Tag Archives: sealdah

Boys will be boys

I stand on our balcony and look down. Two boys are hard at work.

The balcony is on a pier on the river. It’s a bright blue day with the glowing Manhattan skyline spread out on one side. The Verrazano-Narrows bridge is strung like a pencil sketch on a bright blue canvas on the other side with little beads glinting in the sun at the base that are really cars passing from Staten Island to Brooklyn on this sunny day.

The magnificence of the skyline and the slowly moving glinting dots on the precariously strung bridge, seen from this distance, seem like evidence of both the grandeur of human civilization and human hubris to a casual observer.

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Straight down below me is a narrow strip  that goes all around the apartment building filled with mulch and motley stones and bits and pieces of what look like wood shavings. This is soil for the transplanted  shrubs meant to take root here and make this building beautiful.

Every season I see the gardeners come by and uproot them and replant the strip with other plants more suitable for the season.

This isn’t a place where plants, not in the season of their bounty, can lie dormant until next spring when they bring out a new green shoot. Hardworking gardeners with electrically operated machinery periodically tear them out, level the ground and replant the plots with new plants that have been grown from seed elsewhere to beautify this place.

Transplanted plants are perhaps eagerly sent here because their beauty matches the beauty of this place, some perhaps carefully bred for this very reason.

This area is beautiful. Signs on placards all around advertise that it is ten minutes from Manhattan’s financial district. Pictures on the walls of the lobby depict men and women suitably dressed enjoying a drink against the magnificent view of the river and the skyline–smiling neither too much, nor too little–just enough.

It is late afternoon and the boys keep criss-crossing the strip of concrete that covers the boardwalk. The mulch borders one side and the railing on the river’s edge borders the other side of the strip. They pick a stone each very carefully (or maybe a wood shaving) from this makeshift soil, walk or run across the strip of hard ground and throw it in with all their might into the river across the railing.
Continue reading Boys will be boys

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Memory’s oases

When we were six or seven, we used to live in an oasis in the heart of Calcutta. Everywhere else the city was teeming with people, concrete, dust, dirt, cars, buses and street hawkers–an overload to the senses.

Yet, in the midst of it all was our oasis of a housing complex and a quiet street of some offices–a collection of buildings owned by the Railways to which change had not come in a long time.There had been few new constructions since the days the Brits were here and so the buildings were solid but not modern and the trees were all old and shady. Continue reading Memory’s oases

Telling Stories (Part 2: The Arrangements)

Continued from: Telling Stories:(Part 1: The Confusions)

The little blind lane on which my parents’ flat is located in Calcutta is very narrow but by no means sleepy. As you pass by the other flats you notice a mixture of old and new buildings. The new buildings rise up perpendicularly–straight from the road–while some of the older  buildings have benches made of cement in small verandahs adjacent to the street beyond which the actual rooms start.

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collage (Photo credit: **tWo pInK pOSsuMs**)

As I walk by my eyes glance over the verandahs, the curtains slightly ajar or the doors half open. A woman sweeps her balcony behind the metal “grill” of the railing. A green curtain is half closed behind which I  see an elderly man sitting on a wooden bed in front of the TV, his head hidden from my view by the wooden shutter. A section of an old painting shows itself on the wall through a half open door. Voices float out of the homes in various different sharps and flats. I hear pots and pans clanging in the background as the domestics talk loudly to the women of the house as they clean the vessels. A voice floats out. Someone practising singing at dusk with the singing master. [Still has a rather long way to go, I think, that voice,  as I pass.] A dog with four newly born puppies lies curled up on a cement bench on a verandah waiting for the domestic help to come out with a bowl of rice.

All bits and pieces of complete stories waiting to be told.
Continue reading Telling Stories (Part 2: The Arrangements)