Tuesday, February 13, 2007

One Week in Calcutta: Unsettling


They should call it CABcutta.



There are more cabs in Calcutta than there are people. The cabs are potty yellow in colour and act as a constant reminder to your bowels that you forgot to appease them in the morning. The pollution from their exhaust reminds you of Delhi before the introduction of CNG. And for some very strange reason, ALL cab drivers are from Bihar. I didn't come across a single Bengali cab driver in the 20 odd trips that I made in the course of the week.
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Crossings, Crowds, and a whole lot of Chaos.



I may have underestimated the number of people per square kilometer when I made that statement about the number of cabs. In the picture to the left you can see the confluence of cabs, buses, private vehicles, trams and people. All this at a crossing where the signal doesn't work.
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Does this qualify as popularity?




While clicking one of the photos I realised someone from the crowd was waving at the lense hysterically. Since I was looking into my tiny cellphone screen, his appearance was extremely dwarfed and hence, unclear. I thought he was telling me to not invade people's personal space by walking around with a cellphone pointed towards them like a weapon. So very sheepishly I put the phone in my pocket and walked on.

A couple of seconds later, I felt a hand on my shoulder. I froze, out of the very natural fear of public humiliation, I think. Contrary to the verbal bashing I was expecting, I heard an extremely gentle voice say, "Tanmay, welcome to my city."

In the brief conversation that followed I learnt that 37 year-old Tilak had moved back to his hometown about a year ago. And even though he was working hard and earning little, he didn't mind Calcutta because it gave him the chance to be in the same city as his ex-wife (who he is still very much in love with even after 11 years of separation) and his children (talking about whom brings tears to his eyes).

I told him I was happy for him. He told me I had put on weight. We both smiled. And then of course with nothing left to talk about, we bid a quick, almost mechanical good-bye and went about getting lost in the crowd all over again.

To answer your question:
How do I know Tilak? I trained him during his brief stint in my company. He was one of the few people who put me in the spot by insisting on calling me 'Sir.' When I told him we were a company with a 'first name' culture, and the fact that he was 15 years older than me, he simply laughed and said he had a hotel management background and that there was no way he would call me anything other than 'Sir.'

When I reached my hotel room that night, I wondered why I didn't ask him for his phone number or e-mail ID.
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Taking C-Grade flicks to the next level.



(*Kaam Milan: Sexual Meetings)
(**Piyasi Dilruba: Thirsty Seductress)


O Mammi mammi, O Daddy Daddy
Jis se meri shaadi hogi
Aaj meine voh ladki dhoond li hai... ok ok I'll stop!

These were the first couple of movie posters I happened to set my eyes on.

You can also find movie posters of Bengali Films. The local film industry is called Tollywood. Imagine if their box-office lingo includes phrases like 'could you tollyrate the film?'



Apparently sequels of Nagina (Snake-Woman) are still setting the box office on fire.
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This one takes the cake.

This poster can be found at the entry of one of the city's finest hotels, The Park.




'Win' a date with 'heart-throb' Aryan Vaid?!? Really?!?

Where was I when he made the transition from a potential hero in 'Kaam Milan' to a 'heart-throb?'
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Call Girls

Come darkness and the city's pavements are flooded with prostitutes and pimps. An indication perhaps, of the average Bengali mentality? Or the cruel aftermath of an extended rule of the Left? I don't know. I want my friends from JNU to answer that one.

I think it was Wednesday when my colleague and I were approached by a pimp on Park Street. A thin, dark brown, middle-aged fellow with bulging eyes. He caught me by the hand and asked him very seriously:

"Excuse me Sir. Can I help you with College Girls? Nepalis?"

After a brief moment of silence AJ and I realised what he meant and we broke into hysterical laughter. I 'thanked' him for his generous offer but declined nevertheless.

As we continued walking, we tried to figure out why the pimp had approched only us out of the 20 odd people buying rolls at the food stall. Did we really look that horny? Was watching Fashion House every night getting to us? After a brief round of debate I convinced AJ that it was the look on his face that had instigated the fellow.

[On a more personal note, I'm more or less ok with the whole living in denial thing. I really don't care about what people do for a living as long as they get by with a full stomach and a couple of laughs. Even prostitution.

