Here are 4 songs. These Bengali songs form part of our village level campaign, by team SWADHINA , at times with small street plays. On this GANDHI JAYANTI we remember the large section of women who still have a long journey to make to reach towards living a life with equality and dignity.
BAKRID IN CALCUTTA : 50 YEARS AGO
There is an overall aura of happiness in the house…Deep’s elder sister and mother both are engrossed in making the ginger and garlic paste, using the heavy crushing stone. Deep has already made two visits outside, at the main-road junction. No, the black Landmaster car is yet to be seen. Ah, soon the car surely will arrive, with the meat of qurbani from Hashim Sahib’s home. Today is the Bakrid Day !
Deep’s father always says ‘we are poor, but that is our pride’. Going was tough for the family, with four children, and with a meager salary that his father was earning as an LDC. Deep knows the full form of LDC- Lower Division Clerk ! It is not that they do not get to eat meat. Every Sunday his father buys goat meat from local shop of Abdul. One Poa (quarter of a seer – about 200 gram) for the whole family of 6. The mutton curry will have a lot of potatoes and lot of light gravy. Deep gets 3 small pieces, nothing to complain. Mother takes only one piece and a few potato pieces – it seems she does not like meat! (It is years later Deep realized that mother did like meat, but never had much choice than just to accept one piece !). But on a Bakrid Day it is different. Every year mother will serve large serving spoon full of meat, and every time Deep finishes the plate, mother will insist he takes a bit more rice and some more meat ! Oh, great day !
Deep is third time lucky ! The black car finally arrives, and Deep goes near the car enthusiastically and asks the driver “ house number 34, Doctor Memsaab” ? “Yes, come on in, show me the house”. Deep takes the short ride and the car stops near Doctor Memsaab’s house, located next to Deep’s house. Inside the car were large brass trays, on which large chunk of meat were placed. The trays were covered by nicely embroidered white cloth coverings. There were several such trays, taken to the house one by one. Deep could not wait any longer and ran home “Mom, it has arrived, several trays.. a lot of meat.”
The next thing would be a loud call from the next door. It would be the voice of Boro Masi (Eldest Aunt) . “Deep, come on, bring some large vessels”.
Boro Masi was the eldest sister of Deep’s mother. Doctor Memsaab (we fondly called her Granny) was Boro Masi’s mother in law. And then, like every year, the rest of the routine will follow. Mom will cut the meat into large pieces … lot of them, in a large pot and cook in coal-fired oven for long time. The entire home will be filled in with the nice aroma of spices.
During lunch time everyone will be on a joyous mood, and, every year all will agree in unison that Hashim Saahib always gives the very best qurbani meat.
Hashim Saahib was a businessman, owner of several cinema halls in the central part of Calcutta. Doctor Memsaab was the family doctor. She was very able senior retired nurse, and in those days such person in all practical purpose was entrusted with all health matter of the entire family. Most of child delivery was administered by Doctor Memsaab, at home itself. She made a daily visit to the family, check every one -starting from checking the blood pressure of the elders to the treating common cold of the children in Hashim Saahib’s family. She was respected and revered very much in the family, and, the idea of sending so much meat to her was that this kind lady will keep a little for the family, and, the rest will be shared among the neighbours. One of the important aspect of Bakrid was sharing of Qurbani meat with poor neighbours.
This annual festivity for us continued many years, even after the death of our dear Granny. The children of Hashim family, continued the tradition for many more years.We still do get qurbani meat. Our old house-keeping aunty, Jameela Bibi who still feels I am his ‘little son`, collects meat from a couple houses around her slum, and comes in the evening and hands me over the meat. HAPPY BAKRID !
(This is a repeat posting – a tribute on his Death Anniversary)
Rafi: a tribute
Not only me, my entire family is still an ardent supporter of Rafi. Even my grandson feels Rafi has a golden voice, and, a regular story telling session, by me, on the greatness of Rafi, made him more addicted to his melodious renditions.
It was Amirchand who first broke the news that Rafi would be coming for a musical night and both Radhanath and Deep were all excited about it, and, instantly decided that they would not miss this opportunity to hear Rafi – live, for the first time. These youth were all die-hard fans of Rafi – Mohammed Rafi. It is then that Amirchand disclosed that the event was to be held in a place called Kanchrapara – a place quite far, in another district, and one has to take a train from Calcutta to reach to the place. The lowest level of ticket to the show would cost Rs. 5/-.
