For a long long time in my life, Southern Avenue played an important role – having to traverse that every day for school was one, the other part of course was having the chance to hang by the railings of Vivekananda Park and watch the practice sessions. These days whenever I pass by the park, the first thing that I realize is that I can see the soil – all my memories have the green of grass.
How many folks recall the existence of the boulevard between Golpark and Gariahat ? The one that was cramped choc-a-bloc with stalls (“hawkers”) and, was a reason for the string of curses that came out. It is the same one that, during the “sale” days was a place you would not dare to cross. The only reason I remember that place fondly is because my book gorging habit started via the bookstalls and bookstores around the area. The general trend was to take a bus to Dakshinapan – walk across the bridge and down past the Ramakrishna Mission Institute of Culture, swing by the small lane that would bring one right up to where Grub Club is these days and, walk down to the stalls. Many a day has passed when I have picked up a book, sat down on the steps of the RMIC, finished it and, then went back and returned it (this of course was when I had to go towards Jadavpur to get home, when we did finally move to Barisha it became much easier for me to take a tram or, a midi bus and while away time reading the book through).
It would be boring to repeat the unusual delicacies available during those days, but the hojmi/digestive tablets deserve a special mention. What does however take the cake were cards. There were these postcards available with pictures of various personalities or, things on them and, they were a rage – some collected by theme, some by celebrity and, some others just gawked at the sheer variety on display. Looking back, I guess they were tackily done, with poor graphics content – but back then they were just too “hot” and must have.
The last time I was at Kolkata, I took a look at the shops near Charu Medical Hall (at Jadavpur) and, so much has changed – so much is no more. The good old shop which was DCM (it used to dutifully offer pens to young kids when we went there for purchases) isn’t around, the medical hall looked forlon a bit and, the sprawling house next to it, which resisted the conversion into a highrise was looking more run-down. The LIC Building (which was Chandan’s garage a long time back) at the intersection of Raja S C Mullick Road and Ibrahimpur Road is no longer the tallest one around. And, the area around the TB Hospital is just too clean for my memory. I recall that the sports shops next to it (oh ! how much we used to hang out there trying out cricket bats at the onset of the season) were pushed back when I was around, but right now, they seem to have blended into the din. Horrror of horrors ! the New Jadavpur Saloon – that lovable rickety place where each month I trooped in to get that sexy crew cut was closed.
The road that starts off from the intersection of P A Shah Rd and goes all the way down past the Doordarshan Kendra into Golf Green (I forget the name) has changed as well. Green has somewhat morphed into a slapdash section of concrete. Well, it was waiting to happen anyways. However, what still holds up is the SIRPA building(s) – same look and feel and, that multicolored blotches of garments hung outside to dry from the balconies – slowly wafting in a summer breeze.
So much has changed, and yet, so many things remain the same – Deshapriya Park for instance. It really hasn’t changed over the years I have spent time first, trying to get my line and length right and then, watching others take their turns at bowling or, batting. Or, the small shops just around the corner from Deshapriya Park, or, even, Dr Samanta’s “Dog” Clinic – it has that same whitewashed look as if the clinic got a good dip in a truck of lime.
But heh ! given that I have seen Mumbai up close and can write about how it has changed too, I guess it was inevitable that Kolkata would.