And no, I don't feel violated when a pimp approaches me. Or when my friends raise the Friday evening toast to 'Wine, Women and Prostitution.' Delhi and Bombay have red-light areas too. So do New York, Amsterdam and London.

In Calcutta, like any other place, prostitution was once a lifestyle. And for some sections of the city, it still is. But every set of eyes on the streets that invited me into the shadows told a story of a life lived in denial. Much like that disillusioned section of Calcutta's society, which is desperately trying to revive the lost glory from 'The Days of the Raj.'

And just why did Sona Gachi* let go, forcing a large number of its inhabitants into the by-lanes of the best known streets of the city to find their own way into tomorrow.

*Asia's largest brothel - located in the heart of old Calcutta

I don't know.

What is their story? Do they have a story? Or do I think too much?

If you're from Calcutta and can figure this out for me, let me know. I'm still unsettled.]

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403 comments:

1 – 200 of 403   Newer›   Newest»
faceless said...

far as I could see, this post went from being the cynic/skeptic to the cosmopolitan... did meeting with Tilak change that...??

And, isn't every city the way you saw Calcutta??? rather, Kolkata. Hint: you were in the old part of the city.

Shalini said...

Sahay 'Sir',

First things first..I am displaying your blog link on my blog..(and I am telling you..not asking you this.)

Secondly, I like the fact that inspite of your work schedule you have managed to update your blog and kept us lesser mortals amused and entertained.

Lastly, the narrative that changed from a casual, laid back tone to a more serious, thought provoking one was the best part of this post. Adding those pictures made it even better.

Yes, I will be waiting for one of your Bengali or JNU friends(or are they the same?) to sort out the disquiet within...

Vasudev said...

Buiiii I like the way you Automatically feel the pulse of every city you visit. While reading I feel I am actually traveling with you.

Now the Bone of Contention.

Why do you think that the Left govt. can be blamed for it or the average Bengali mentality??
I mean how many Bengali's do you know in Amsterdam and Cambodia???
Prostitution in other cities is spread all over but in Bengal it tends to have marked boundries so it hits you in the face...

Preetika said...

hahahahahahaha...your kid brother is taking your ass..hahahahahaha

Viren said...

Apparently your experince in Cal was quite miserable. I think it's human tendency to be extremely critical. But nevertheless, well written as always.
And, Vasu, you seem to be very antagonized by the fact that the T-Man has completely raped Cal. What's up with that bro? Never new you harboured such feelings for the maach people, hehehe.

hedonistic hobo said...

i've never been to cal but i've always got the sense that it is a city teeming with the gritty life. like delhi teems with the sordid life. mumbai with the manic life.

prostitutes don't disturb me prostitution does. call me old fashioned.

Dan said...

TS, wonderful post! Dude, you should be writing travel books or something. You have a way of pulling me into the stories!

I laughed when you said "There are more cabs in Calcutta than there are people." Oh NO!! That means that many of the cabs are driving around my themselves!!!! Run!!! :)

I can't believe you met someone you knew in that sea of humanity! And that he recognized you among all those other people!

TS said...

@Faceless:You're right. But I did visit the new city as well and was quite disappointed.

@Shalini: Thankyouverymuch. I hope the Bengali, the JNU and the Bengali-JNU friends help me through this one.

@Vasudev: Thanks bro. As far as the BOC is concerned you dinkus, go there and figure it out first. This is not Saddam or Castro we're talking about.

@Preetika: Hmph. Ja, mein tere saath Eklavya nahin dekhoonga.

@Viren: Thanks for sticking up for me dude.

@Hobo: It should. I want it to disturb me as well. I want a lot of things to disturb me as well. Little things like Puppies drowning in the rain. But, I just KEEP going on without as much as taking a second out to do something about it.

@Dan: Thanks Dan! You should be publishing too, you know. And about that guy, I was pretty surprised too, in a nice, self-image enhancing way... ;)

Anonymous said...

yeah yeah it shows that bengali men are too horny who can't control their tools, hence, they need help.. just like mallu men were always hornier compared to other south indian men , so they found ways to turn women into prostitution hence mohianiatam and possibly every mallu movie.
why women did it? its simple. Since ages, most women tend to please men and cater to their needs.. its in their hidden psyche n every action of theirs reflects it.

