Winter is almost over. Every week a woollen layer is peeled, washed, folded and placed inside the wardrobe. It wouldn’t see the sun in the next 10 months. And here I am, holding on to the almost non-existent remains of the temperature dips.
I’m a winter person to the core. Not a good choice for seasons given its short-lived nature in my city. But I shouldn’t have reasons to complain this year because winter had surprisingly (or not) extended her stay. It’s time for her to leave now. And the least I could do is pay a tribute. So this blog will take you through what this winter has been about. It will be like an entire season in my life.
Right before the beginning of winter, Bengal was lashed by a massive cyclone, Bulbul. Heavy rainfall battered Kolkata for 2 whole days. Most of the operations were stopped. Flights were suspended. People braced to bear the brunt of the cyclone. Luckily for us, the rain occurred in the weekend saving us the distress of commuting to work.
On that Saturday, when we were sitting down with our morning cuppa in the living room, discussing the state of affairs and anticipating the effect of the cyclone, Arghya gave us a call.
A bit of preface: Tathagata and Arghya are colleagues which makes Arghya my ex-colleague.
Now back to the phone call. After a bit of convincing and cajoling, we made a plan of braving Bulbul to meet for tea at a nearby shopping mall in the evening. Arghya, Payel (his wife), Tathagata and I. We made it there half-walking, half-swimming, umbrellas in hand, more ammo in the bag. And we sat down for tea. That’s where our group was formed – Bulbul – huddled together at a tiny table at Tea Junction. We even have a Whatsapp group with that name!
That very day, we hatched a plan for a weekend travel to the sea in December. More on that later.
Every November, Baba rounds Maa and me up, bundles us into a taxi and takes us for an annual eye check-up. And just like every year, we were ushered into the same waiting room. I was waiting my turn to see the doctor when my parents emerged with perfect scores for their eyes (by perfect score, I mean no change in power). I was hoping I would too. But as luck would have it, our opthalmo dropped a truth bomb on me. I finally, after years of feeling proud about my perfect eye condition, suddenly had the ‘power’! Actually, I kind of knew I needed glasses for a couple of days. I had been experiencing occasional day-end headaches. Also, and this one unknowingly, I had been squinting my eyes more often than is normal to read on the computer. But I never got around to accept my fate until Dr. Das confirmed it.
So glasses would become my reality now. Always to wear and never to lose (or break accidentally). Up until here, things were acceptable. What came next, was disheartening – choosing the right frame for my first pair of glasses. Now by ‘right’, I mean the one that suits the shape of my face, is a perfect match for my skin tone, I can anticipate to look nice with all kinds of clothes and also manages to not make me look funny. Speaking of fun, here’s a fun (not!) fact about glasses – you will always hate the frames you pick when it’s your first time.
Naturally my scouting mission wasn’t going too well. I had been to 3 stores that housed hundreds of different kinds of frames. And yet, I couldn’t find the one.
But one day, the universe decided to fill up my quota of luck and I used it up on the one thing that was bothering me. I found the perfect frame sitting pretty on a Titan store shelf, ready for me to take home.
Needless to say, I am not so unhappy about being bespectacled anymore.
Winter Wedding & Anniversary
Weddings are starry affairs. And weddings are always welcome. Especially, winter weddings. No sweat. All charm. Who would want to miss a winter wedding? I know I wouldn’t.
We had an invitation for a wedding in the family. So, we were pretty excited about it. I obviously, wouldn’t wear my glasses which was decided well ahead.
On the day of the wedding, Tathagata and I hurried back from work, decked up and made our way in snail speed through the rush-hour traffic for about 15 kilometres to the location. We were tired but we had fun. And ice cream!
Where there’s a wedding, there’s got to be an anniversary. True to that, an anniversary followed suit. It was the anniversary of Tathagata’s boss’s parents. A lot of my ex-colleagues were there. It was a nice and cozy gathering. There were some lip-smacking Gujarati delicacies up for grabs. We spent a lovely evening swaying to the live music, gorging on food, clicking pictures and trying to spot the mysterious jackal in the dark golf course adjoining the party area.
It isn’t every day that you brave a cyclone to forge friendships. And it isn’t every day that you chalk up a travel plan with your friends and get to go on it. Destination: Tajpur and Mandarmoni. We had our bags packed and our excitement fully charged.
December 6th, 2019. 7:00 am. The cold of the winter hadn’t quite set in by then. We were sitting wide-eyed, steaming paper cups of tea in hand, at Howrah station waiting for our train. Our most-awaited trip had begun. We met up with more friends at Tajpur and spent the next two days by the sea – singing, dancing, shoving down scrumptious plates of seafood by the minute and going all out on the beach vibes.
