Wednesday, September 4, 2013

General rambling, plus some Kolkata anecdotes

Life, as Bertie Wooster has from time to time observed, is rum. On occasion, it will deliver unto you bounteous ego boosters causing you to walk with your chest puffed up, looking upon the odd Ambani or Tata who crosses your path with condescension and, on other occasions, make you feel like a little nematode exhibited at a convention of parasitologists. The latter has been happening to me of late. My self esteem has been competing with the rupee in its determined depreciation and for no particular reason. I haven't goofed up extraordinarily, nor, with the exception of one accidental stroll down Malad West's high street wearing shoes from different pairs, received any sharp rebuke from the missus. The upshot of this has been my disappearance from that jolliest of internet Hyde Parks, Twitter. My problem, you see, is that the chaps I follow are, to a person, extraordinarily bright. I follow conversations for a while and then, unsuccessfully trying to compose a suitable witticism in 140 characters, shuffle off to read a book, the old self esteem having suffered another bad day at the exchange.

Thus I found myself following a conversation where a friend who goes by the twitter handle @acorn declared that the city he lived in, Bangalore, was probably the worst run in the country. Another friend, @sachinkalbag hotly contested this statement on the grounds that Mumbai trumped Bangalore in every metric of bad running. And for no particular reason, I found myself thinking of Kolkata.

I've never lived in Kolkata. Indeed, I have only visited it three or four times. But the anecdotes I've heard have always made me wish I had spent my formative years in that splendidly dotty metropolis.

Once, a friend told me, he came upon a small group of people crowded around a tearful cyclist. It transpired that the cyclist had been knocked down by a tram. Though not injured in the flesh, he was clearly emotionally hurt. The crowd, after hearing him out, decided spontaneously that justice had to be done. It stopped the next tram that came along, beat up its driver, set the tram on fire and then, and my raconteur swore upon the grave of his grandmother that this was true, sang Robindro Songeet.

Another anecdote was told me by the wife of a college friend. She used to work in a bank and was posted in Kolkata for a few years. "The most delightful time of our lives" she told me, and my friend agreed. To illustrate this, she told me of a busy morning when all of a sudden, a bus came to a screeching halt just outside the bank. As she looked upon the scene in puzzlement from a window, she saw the driver-side door opening and the driver, showing great agility, jumping out and running full speed, followed closely by the conductor. A few yards behind were the passengers who had to concede a head start owing to having disembarked from the other side of the bus. Several of the passengers removed and flung their footwear at the quickly disappearing driver-conductor duo, making it unlikely that this was a friendly race. Anyway, the driver and the conductor proved to be fleet of foot and the disappointed passengers gave up the chase. My friend's wife sent minions to institute enquiries as to the cause of the brouhaha and learned that the conductor had had the temerity to overcharge one of the passengers by a rupee. One thing led to another and though they now had to suffer the hardship of going to their respective places of work on foot instead of by bus, their spirits were light because they had fought for their right.
"That was when I realized there was no other place quite like Kolkata" she told me, and she was right. There is no other place quite like it.


sathya said...

Simply hilarious!!!

parthicle said...

.."competing with the rupee..."