The story of denial- A person tends to deny only when the need for survival is more or he is just too lazy to think. May be bengali men are too busy eating rosogullas n can do jus bout anything to help their 'artistic' n 'intellectual' beings think.

The part that i found reallyyy funny n where i was literally lolING was when i read that a straight men saw fashion house everyday haha.

Every big problem arises from a simple reason so things are not always that complex.

Soma Bagga said...

I have been following this blog for quite some time now...and travelouges are certainly a very interesting read...no less than the hilarious 'photo of the week'...Keep travelling and Keep posting!!!

i-Man said...

..

iz said...

Yes TS, you must teach me how to post multiple images in one post. This is so much easier to comment on.
So when you back anyway?

Jane Doe said...

Hmmmmm.... I might try and locate Calcutta: 200 years and figure this out... I might not.

Nonetheless, I like. It is nothing like the Calcutta I know (except for the cabs bit hehe), but then the Cal I know is such-a get pampered and visit clubs and eat good food and help backstage at Kathak recitals- its a beautiful city if you are protected by... well just that protected. I really wish I could re-visit places and really see them, but then that would ruin my memories... or would it? Maybe, I think too much too - comments on society or rather creation of it because of certain instances in history are something I won't venture into.. not without referring to that book ;)

Also, Thank you.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
bongopondit said...

Dude you are brilliant ! Your acute sense of perception (There are more cabs in Calcutta than there are people) and logical deductive skills (An indication perhaps, of the average Bengali mentality? Or the cruel aftermath of an extended rule of the Left?) are worthy of admiration.

The way you have presented the one-eyed view of a city and denigrated an entire community commands a new bench-mark for travelogues.

Please, as someone else suggested, do write a travel book - add a few gratuitous images - horny hordes of Bongs will make it a bestseller; reading your book during the cab-inspired morning ablutions.

Oberon said...

......wow.....i need to travel more.....nice blog.

t said...

U should activate the comment moderator thing on your blog man...some people are disgusting and creepy...u might wanna trash the comments left by 'anonymous'.
Anyway...its always nice to read ur blog...its like getting a glimpse of your mind, all the things that u thought of..gives the reader a chance to experience your experiences.

thalassa_mikra said...

I like the sarcastic route that Bong'o has taken, but I'll be more direct with you. This is one of the more offensive, obnoxious posts I've read lately.

Tanmay, perhaps you need to travel more, open your mind a bit, stop thinking in such stereotypical ways. A good travel writer you're not. Not even mediocre.

TS said...

@Anonymous: Thanks for the input, and advice.

@Soma: Thanks a bunch, though I do hope this week's picture doesn't tickle your funny bone.

@i-Man: Welcome back to the blogosphere.

@Iz: In the attach image screen, click on the add another image option. You can post upto five images in one go. Also don't forget to click on 'none' in the picture alignment option.

@Jane: One of the most wonderful things about life it's a different experience for everyone. You MUST go there again.

@Bongopondit: Thanks, your sarcasm comes as quite a relief after reading the comment above yours.

Like I said earlier, the fact that life is a different experience for each one of us entitles us to our own opinion. This opinion may be skewed or one-eyed or may reflect our inability to look at the positives, but I'm ok with that. Because at the end of the day, that is what we live with.

And we, as bloggers especially, must respect that. Just the way I respect every outburst in the comments section of this post.

@Oberon: Thanks. Do travel, its thrilling.

@T: It doesn't matter, the whole comments thing. I wasn't really expecting bouquets for this one if you know what I mean. There are alphas and omegas everywhere.

Thank you for your faith.

@thalassa_mikra: Please read my response to Bongopondit's comment.

Ps said...

Have been reading your blog for quite sometime now.You are an amazing writer.You really have the gift.I admire your talent with words.

thalassa_mikra said...

Tanmay, may I request you to read this part of your post slowly, a few times, and reflect on its merits:

"Come darkness and the city’s pavements are flooded with prostitutes and pimps. An indication perhaps, of the average Bengali mentality?"

What exactly are you trying to say here? I don't consider prostitution a problem, but I strongly suspect that there is a moral condescension in your tone.

