Bay of Bong

She was wearing one of those designer sleeve-less blouses, which have become a rage amongst the burgeoning middle-class of kolkata. The woman noticed my eyes on her blouse and glared at me. I hastily looked away at a Bula Di AIDS campaign poster. Bula Di was pompously declaring the wonders a condom does to one’s sex-life. I have seen this woman. Her feline eyes, thick lips and long black hair are very familiar indeed. I look around and realize that that description could describe just about any Bengali 20 year old. She is just a co-passenger in the Metro. The same I have been taking for the last 15 years from Chowringee to RAbindra Sadan. I see these faces every day. I recognize the balding weak dadu and his irritated funky grand son. I instantly notice the clerical babu making his way back home from the crowded dingy offices of Strand road, Park Street or Chowringee. I know them all. They are almost like family.
The thought of having such a large diverse family momentarily uplifts my sagging spirit. My blood family on the other hand is a deprived, depressing entity. I just have my Mrinamayi, my wife. A childhood sweetheart and a distant cousin. There was great rejoicing in the family when our parents came to know of our ‘thing’. A young and upcoming banker with a beautiful and philanthropic angel.
Many years have since passed. The young and upcoming banker is now a good for nothing banker who has been warming the same seat for the last ten years. The beautiful and philanthropic angel is now a dominating leader and aggressive leader of ‘Matitharaya’, an NGO for the rehabilitation of widows and orphaned girl children. Her physique seems to mirror her NGO s presence in Bengal - exploding every year.
Our highly hyped ‘love’ has also long breathed its last, crushed under the untenable weight of a failure of a banker and a husband. We have no children. Mrina’s womb was declared as being too weak to carry a baby. It was early in our marriage. My mother was adamant on my marrying again. I stormed out of our ancestral home in Howrah. Even today I do not venture to that part of the town, mostly due to shame of an inexcusable failure of a life. I am a man who has been caught in the vicious orb of mediocrity. A life of The Telegraph in the morning, 5 sets of shirts and trousers, 2 kurtas, yearly metro pass, savings account in SBI Tollygunge, 800 sq. feet apartment near the slums bordering the Rabindra Sarobar Lake, and now I am suffering from the most dangerous disease for my kind, Monotony.

My metro reaches Rabindra Sarobar metro station. A wave of humanity, my family, rush out of the carriage into the platform and shuffle towards the exit and merge into the sea of people, dogs, cats and the rest that call this southern part of the city of joy, their home. I buy a pack of Jal Murri for Rs.5 and trudge towards my apartment, A3, Prajyothi Apts, once a fashionable building in an upcoming locality. Now, a gloomy three storey building, badly needing a fresh coat of paint. My wife was away on one of her never-ending funding trips. Nothing new.

I make myself three rotis and eat it with acchar. I put on the television and browse through the news channels. Bandhs in Kolkata, strikes in Murshidabad, famines in the plains of Bengal, sun stroke in the coastal villages, CPM winning yet another election. Nothing new. Nothing ever changes in this state. Once a upon a time, it used to appeal as endearing. Now it just proves my conviction that Bengal is a god forsaken state, living in the past. Fighting yesterday’s battles and rejoicing past victories. It disgusts me. I switch of the television, tie the milk bag on the outer door and retire for the night. I sleep in the living room. I have long been banished from the bedroom. ‘Matitharaya’ journals and economic charts occupy my half the bed. As I drift into sleep, the old grand father clock strikes ten times. I hate that sound. I sleep.

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