After an early dinner, on the D-day, the three set out for the place, a kind of a leap into the unknown! After reaching at the Railway station, it was not difficult to locate the Railway Ground where the show was on. A herd of people were heading for the ground and these three only had to quietly follow them. On reaching they found a large tent made, and lo behold, all the tickets were sold out. But the locals told them not to lose heart and just wait. The show started much earlier, in the evening, and in any case Rafi Saab’s performance would take place at the end part of the programme.
In those days such shows were organised not for any profit, but to enjoy, and once the tickets were over, and if there were still many people wanting to join, the organisers would open the side screens so that all and sundry could still enjoy the show, sitting on the ground outside the arena. The stage was made quite high so that everyone could see the show. So, soon the side screens were lifted and Deep, Radhanath and Amirchand too became part of the crowd enjoying the show…..even if they did not purchase the ticket !
At this time an unexpected thing happened. Deep noticed a local volunteer, with a large Usher Badge approaching this side, and he recognised him – Biman ! “Hey Biman” ! Deep ran towards him and they hugged in sheer joy of finding each other’s childhood friend. “I did not know you stay in Kanchrapara”, said Deep. Biman explained that he lives in the railway area and it is their youth organisation which was holding this function. Biman asked all three to follow him quietly. Biman took them to the front row where there were cushioned chairs – places reserved for special guests. Now they were seated at the front seat…. just few feet away from the performers!
Around mid-night Rafi entered the stage with a shout “Yahoo…Yahoo” .What an entry ! Deep felt breathless. Now they realised why so many people loved him. He could shout full throated just at the beginning of his show – without bothering whether his voice would be choked or cracked with that huge shout. Such was the genuineness of his intention of giving his best, and all out to his audience. The audience was passing on request slips to him and he was singing accordingly. Then he stopped for a while, reading a slip and asked “Who among you passed on this slip, please stand up”. Rafi said.“This is my favourite too.. ‘O duniyakerakhwalle’”. An old man got up and raised his hand. Rafi Saab assured him “Kindly remind me later”. Thereafter he kept on singing. At one point there was a request for a duet song.He asked among the audience “Can someone come up to the stage and join me?” A young girl braved and went up to sing.Together they sang quite a few numbers and all along Rafi was guiding her like his daughter and managing every slip in notes with ease. Little did we realise that it was well past midnight and the new dawn had already arrived with the sun-rise . A few organisers came up to the stage – perhaps to remind him that he had to stop now. At this Rafi Saab requested the organisers to give him a little more time and asked “Is the gentleman still here who requested for Duniya Ke Rakhwalle ?” Before he could finish the sentence the old man got up and raised his hand.
When Rafi Saab finished the song it was already day light outside. The arena was still crowded and not a single soul had left the arena -such was his audience connect.
Deep and his friends came back home – content with a memorable experience for a life time.
No wonder people have never forgotten him…Rafi lives on and on.
(NOW CLOSE YOUR EYES, CLICK BELOW AND FEEL THE PRESENCE OF RAFI )
“Tum Mujhe yun bhoola naa paaogey
Jab kabhi bhi sunogey geet mere,
Sangg sangg tumbhi gun guano gey”
(You will never be able to forget me,
Whenever you would hear my song,
You too would be humming with me.)
THIS INDIA, ONE INDIA
Despite our varied cultural plurality and many known – unknown sectarian identity, at the core of us we ARE ONE, JUST ONE INDIA. No amount of difference, be it religion, region or language can break our tolerance. I have planned to pen down a series on this very bondage that makes us One … ONE INDIA.
This is the first in the series….. “Sunny Sahib” !
There was a festive mood in the air, at least till this morning. Since one month every youth in the locality, in this end part of Ballygunge, was engrossed and busy. The reason – “Mahanisha”. This is the name of the play or drama that the local youth planned to stage. Those days, it was very much in vogue to stage a drama in the locality with a large number of youth participating and there were regular rehearsals in the evenings. The local youth caught hold of Shambhu Uncle, a veteran drama director of the locality and the drama selected was Mahanisha. Shambhu Uncle also agreed to spare his sitting room for the rehearsals.