And the generalizations, oh the generalizations! So one encounter with a pimp and the city is teeming with prostitutes? I wonder how a wimp like you manages to live through a single day in a major city.

thalassa_mikra said...

Let me also address your reply to me and Bongo:

"This opinion may be skewed or one-eyed or may reflect our inability to look at the positives, but I'm ok with that."

No, it is not pessimism I have a problem with, but the pop sociology and psychology. The ridiculous attempt to connect some very standard Indian urban phenomena with peculiarities of the "Bengali mentality" and the Left rule.

The assumption that what you see and process with your limited understanding of the city and its people is fact.

The perverse inability to think and reflect more, and try to situate your experiences in a broader context. My problem is only with your mediocrity as a writer, not with your outlook per se.

Ronita said...

"Come darkness and the city's pavements are flooded with prostitutes and pimps. An indication perhaps, of the average Bengali mentality?"
What a profound observation!!! wah..wah! I wonder how long did it take you to understand all the Bengalis! I am truly amazed at your audacity!

ronita said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
TS said...

@Thalassa: You obviously feel VERY strongly about the sex-workers. I respect that.

Lets allow this forum to be one for debate and not finger-pointing. My abilities as a writer are not in question here, my observations and mindset are, am I correct?

An indication perhaps, of the average Bengali mentality? Or the cruel aftermath of an extended rule of the Left? I don't know.

1) Please understand that I've asked a question and not made a statement. And also note that the 'I don't know' is indicative of my inability to answer that very question.

2) You may have sensed moral condescension in my tone because a) My disappointment is obvious and, b) this is an issue your are sensitive about.

And the generalizations, oh the generalizations! So one encounter with a pimp and the city is teeming with prostitutes?

Please understand that I was in a part of the city where the city IS teeming with prostitutes post sunset.

I wonder how a wimp like you manages to live through a single day in a major city.

I think you're being a little judgemental there, don't you think? There are a couple more travelogues on this blog which you can glance through and maybe then make a more informed accusation.

No, it is not pessimism I have a problem with, but the pop sociology and psychology. The ridiculous attempt to connect some very standard Indian urban phenomena with peculiarities of the "Bengali mentality" and the Left rule.

Correct. These are urban phenomena, not just Indian but global. I was merely documenting my observations, analysing how Calcutta is different, and trying to figure out the reasons.

The assumption that what you see and process with your limited understanding of the city and its people is fact.

The perverse inability to think and reflect more, and try to situate your experiences in a broader context.


Agreed. I'm sure there are a million things about Calcutta I would've fallen in love with had I encountered them. But that was not to be.

My problem is only with your mediocrity as a writer, not with your outlook per se.

I'm going to let that pass.

Preetika said...

Thalassa, you seem to have taken personal offence to Tanmay's post! Wonder if you have been through his previous posts to actually understand the kind of things that he is trying to document. In case you haven't, they are called 'personal experiences'. A read through his previous posts would reflect the kind of opinions that he has about places like Jabalpur and Bikaner (which are pretty nondescript, if you ask me)..If he had a great time there,he has written about it; and if he didn't have a great time in Cal, well too bad-HE JUST DIDN'T..and he has written precisely that..I think you need to understand that..there is nothin that you can say or do,that can change that..

'My problem is only with your mediocrity as a writer, not with your outlook per se'
Everything you have said suggests otherwise

Shalini said...

Sahay Sir,

I realize the temperature here is a lot more than what its like in a July afternoon in Delhi...

But I must congratulate you! This is where you succeed as a writer. Your ability to get a reaction..no matter how curt, how candid or biased - this reflects on your ability to grab someone's attention through your words and invoke a reaction from your readers...

'My problem is only with your mediocrity as a writer, not with your outlook per se'...I repeat what P said in her comment.

Also, that picture of yours... DO NOT.. NEVER EVER take that off your blog...you look like the perfect guy to cast for Don II...

And the Oscar goes to.... errr wait or do you want a Booker?...

I salute thee chief!!

thalassa_mikra said...

Preetika and Shalini, are you two willfuly misunderstanding my point? I very clearly outlined why I think he's a mediocre writer.

Every writer uses broad brush strokes to an extent, but it is the ability to add nuances, to side-step the temptation to jump to trite causality, and keen perception that makes the prose worthwhile.

