One thing that never ceases to amaze me about this city full of filth, dirt, power hungry backstabbers, rumour mongers and petty nationalists is its tenacity and immense faith in love. Contradictory, unbelievable and absolutely reassuring. Just like the city’s obsession about “maduli” and “stones” and then its all embracing love for “love marriages”.
When I was a kid growing up in a typically South Calcutta neighbourhood in the 90’s, “love”/”love marriage” was still a taboo. Needless to say, that piqued my curiosity to an obsessive level, so much so that I finished reading a much prohibited “Parineeta” written by Sharatchandra Chattopadhyay when I was barely in class V or VI and by the time I finished reading “Sesher Kobita” by Robi Thakur in class VIII, I was already head over heels in love with Amit Ray. It was much later, probably when I was in law school, that I revisited the text and gradually started to understand what a wimp he was!
But that did not deter me from loving him or dreaming about him. The hopeless romantic in me refused to let him die a silent death in my dreams. I continued to crush on him, just like I crushed on Mr Darcy and SRK.
The monologue above was about a story that I have lived through. That was some eons ago and I thought times had changed. I read and believed that nowadays young Calcuttans did not know who was Amit Ray or Mr Darcy and that their idea of “Shekhar da” was about one little beefed up Saif Ali Khan from the Bollywood musical featuring Vidya Balan.
But the city, apart from it spirited belief in love, also likes to prove people wrong – in many a different ways. And I am glad that this time I was proved wrong.
It was probably the middle of the week and the very tired office goer in me wanted the week to end as soon as possible. The Christmas cheers kept me going. Whoever has visited Calcutta during winters, especially during the Christmas period will vouch that it is definitely one of the best times to visit the city. So that definitely worked as a mood lifter but I was in a hurry to reach my office situate din another part of the city. I was travelling by the proverbial yellow Calcutta Taxis and I cursed under my breath when the annoying signals went red at every possible juncture.
The dirt and grime of the completely dug up EM Bypass made the situation worse for me. As a person allergic to dust, I started sneezing, continuously. The taxi driver (we still call them ‘Taxis’ at this part of the world, not cabs) looked at me suspiciously every time I sneezed. In my mind I was thinking whether there is a new alert in the city about some other contagious disease which I am not aware of and which made my tissue paper wrapped sneezes so prone to suspicion.
That is when I spotted them. Young and naive. Probably bunking classes in college and trying to sneak in a day out in Nicco Park. They were travelling in the taxi which was trying to make a parallel progress on the road along with mine. The bespectacled girl held a rose in her hand….the ones bought at Golpark at Rupees five per piece (that was the price some years back, age is catching up it seems). The only piece of spring in that entire stretch of hazy concrete and people constantly trying to run against time. The brightness stood out just like the shy smiles they were exchanging.
(Image Source: Here)
The boy kept on trying to make a move to place his hand on her shoulders, but was visibly unsure. He tried couple of times since the time both of our taxis crossed the Ruby Crossing and sluggishly made a move towards Science City crossing – the next big juncture.
I was unmindful and was probably counting seconds at the signal when I looked at them again. And I was surprised! He had made the move and the girl smiled reassuringly.The sweet nothings exchanged by them would remain their story forever.
My taxi driver hurried up and overtook them soon after and even though my heart wanted a little bit more of their love story, my mind calculated the exact number of minutes by which I was running late for office.
Probably in that entire crowd of honking horns and people who wanted to get past each other as quickly as possible, their was a journey that they never wanted to end. In my mind I had already written a story about this being their first date or their first taxi ride together, which would be an expensive thing for regular college goers. I did not know either. I did not even know whether a few years down the line, their story would continue to live on or not! Careers, cityscapes and a lot things can change in between …..but not the first blush of love in this city.