Whose house was it?
Let me stop here and share something. Bengal could have arguably produced the greatest authors,poets,revolutionaries,thinkers,scientists,philosophers in the country and there were tons of places I wanted to go to, every museum,place,historical site was beckoning me.
But I was intrigued by this figure, this one figure that emancipated women from a cruel ritual during that time. Raja Ram Mohan Roy. His fight against social prejudice of humanity, a non conformist to many traditions and effectively abolishing Sati – the cruel system of widows getting burnt alive with their husbands on the funeral pyre.
He had many residences in the city, but this particular one was where he resided with his family. And I had to walk just 2 kms from the coffee house so off I went exploring the streets and wading through crowds and finally reaching there.
The residence was converted to a museum. It was pindrop silence when I walked in.There was an old security guard who gave me a ticket for 10 Rs and let me in switching all the lights. I was the only one there.
It was a world of the past,of a disturbed past and history. Of using religion and some of it’s meaningless rituals that gave birth to Sati(spelled as ‘Satee’ there), young widows and complete suppression. It gave me a glimpse of the Zamindari system during that time.
I wondered how it would have been for women in India if this man didn’t lead a crusade against this evil system. In the south,in Andhra Pradesh we had another prominent figure Kandukuri Veeresalingam, a social reformer who fought for women’s education,conducted mass remarriages of widows and fought against the evils of dowry and I am sure there were many such figures in India’s history.
One values what they have today more if one can see how it was in the past. And we still had miles to go.
An acquaintance messaged me recently on something very relevant. We were talking about narratives.The narratives that went through history, right from literature to practically everything. Nearly all of them were written by White Men,no offence but this is a fact. Now narratives had to be heard from women,from people of colour,it was time.
I also quote what one of my favourite authors, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie said, “The single story creates stereotypes,and the problem with stereotypes is not that they are untrue,but that they are incomplete.They make one story the only story”.
I was caught in a time warp going around the rooms, reading his scripts, handwritten letters to the governor general,the abolishment process. It was an insight into this man.
I got out, thanked the security and walked towards Park Street. It was 4 kms away and I was content with the way the day went by and it was past noon so I walked directly into Trincas😊 It was hot outside and what better way than to chill with beer!
I stepped into a place that was awesomely Old World.I ordered Beer and had a chat with one of the waiters. My mum saw a young Usha Uthup perform here in the 70’s. At that time, the audience got shocked to see a young South Indian woman in a Saree crooning in that awesome voice, belting the blues!
The beer was hitting me hard after quite a long day of walking around. I asked the waiter if the Live Music sessions had stopped. He said Madam, we have Live Music every night.Bengali and Hindi till 9 pm and after 9 pm Only English. I was delighted! I told him I was going to come back tonight, it was my last night and I wanted to end it with a bang!
I went back to the hostel and was chilling when Kinshuk my trekmate called, he was in Park Street! I invited him up. I remember his face when the elevator came up slowly at a snail’s pace with him inside and a bewildered look 😊 We sat in the portico, my favourite place that had a view of Park Street.
It felt so good to see Kinshuk. All those memories of trekking with him came back. He gifted me a beautiful stole. It was very thoughtful of him.
We chatted about his journey retracing his father’s childhood,visiting the village,his school, his cousin’s wedding and the rituals. He looked very tired and yet he made the time to meet up and it’s things and moments like these that tell you who a person truly is.I spoke about my trance like journey of Meghalaya and what Calcutta was doing to me.
She was a temptress, a fiery sensuous woman who had you in her grip, she loved passionately,wholly, consumed you, devoured you,she tied you down,whipped you, it was like BDSM, it was sadomasochistic and you would go back again and again.
There was no escape,it was too late,she was already inside you and you could do nothing about it. She numbed and intoxicated your senses, I could go on and on. It was a heady permanent fever you can’t shake it off. I remember Kinshuk getting intrigued by my talk on Calcutta and it was not the beer talking, it was me. Calcutta knew who she was,she knew that once a person got a true essence of her, any other city wouldn’t stand a chance.
I showed Kinshuk around the hostel. He said it was a hidden gem and one wouldn’t ever know it existed.Giving a big hug and goodbye to Kinshuk, I got into my bed and dozed off. I guess everyone in the dorm did the same because when I woke up it was dark and the door was closed. For a moment, I thought it was night and I was like Shit! did I miss my last night in Calcutta??!
And then I saw someone on my opposite bunk bed with their phone light on and searching for something in his bag silently not wanting to disturb anyone. I got down and was barely able to see through the darkness and I couldn’t freaking find anything. It was late afternoon for Christ’s sake, why were we so worried about disturbing anyone??this was a dorm! So I asked the guy, Hey is it ok if I can switch on the lights? He said Yes Please!
And that’s when I met Arjun!😊