I'm sorry Tanmay, but your piece did not possess these qualities.

Also, "An indication perhaps, of the average Bengali mentality?" is a rhetorical question in the context of your paragraph.

You cannot be serious in arguing that it was posed as a genuine question.

Anyway, carry on, you have enough admirers and enablers.

Anonymous said...

Thalassa? hahaha is that an average Bengali name?? or ur code word amongst the pimp's of Bengal??
You know ur rite it's not the left or the sluts of Bengal that have dishonored Bengal.It is the stupid,regressive,dense and impenetrable minds like urs that have caused the downfall of a once great city.
Bui

TS said...

@Shalini: Oscar/Booker/Nobel, I'll take them all.
Thank you S, for the faith and the support. I'm delighted that people with vast travel experience such as you understand where I come from.
And after having read your blog, the booker may just go to you as well... ;)
About the picture, 'P' is going to here about this FOREVER. Thanks!

@Thalassa: You are entitled to your opinion. This is the first time anything I have written has evoked strong reactions, and as long as we can debate the points in question, I'm alright with that. The only think I'm not comfortable is with finger-pointing.

@Anonymous: Thank you for your unconditional support. I know you understand my outlook and thats why you have chosen to defend me. And that for me, is a source of continuous inspiration. Thanks again.

Shalini said...

@Thalassa

I havent 'willfuly' misunderstood what you are trying to say.

I support anyone's right to appreciate or criticise a book or a blog. But there is a thin line between criticism and finger pointing. I would openly criticise Tanmay the day I do not like a post by him. And I think the problem isnt you criticing Tanmay's style of writing...but somewhere you arent clear about what bothered you about this post...or are clearly not admitting it. Is it REALLY the writing style or the fact that he wrote something abt the average Bengali mentality???

@anonymous
Why is it such a big crime in this country if one has an opinion or has made an observation. Calm down my friend!

But what we need to understand here is that just the way Thalassa did not like this post and objects to a few things (like writing style/nuances as she informs us all)...Tanmay has the right to explore a city, make his observations and write about them ...or are these the prerogatives of William Darymple and Kushwant Singh only??

Tanmay isnt imposing his views on us remember, he is only writing them down and we havent been dragged to his blog at gunpoint...
----

Ahhh!!!

Now... when are the next elections???

Regards
Netaji Shalini Menon!!

preetika said...

Thalassa, you might want to pose the same question to yourself..I think you are 'wilfully' not understanding that Tanmay has only presented what his point of view of an experience in the city was..If it left a bad taste in his mouth, he cant be blamed for it..Or like Shalini said, you think that doing so is only the prerogative of a chosen few..

All said and done, a free peice of advice-I think it might help you in life to be a little less judgemental..and lose the name calling habit..

TS said...

@Netaji: Can we cast votes in advance please (I am also willing to campaign). I swayer.

@Preetika: To express support is one thing, but to see all of you rally round like this is quite another. Can I ever thank you enough?

Anonymous said...

What happened asshole? Removed my comment? Phat gya kya tera gaand? Just like your randi mom's? Shows your commitment to free speech does it not? That while you can call Bengalis whores I cannot call your mother one?

And Shalini begum, I am also not imposing my viewpoint about Sahay's mom on you. So why does he keep removing my comment? Maybe because your ugly friend cannot take even half of what he dishes out? No balls perhaps?

Now as for Sahay,go and shove your face up your grandma's smelly pussy, you cunt.

TS said...

@Anonymous: I removed the first comment after a lot of persuation from friends and readers. But I'm going to let this one stay. Like you said, I should be 'able to take' what I dish out.

An observation: You quite like lurking in the shadows, don't you?
(If you've read the post then you know what I'm hinting at.)

Vasudev said...

Mr. Anonymous by abusing in this manner you have vindicated the blog entry and taken it a step further. Why does everything hurt you guys so much?? Be it the Tata motors plant or financial policies of the govnt. NOT everything in this world is a conspiracy against ur ppl..your life starts from ban and ends in bandh.
(W)horrendous.

maya said...

WOW! Fight fight fight! No, but seriously, there were points in this piece where I felt the generalizations were taking over the thought, but that's a personal view (plus, you know my views on generalizations - and haven't we had this conversation before?), and you're entitled to yours as well. Therefore, while I may not support your content, I support the principle of your writing it.

