for ages, composing masterpieces in a language familiar to all, but mastered only by Him.

How epic was the 175? I wish I had encountered something similar before, so that I could have compared. There was He, completely oblivious to the fact that this was a mere workplace for Him: workplaces are meant to carry out mundane jobs like receiving parcels, attending board meetings and visiting sites; not to have fun and mesmerise worshippers, take them under complete control and make them bow to His wish. But does He care? Since when did Masters bother about the rules set by us?

I wish I were better with words. I wish I could do something to satisfy My Hero, the way He has done me over time, and especially during the 175. Sigh...

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Irish coffee


I love Irish coffee.

The Kolkata cafes possibly doesn't use whisky (or, as the Irish would say, whiskey) in theirs. I suppose you'd need a bar license or whatever for that.

I don't really care. Irish coffee tastes mighty good, even without the alcohol in it. The cream, whipped or not, crams the surface, never revealing the coffee beneath if you go for a bird's eye view. It's rich, black coffee of the highest order, and though you cannot taste what's lying beneath without touching the surface, it's worth the wait, trust me.

Leonardo da Vinci used to add another layer to his cryptic world: he wrote them on papyrus, and wrapped them around vinegar-filled glass vials before putting them inside the containers. If you smashed the container, the vinegar would dissolve the papyrus.

The Irish do the same. The moment you try to try stir it, force your way through to the coffee. The trick is to add sugar real slow, around the edge, so that the cream doesn't dissolve, and remains at peace, making friends with this new alien entity.

And then, you drink it slowly. The feeling is surreal. Since you've been good to the coffee, it would try its level best to fill your senses.

And once you're through, after a lifetime, or maybe a million years, you'd notice how transparent the container was.

*** *** ***

The alcohol, as I have mentioned earlier, is strictly optional, unless you're too keen to fall down on the staircases and bruise your elbow.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Random limerick

There was this man, a maverick:
Who thought he'd write a limerick.
He was doing fine
Till he reached the last line,
When he thought that the length of a line wasn't important, so he went on and on, aimlessly, wrote whatever he could, right from the fact that Delhi is the capital of India and Tendulkar is God and blablabla, and missed out on the trick.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

My evening with Murugun


I remember the day I saw Michael Clarke make his test debut five years back. From the very first moment he seemed different; he didn't murder, he didn't invade, he didn't plunder, he didn't ransack; he didn't even chisel or compose; he simply soared, and soared endlessly, and I couldn't help admiring even as he piled up a hundred on debut against us. It was like reading Jonathan Livingston Seagull for the first time; it was feeling the joy of flying high, fresh wind brushing against your bare skin, your eyes closed with an oddly orgasmic feeling of the vast endlessness engulfing your existence.

Murugun was like that. The film didn't simply exist on the screen; it soared. The joy was familiar; it was pure, it was unadulterated, it was the fresh essence that melted into your mouth the moment you dug your teeth into a freshly plucked apple. Yes, I had laughed out loud in the theatre at the top of my voice, loud enough to distract a couple of neighbours. Yes, I had rocked savagely in the seat (and I weigh close to a quintal) out of sheer glee at witnessing something so insanely grotesque. Yes, it was so good that I had clapped like a five-year old at his plastic machinegun. Yes, it was so stunning that I had spasms of laughter where every inch of my body responded to the insanity on the screen. Everything, right from the green-and-rani shirt of Murugun to the absurd, irrelevant handicapped character at the end, fell into place the way Ghosh (and we) wanted them to be.

What was Murugun like? Well, for starters, as the credits rolled, it said Quick Gun Murugun: Dr Rajendra Prasad. Hang on, DOCTOR RAJENDRA PRASAD? I mean, what was a name of that kind doing in this movie? Aren't such names supposed to be in history books or parliamentary elections? I mean, isn't this simply RIDICULOUS?

It continued unfolding. The storyline, as expected, was beautifully mindless; the theme, as expected, was blisfully non-existent; the action scenes, as expected, were mind-bogglingly dumb; it was an epic saga of incredible stupidity, and of pure fun, the way we'd want our worlds to be. Every minute made me realise that Shashanka Ghosh loved making this film, and enjoyed every aspect of the process, however miniscule.

Consider the yamdoot, for example; who takes our dead hero in a hideous translucent vehicle (oh, did I mention that though the yamdoot drives it himself to the corpse, the dead individual needs to drive him back?) to a place that resembles a Government office; where people get "sorted" into their various destinations; where apsaras are given sort of crash courses; and where Vinay Pathak, as C Gupta, decides the future of any given individual.

Consider the incredible action scene amongst the coconut trees at the Institute of Coconut Tree Climbing (Recognised) that also offers diploma in betelnut tree and palm tree. I mean, when did we see a gang of attackers so effortlessly random, so viciously focused, and at the same time, foolish enough to attack Murugun one by one (and that too, using coconuts, which our hero ducked effortlessly), and astonishingly slow in allowing Murugun to target them at leisure and get plucked off by his Quick Gun, one by one? You need to believe it to see it, honestly.

Consider Anna, the elder brother of Murugun, Shashanka Ghosh's own version of Mycroft Holmes. The moment the brothers meet they take out their respective guns (why was the brother carrying guns tucked under his belt, under his dhoti, when he was in his house, whereas he did not bother carrying them when he went out to work and was caught bare-handed by attackers when he came home?) and randomly shoot at objects, apparently decorative ones in the house, and Murugun's bhabhi has tears of joy in her eyes at the shooting prowess of the brothers. Some day I shall have to get my brother to do this with me, I'm sure my wife shall react the same way.