Everything was going on as per schedule. That evening was the show ! The day before the tent-wallahs brought in a lot of bamboo poles, tarpaulins, bundle of ropes, and, they promised to put up the tent this morning…. And…. Then…. There was this thick black cloud visible on the sky since morning.
Everyone said it is just a matter of minutes….. there would be heavy down pour of rain and it would surely ruin the drama show ! Everyone wore a gloomy look, and, at this juncture someone suggested “How about asking Jhantuda for some kind of err….. way out?”. Jhantuda was the local thakurmoshai (priest) for all puja functions.
When approached, Jhantuda thought for a while and suggested a way out. “ There is a way out…. That is if you all have faith ….. and I am sure we will have the blessings of Devimaa”. What Jhantuda suggested was this “ We must find out a person in the locality who is the only child – a son. He should dig a deep hole, all by himself, and then place a small metal bowl in the hole… then fill up the hole with sand and lose soil..”. And now there was some cheer in the gloomy faces – every one went on different directions to fetch someone as per order…. Only child….. Only son. But the cheer was short lived… they could come up with some names, but most of them had one or two sisters….and none was the only son.
At this juncture some one yelled “Jhantu da, there is one, at the very next door. But if I spell the name you may not agree…. He is Sunny Sahib, our anglo-Indian neighbour.I mean after all he is not an er…er..”. At this point Jhantuda rebuked him quite loudly “Shut up.You are talking non-sense….. what is important is how sincere the person is in seeking from the heart that rain must not ruin our drama show”.
When the youth group reached Sunny Sahib’s house, he was busy in doing push up. He was a fitness freak,a good horse rider ! He was all thrilled at the idea of digging and came out in no time with his own sets of crow-bar and shovel . Soon he dug up quite a large hole -more than what was needed. Someone brought in an old aluminium bowl.Sunny Sahib neatly placed it in the middle of the hole and in no time replaced the loose soil to fill-up the hole….. all along he wore his signature cap on his head.
That evening there was a full house show of Mahanisha – a large number of people from neighbourhood gathered, under the clear sky.They said some of the local youth performed very well, much like the professional actors. I, for one, remember a bit. Our neighbour Kumar Uncle was in the lead role! He was a good looking hero. But perhaps, the actual hero of the day was Sunny Sahib – an anglo-Indian Christian who gave all his time and might to please Devi Maa!
As usual little Deep was given this important duty to look after the stage area. The stage was a nicely cleaned space on the bare ground, a thin layer of clay pasted neatly. Come Tagore Birth Anniversary – Rabindra Jayanti as it is popularly called in Bengal, there will be a cultural show organized by Deep’s family ! While Deep’s three elder sisters will take part in all the performances – group dance, recitation, songs, drama – all written by Tagore, Deep’s role will be to look after the stage made under the “Foroz” Flower tree. This is a kind of paper-like white flower bloom abundantly… it has no fragrance.. but they look nice.
It is customary to make a nice design on the floor of the stage… normally with chalk powder or lime powder… or rice powder. It is Deep’s elder sister who has the enthusiastic single handed work every year to draw this nice floral design (kollam or alpana). This year she could not get her hands on any of the powders…. So it was her innovative idea to work out an alternative and she did the design using Wheat Flower. It was done in the morning and till afternoon it did not dry up yet. So, Deep had the additional duty to see that no one comes near it and spoil it.
It is now after noon, already two old aunts have come. The ground rule is that the audience should carry their own sitting stool or a small mat. Deep made a small trip nearby to call some more aunts and grandmas and soon returned to his duty spot, and, lo behold….. the floral design had now become just half ! The other half just vanished ! Deep was perplexed as to what had happened. He soon felt a sharp pull in his right ear….. it was his elder sister, already with a heavy make up for her dance performance !
“Where were you ? Look what has happened”. At this point Deep noticed Booli, the pet hen of the house, gulping her last bit of Maida Flower …. She must have had a stomach-full of early dinner with the readily available floral design made with wet-maida –flower.
Soon the cultural function started. There was a good crowd, consist of mostly aunts, uncles, grandmas and grandpas. This event ground is in fact a common entrance passage for the houses inside this campus, and, the programmes were often interrupted by inmates walking through !