Thirty-six comments (thirty-seven now)!

Varun said...

That was very cool and informative, "potty colors" and c-grades..lolz. good work sir.

Rapid I Movement said...

I read the post. And read it again (which's way more than such things call for)...just coz I'd missed when you would bring in Sonagachi. Missed it on the first reading, you see.

Now, dear m-fucking-oron, I spent the first 18 years of my life in that city and it was only when I stepped out of it, did I learn how famous it was (thanks to a bloated article in India Today, supposedly), outside Calcutta, ie.

Which is what brings the question of what you see when you visit a place for the first time. Your account of Calcutta speaks volumes of your own perception of things itself and how much people tend to adhere to cliched notions.

I guess, at the end of the day, every place has a dark side...but beneath all that, it's the spirit of the people which matters. You chose to ignore that completely and your post reeks of pre-meditated slandering. I'd suggest - get hold of an actual city-dweller and get yourself shown around the "real" city (NOT Park Street). Bengalis are a quite friendly lot, I assure you...if you have the inclination for, ie.

As for the cabs - their hues and their numbers...you clearly haven't been to New York City I see.

TS said...

@Rapid 'I' Movement: Good Lord that's a catchy name! Must've taken you a while to conjure that up eh?

You've caught me at a bad time so here goes:

- Read the COMMENTS, and the DEBATES and ACCUSATIONS that followed. Maybe you'll get and IDEA of how my mind works.

- Read my account of Jabalpur and Udaipur and maybe, JUST MAYBE those loosely notched up grey cells that allow you to pass off as a human being will ALLOW your single digit IQ to comprehend that there is NO malic in this post. It merely reflects my observations.

- And the fact the you needed to STEP OUT of it to LEARN how FAMOUS it was speaks volumes of YOUR inabiliy to respect where you come from. And being FAMOUS, bw, counts for ZILCH because, hell, Monica Fucking Lewinsky got her share of primetime!

- And yes! Bengalis ARE a friendly lot. Did I dispute that? NOT.

And to quote from an earlier comment: Can we please use this forum for a debate and NOT finger-pointing?

Anonymous said...

'malic' - what is that?

Anonymous said...

and 'bw'? all pointing towards award deserving writings!

TS said...

Ha ha... I guess I deserve that.

TS said...

For your benifit, that's 'malice' and 'btw*!'

*btw = By the way

Anonymous said...

Definite benefit!

Anonymous said...

it doesn't deserve as much attension as it got. did it really get all this attension or people were pulled outta beds to read this shit?

Snake Anthony said...

Dear TS,

Just some thoughts:

1. The photo you took of cabs in Calcutta could well be from any part of West Delhi. Bombay as well has lots of cabs. I don't quite understand why that is an anomoly considering the city barely has any autos and as you must have noticed, taking a cab in Calcutta is quite easy on the wallet. Something you failed to mention.

2. For me the most unforgivable comment is your remark about the redlight district reflecting the average bengali mentality. Delhi's GB Road is teeming with prostitute, but would it be fair to conclude that it reflects your mentality or that of your fellow Delhi-ites? And to attribute it to the Left government is a bit of leap in logic, wouldn't you agree? Amsterdam has a huge redlight district. I don't think that you would say that it reflects the average Dutch mentality. And if you're talking about comparing that sort of mentality, there is a reason why Delhi is the most unsafe place in the country for woman and Calcutta isn't.

3. Calcutta is crowded, yes. Very crowded. But why should that shock you to the point of disturbance if you're an Indian from any Indian city?

4. I don't enjoy nitpicking but this must be said - your point about the signal not working is again strange coming from an Indian from another city. Surely, you have seen this before in Mumbai, Chennai, Delhi, Bangalore, Kochin, Dehradun. I know I have.

5. Any of the old cinema halls in Delhi look precisely as creepy as the Calcutta ones you have described - Filmistan, Golcha, etc. Your comments unfortunately suggest that you've only ever been to PVR, which is enviable but doesn't qualify as a privilege that puts you in a position to judge cinema halls in Calcutta. I can tell you that there are plenty of seedy halls in Bangalore in the same sort of areas you seem to have frequented during your week in Calcutta. Which also makes me want to know - one whole week (on work, as you said, so I am assuming that you were put up in a better part of town.) in Calcutta and that's all you saw? Did you not like the food (!), the Victoria Memorial, the race course, Salt Lake city, Dalhousie Square, the more positive pulse of the city?