Consider Rowdy, MBA, for example, in my opinion the best character of the movie. IMDB told me he's called Raju Sundaram; we had seen him dance to Rukmini a decade and a half back; and Wikipedia told me that he's a brother of Prabhu Deva and Nagendra Prasad (the humma humma guy). But all that was irrelevant. What mattered was his incredible style; the way he walked; the way he shaked his head cracking his bones that only a professional choreographer can do; the way he talked; the way he uttered "sssssssuper" to the dosa; and above all, the YemBA YemBA chant that filled the theatre as he did anything of note on the screen. I hummed the chant for the rest of the week until my wife got mad; I converted the movie file to .mp3; got the twenty or so seconds cut from the audio file; and now the chant is my ringtone. It's incredible.

And then, there was Rambha; a few of my mates might remember that we had a (albeit verbal) fan club dedicated to her when we were doing our Master's. Rambha as Mango Dolly simply stunned me to the core; I cannot think of anyone who could've done more justice to the role; everything was perfect, right from serving curd rice to our hero to snapping parts of her own apparel to bandage his wounds to her anticipated death (ah, if a hero loves some other woman, isn't the second girl bound to die in the end?) in the hands of the curiously named Dr Django (note the rhyme with Mango) who had been hired as a foreign expert to create a Yay1 tiptop superdosa for Rice Plate's McDosa!

I can go on and on and on, but this is not what this blog is supposed to be about. Go and watch the movie, even if you're not a Clint Eastwood fan. Order masala dosa (make sure they don't give you a mutton dosa) and drain it with a tumbler of whisky once you're through. Quick Gun Murugun shall never be a blockbuster (it ran for just a week in Kolkata); it shall not win the Golden Globe; but who cares? As long as the neel gagan is my terrace and poora duniya is my watan, I'd watch it time and again to shove some oxygen into my soul, polluted by years of contamination of the city and its forced civilisation.

Mind it.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

The storm


We had discussed Tajpur, somewhat casually, in our office a few months back. As it happens everywhere, we had some perpetually enthusiastic people to savour the charm of an alienated beach, but most of the others backed out. I suppose creature comforts mean a lot to most people, and they can't really be blamed for that.

Finally it was a group of six. We set out on a group of six in an air-conditioned Qualis (you see, we can go to a place without electricity, but air-conditioned transportation is a must...). Given a choice Ranadip would possibly arranged for a limousine with a performing DJ and a cohort of waitresses serving champagne and gourmet food, but we had decided to stick to a meagre budget.

After a halt (where I was asked to pose with a kangaroo; given the recent Ashes outcome I'm sure I'd have humiliated it had it not been a dustbin) we raced towards Tajpur. We passed Kolaghat, the power plant we've all read about; Nandigram, which we have fought over a million times over countless cups of tea; Mecheda, the telebhaja capital of the world; and finally we reached within five miles.

Things changed thereafter. The glorious asphalt gave way to puddle-clad ridiculous patches of lands that were supposed to be roads, but certainly weren't. We trudged along, and covered three miles in thirty-two minutes (Joyish can surely walk faster than that, albeit on flat dry land).

The rest was a routine. Lunch; unpacking; changing into beachwear (okay, Bengali beachwear); walking through another muddy track lined with innocent-looking trees (Ranadip, though, could've sworn that the trees reminded him of the most brutal of murder mysteries); and finally, reaching what seemed like a reasonably harmless patch of sea.

The first look was quite impressive. It was the usual brownish grey water you get in West Bengal beaches, possibly a by-product of millenia of dirt. We took a few steps forward, maybe half a kilometre likewise, towards the sea, occasionally diverted by a handful of blood-red, supremely active crabs.

And then it happened.

The initial feeling was that of a thousand needles piercing your raw, bare skins. Suddenly I felt like a humongous dartboard, and the very next moment I was somehow metamorphosed into some miniscule object, carelessly shoved away by some unforeseen, indomitable surreal force. It was something I've never experienced before - being ripped apart by a force as powerful as the most ruthless of tyrants. It was like nature's revenge on us, humanists, refusing to acknowledge her supremacy on the universe...

The entire surroundings transformed. We were engulfed in a seemingly white barrier of rain, mist and sand: haze reigned supreme; visibility was curtailed to zero; it was a suffocating, yet delightful feeling of being challenged by some invisible supreme authority, trying to emphasise its stronghold on us, mortals; it was a challenge from there, to fight back, to gnaw our trails back to our tents...

It never seemed to subside. It reminded me of the West Indian fast bowlers of the 1980s, who allowed you moments of breathing space, but never a significant respite of any kind. We groped through the white darkness; the route was possibly visible, but walking against the wind was an impossible task.

Tamal and Abhishek had clicked their shutters a million times. The spectacles were captured. The goosebumps weren't. I stood there, for hours, seemingly mesmerised by the arrogance of the storm and the rumble of the frothy water against the muddy beach.

The raindrops had turned horizontal by now. Coupled with the sand, they now feasted on whatever was left of our exposed skin; we walked back, our eyes looking at our feet, sometimes with our backs to the destination to avoid the cruel blows. But we proceeded; surely, if not slowly, towards our tents...

Everything after that had to be an anticlimax; even the humongous pomfrets and the divine prawns; even the tents, rocking by the remnants of the storm; even the fact that my Nokia 3110c started working after a few hours since water had seeped inside the LCD.

We returned next day. Home beckoned. Tajpur was left behind. The storm was not. The day reaped the storm inside me, if not all of us, possibly ready to erupt some day in future...
_______________________________________________________

Postscript: The storm had actually forced the local fishermen to come back; it had taken a solitary human life at Digha, a few miles away. But apart from the storm, Tajpur is a pretty nice to visit if roughing is fine with you. It's quite virgin yet, but the human impregnation is on its way, so if you want to catch it raw, don't leave it for too late.

Followers