Today is the Tagore Birth Anniversary. Rianna and Ruhani, our grand daughters were draped in Sarees. Some one got hold of a tagore picture, and a make-shift picture frame was made with hard board (in the olden days every household had at least one large glass-framed Tagore photo !). Foroz flowers were gathered and they were placed near the picture.
We had a short dance programme performed by little Rianna and Ruhani… under the same Foroz tree. The tree is still there and gives a lot of flowers….. perhaps to proclaim that some things never change… Thank God !
One of our colleagues was unwell and we took her to a Doctor a bit far away. The appointment with the doctor was at 7 in the evening and by the time we returned home it was already 8 in the evening. Following our taxi was another vehicle and as we got down a loud voice greeted us from the said vehicle “Good evening uncle, …. go ahead, we will just drop in”. I could recognize the thick voice… it was Jojo, my nephew.
Exactly ten minutes later Jojo surfaced at our house with a Cake in hand, along with his wife and son Jijo. “Happy Anniversary Uncle !” It was then I realised it was the D-day for us ! Our marriage anniversary !
Those days we were in Bangalore, and Sara greeted us “Happy Anniversary” ! We were surprised and amused. “How come you remember the day ? “ I asked Sara. “Simple, the date is 14th of February – the Valentine Day !. And by the way how did you manage to coincide your marriage with this special date ?” I was a bit confused and flatly asked “Err..what is this Valentine Day “ ? Sara had a real loud laugh and took a class for me on the significance of V Day !. I explained to her that contrary to her belief, we got married in the days of Black & White era and life was not as colourful as it is now !
Pix : Sen Studio, Barasat (Suburb off Kolkata)
Pix: Subhadip Mukherji
Jojo quickly placed the cake on a small table and after a long time we had the reason to celebrate our Marriage Anniversary !!! Our little grand daughter Rianna was the chief guest ! Jojo is a singer in Bollywood and during end months of the year he comes regularly to Kolkata …. that is the season here for musical functions, mostly open air public performances. The season starts with Durgapuja and lingers on till mid February.
Thanks a lot Jojo…… let me play one of your popular numbers. (just Click below)
In our teen age days the pre-Christmas outing was a visit to the New Market. We are located at an extreme end locality in South Calcutta and this visit to the central Calcutta was some thing great for us. I always eagerly awaited for the day. My grandpa would come around noon, a few days before Christmas, and we will set out for this journey to the wonder-land ! I always narrated about this dream outing to my grand children – they are 3 in number. The elder one Rijul, who is at his final class of schooling, always had many interesting queries about this… my olden days New Market trip !
This Christmas I promised Rijul to take him on a similar pre-Christmas trip to New Market. More than him, I was the one who was keen on re-living history !
When we reached near the main entrance the area was too crowded and there was a near stampede situation. Ah.. that was the Light House Cinema…. this is the spot where there were some head-loaders… they will come running with a large bamboo basket…. go along with you to collect whatever you buy from the New Market… carry the load on their head and at the end of your shopping, come to the taxi stand and put all the packets inside the taxi neatly…. and finally be happy with whatever bakhsis (tips) you offer… after all its the festive time ! I was feeling sorry that none of them were found here, they must have found much lucrative alternative vocations !
At the New Market entrance, in olden days, we used to make short stop over at the greetings-card shops…. there were about 10 such shops. Only one we found still surviving, but with no takers. In the internet era none is interested in those greetings cards. Once inside the market, the scenario did not change much. Many of the old charming clothing shops were still there, though they did not have much buyers. Most of the families go for online shopping for their readymade clothes, and, even the sarees are procured by the same method.
The mistletoes and other decorative selling shops are still there. They are doing some what better business than others. The cake shops are doing brisk business. I was indeed upset as I did not find the same old charming New Market hopping experience. But for Rijul, he was enjoying the visit… I was showing him some of the old shops still in the business. I bought him a heart-cake and a hot patties ! I tasted a bit. Ummm…. some what nearer the olden-day –taste, except less buttery ! Well… at least some good things still survived the test of the time.
Those days our return trip was by a tram ride. Then the trams had less riders and it was a pleasant smooth journey. I did not propose the repeat mode for our return journey. It was a very difficult time to get hold of the taxi to take us.
Finally we managed to get one taxi after putting half and hour effort, and, reached home. It was indeed an enjoyable trip…. a good start for Christmas 2016 !