6. I think you write very well, TS and I enjoy visiting your blog so please don't take my comments amiss. I hope they reflect a more rational side to the criticism you have received. I think travelogues are tricky pieces to write because though they cater to outsiders they should not offend the sentiments of the people of the place. I believe that it should represent both the positives and negatives of a place.

Calcutta may not be home for me but as an Indian I am hurt. I can understand the sentiments of the Calcuttans.

Thanks for being so open to input. :) Keep the writing coming!

SA

TS said...

@Snake Anthony:

Firstly, thank you for taking out the time.

In response to your concerns,

1- That photo cannot be from West Delhi, or Bombay. I assure you.

2- My issue is not with the presence of a red-light area. It is with the sheer NUMBER of prostitutes present on the city streets at the onset of dusk.

My limited understanding of society and economy (both of which I haven't studied so feel free to correct me)pushes me towards believing that prostitution (anywhere in the world) is rampant primarily due to its social acceptability or increasing economic imbalance. It doesn't really figure on the 'dream job' list if you know what I mean. It is the effect of a cause.

Hence the question on the mentality and extended rule of the left.

Which is why the question about the average Bengali mentality is exactly that, a question. I know it appears to be more of an accusation, but give me the benefit of doubt, please.

3&4- You're right. It shouldn't. On the other hand, you can't really get used to it either. Its like being in a traffic jam, every now and then your patience will give way to a little swaring.

5- "Any of the old cinema halls in Delhi look precisely as creepy as the Calcutta ones you have described - Filmistan, Golcha, etc. Your comments unfortunately suggest that you've only ever been to PVR, which is enviable but doesn't qualify as a privilege that puts you in a position to judge cinema halls in Calcutta."

I didn't even mention the cinema halls, just the posters!

However,

"These were the first couple of movie posters I happened to set my eyes on."

Can't I have fun at the expense of movie posters like that, c'mon! I do that in Delhi too, AND I did it when I was at Christ in Bangalore. Those Shakeela movie posters were hilarious!

And trust me, I'm a lower middle class boy who grew up at the Golchas and Filmistans of Delhi. In fact my family runs its business out of Chandni Chowk, by far the MOST congested square kilometer of Delhi.

6- That's the least of your worries. I quite appreciate being enlightened. And someone with your distinction has every right to do so.

I must also say at this juncture, that I'm extremely impulsive and most of my observations do not reflect more than a moments thought, unless otherwise stated. Oblivious to the obvious, as they say.

Snake Anthony said...

Some responses:

1. It seems like you don't know Bombay very well if you speak with such confidence.

2. I am sure the number of prostitutes in Delhi and Calcutta are comparable. You were obviously in a certain part of the city. And I'm sorry, you cannot expect to be given benefit of the doubt when posing an offensive question.

5. Ah posters, not cinema halls. Point taken. Of course you can poke fun at the posters but when it comes in the middle of character assassinating the people of a city you've only visited once, it gets taken a little bit more seriously, especially when you neglected to mention that you do the same thing in Delhi and in Bangalore.

If you are a lower middle class boy then your comments come as more of a surprise! But by all means, you are entitled to them.

6. If you are impulsive in this way, do caution your readers, especially when writing about a sensitive subject. People are very defensive of the cities they belong to and rightly so. When psuedo intellectual Bengalis in Delhi bitch about how consumerist and Punjabi the place is, it makes me want to remind them that people in Delhi are an enterprising and relaxed lot of people and that they are in Delhi and not in Calcutta for a reason!

Thanks for listening,
SA

TS said...

@SA:

1. Cabs in Bombay are more black than yellow, and hence, easier on the eye. Maybe that's why they ae not so IYF.

2. Please don't make assumptions, Calcutta has 3/4 times the number of prostitutes. Its a fact.

6. Oh, c'mon SA, disclaimers are for conservative and closed minds. And if someone has either, they shouldn't be blog-hopping in the first place!

Anyway, I understand your point of view. And like I said earlier, I respect it.