Bow Barracks & Park Street
By the time we were catching our breath from the whirlwind of a winter-beginning, it was Christmas! The season to be jolly. Those of you who follow my blog already know that I am a sucker for Christmas. Remember this post?
Lovely lights. Christmas carols. Woollen overalls. Warm indoors. And cake. Oh, ‘Silent night’ is still ringing in my ear.
And where do you go on Christmas if you live in Kolkata? Park Street – the Christmas haven of the city. Every Christmas, Park Street is decorated with lights. The entire street is brightly lit up and the shops are decorated with Christmas trees. I had always wanted to see the lights in Christmas. Even though we couldn’t make it there on the day, we skipped two days, teamed up with the Bulbul group and set out on a Saturday.
We made a quick stop at Bow Barracks on the way. Now Bow Barracks comes with a history that dates all the way back to World War 1. The red-bricked quarters with tiny balconies overflowing with pleasant blooms and bottle-green windows were built to house the American army troops. These apartments are now home to more than 80 Anglo-Indian and Anglo-Chinese families. And they had gathered at what seemed like centre of the apartment cluster to celebrate Christmas. There was music, lights, a large Christmas tree, food and a rumble of voices.
Outsiders were not allowed in the party area which is very much understandable. So we left for Park Street shortly. And after hearty conversations over a lip-smacking dinner, we left for home.
Catching Up With Friends
Any season is a good time to catch up with friends. Especially friends who come down all the way from different parts of the globe. And friends who open up their home to host the meet-up.
There is so much more to the city than we pay attention to. There are hundreds of tiny events happening in different pockets of Kolkata every day. Each event is unique, interesting and more importantly, easy to miss unless you are always on watch. One such event is the Statesman Vintage & Classic Car Rally. I had heard about this event from sources I don’t remember. But I had always wanted to be present at one. Luckily, I got a whiff of the news about this year’s rally from Facebook and I decided to follow the proceedings until I found the date and location. And Arghya was jumped in on the plan and procured last-minute tickets. Only 4 were available!
So on the Sunday morning, Tathagata, Sudipta da (TG’s colleague) and I reached the Fort William ground, ready to take on the sights. It was an experience none of us should have missed. About a 150 cars and motorcycles from the olden days revved in one after the other and found their spots amidst the gathering. The vehicles were all spotless. It was as if time hadn’t touched them at all. Their owners dressed to match the time and place these cars belonged to. People of all ages had thronged in, cameras in hand trying to capture the best shot. All of these people had come to soak in heritage and history.
Women Writers’ Fest
Towards the end of winter, I bumped on the news of an exciting event. The kind of event that I had always wished to be a part of. Women Writers’ Fest at The Statesman House. A day of discussions about any topic under the sun from a woman’s perspective. Each speaker is either a writer, a publisher, a researcher, a teacher, an actor, or a producer. Above all, each one of the firebrand panelists is an independent thinker and a creator.
The topics of discussion were as varied as the walks of life the panelists had come from. There was a session on translation and then there was a session on transgender issues. There was a session on video producing and then there was a session on book publishing. There were recitations from Nabanita Dev Sen’s letters. And then there were enactments of drama snippets, songs and poetry.
Of all the panelists, Paromita Bordoloi stole my heard. This calm and confident Assamese lady spoke about writing letters, she spoke about stories, about listening and being heard. She remembered to be grateful to those people because of whom we can be writers, publishers, actors, researchers and teachers – because of whom we can be who we are. These people are our mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, friends and just about anyone who happily unburden us of our everyday chores so that we can be who we aspire to be. They work quietly behind the scenes for us to find the time to focus on our career and our aspirations. They don’t make a sound so that we can create our revolutions.
By the end of her talk, I had tears in my eyes. I went up and hugged her and thanked her for the magic that she created on the stage that evening through her words. I am going to remember her words for a long, long time.
One of the major takeaways from the event for me has been to be less judgemental about people. Everyone is fighting their own battle. And it’s not nice to judge. Not nice at all. I have made good progress on this in the last month. I will continue to work on being less judgemental in the coming days.
It took me 2 weeks to finish this blog because I was writing this in between other work. By the time I finished, winter left the building. It is time to accept that summer is almost upon us. With each day, I find myself looking forward to the only silver lining of summer – mangoes. I’m going to leave you with that until the next post. Till then, let’s enjoy spring, or whatever’s left of it.