I'm not trying to say that I'm right and you're wrong, I'm merely defending my right to document things in a manner I deem fit.

Oh, and I hope the turkey curry helped.

Anonymous said...

Today the majority of core Kolkata's population is non-Bengali. Migrants from other states outnumber Bengalis. That's why every cab driver you saw was from Bihar. Kolkata today is more representative of Bihar and eastern Uttar Pradesh than of Bengal. The Bengalis have been outnumbered thanks to adopting family planning. But it is probably not a bad thing. After all Kolkata belongs to all of India and not just Bengal.

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of course you can. And my Twitter ID is tanmaysahay

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Anonymous said...

Once upon a time I read this post... and did not think much about it...
Today I read it again.. because I like reading what you write Tanmay.

Here's what I think..

Although, our short acquaintance was enough to tell me that you are intelligent guy.. It was also enough to tell me that you are a shallow and arrogant person...

But, THAT doesnt change the fact that you are more than a 'Mediocre' writer as someone suggested in their comment.. and that KOLKATA SUCKS!

@Critics: I live in Kolkata. I moved there after living in places like Mumbai, Delhi and Jaipur. And till this day I havent found a single reason to like the city (Not even FOOD!!)

Yes... The taxis are potty yellow. .. and Yes.. there's no other city in India which sports taxis of that color...

Yes.. most taxi drivers are Biharis.. Thats because the stuck up bengalis think they are too good to drive taxis.. They like driving auto rikshaws instead... which they drive with the agility and skill of Michael Shumacher & Ayrton Senna...

The mentality of Bengalis...

They stare at women who drive cars... as if they have never seen a woman driving one before.. and if a woman drives that means she needs to give way to every tom dick & harry who drives and is she doesnt she lands up with a damamged car (I faced that so many times!!)

They beat up women who own businesses and are gutsy enough to make sure it does well (http://articles.timesofindia.indiatimes.com/2010-12-17/kolkata/28261151_1_attackers-calcutta-shop-kolkata)

they assualt and molest women and kill whoever comes in their way (http://articles.timesofindia.indiatimes.com/2011-02-16/kolkata/28550912_1_kolkata-airport-rinku-beer-bottle)

They make the SO CALLED safe places in Kolkata unsafe just because they think that their parents are powerful (http://articles.timesofindia.indiatimes.com/2010-12-28/kolkata/28239372_1_councillor-fear-stalks-car)

Yes, Delhi is unsafe.. maybe thats why I never faced an unpleasant experience in the city.. even when I drove at the middle of the night..

My ass was grabbed on a busy street during the 3rd week of my arrival in the infernal city called Kolkata..

I have seen prostitutes in places like Vasant Lok in Delhi... You would know what they are doing by taking a close look at what they doing.. but the prostitutes in Kolkata as subtle as a mack truck!!

Yes.. The number of prostitutes in Kolkata is more than the number in Delhi or Mumbai.. Why do you think SonaGachi is the largest red-light are in the Asia???

I have nothing against the women who were pushed into this trade because of whatever reasons.. But I do have something against the men who pimp them.. I have something against the men who use those prostitutes... the prostitutes are there because of one simple rule of economics.. There is demand.

I think that pompous ass bengalis should go and work on their gigantic egos... They talk about being culturally rich? What Culture??? Even today most bengali's live with the 'Raj-Hangover'..


Kolkata may have been a nice place. Its not anymore.. The politics.. the bandhs.. the rallies... the unions have killed it..

I think its just a shitty place.

p.s.: I am married to a bengali and even he agrees with me..

Anonymous said...

@Thalassa: Some of the bengalis I've met till date are more offensive and obnoxious than this post. Trust me ;)

Anonymous said...

Kolkata today, is what it is because of outsiders like u who have polluted the fabric of the city. If you do not like the city, y don't u get the hell out of it ?? Y do u still stay on ?? Its Kolkata that has accepted avery race and religion .... Mumbai has shiv sena and delhi has various "bachao samities" .... a few months back, the Delhi COP was explaning y Kolkata is one of the safest cities to live in ..... By the way, if you are married to a bengali and your bengali spouse agrees about the shit u just wrote, get your spouse a health checkup .... gotto be missing a back-bone !!!

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