Friday, August 12, 2005

 

Country roads



A day washed in drifting grey and ringed by the green of rice-fields. Roads that small into the distance between rows of tall hairy trees. A sunset that glints between cloud strata, through a windscreen starred in one corner.

In Cooch Behar, a high-ceilinged room with a huge fretworked mahogany bedstead. And memories spread over four decades now. Of the caretaker Ketu with his halo of unruly white hair like the painter Paritosh Sen, his cooking that wrung approbation from even my mother and his stories of the high and the mighty on their (infrequent) visits to this most distant of Bengal's "district towns".
Of sitting in the shadow of the verandah on a late summer day, trying to sketch the garden as glimpsed through one of the brick arches, and my increasing irritation with the way the shadows kept moving because I was too slow to keep up.

Of the matching mahogany bedstead in the other room, at the other end of the upstairs balcony, and how I sprained my back because I tried to pull it under the ceiling fan. While somebody was sitting on it.

Of a more recent evening in the wood-panelled gallery of the local Bungalow, with more rum than I had intended to consume and C** sprawling on the sofa in shorts (hot pants I called them, the beginning of a paunch visible above his long muscular high-jumper's legs that had stirred the lust of more than one woman at the Academy), alternately wagging his finger at me and chuckling, as we talked the night away.

****

The contrast of Siliguri in the evening. A detritus of shops and hotels and buses and wires, a large suite with no soul and the long evening alone, where a dinner from Kalpataru became something to look forward to, a peg to hang the evening on. (A word to the wise - the best Bangali food in this part of the world).

****

Moments in between. A beep from my cell phone as the Scorpio skims a bend on NH31; a message from Grameen Phone welcoming me to Bangladesh, their network closer at that point than any of the Indian providers. A row of iron posts across a far field, the barbed wire invisible at that distance: the border.

Place-names that are stories in themselves. Falakata ("cut to ribbons") and Mathabhanga (Head-breaker), from the skirmishes and squabbles of the 18th and 19th centuries. And most endearing among Bengal's place-names, Raja-bhaath-khaowa ("where kings ate rice together"), from the meeting that signalled a truce in the senseless warring.

And sudden in the gloaming, a signboard in a place called Harhbhanga (Bone-breaker) - Harhbhanga Chikitsha Kendro. Bone-breaker Medical Centre.
Inspirational!

****


Comments:
Just lovely. Your words are always evocative, JAP.
Remembering long road trips from my childhood and the sheer magic contained in the words "Grand Trunk Road". 2 carloads, parents in front, kids squabbling over windows at the back. Wisps of fog rising from the road as we drove through Bihar in the early morning. Josidi, Ranchi, Hazaribagh, Mython. Magical names. How easy it used to be... Kolkata, Diamond Harbour, Ranaghat, Tibbot. Wistful.
 
Brings back fond memories of annual trips decades ago - to an ancestral home on the same route. Unvisited for many years now. Even in my memories. Wonderful antidote on a packed Friday morn.
 
loved the names of places. my country, and my ignorance.....
 
it's heartwarming to see grameen phone give such excellent service in india. now if only they did the same here in bangladesh...
 
Sir, I must expostulate in the strongest possible words, your naming me "young orc." Orcs, sir, are feeble, rather slovenly, and (horror) plebian creatures, and it is certainly rather denigrating for someone of my exalted station to be alluded to as one. A naz-gul sir, a naz-gul is what I must be called, for my dark steed takes me to vistas beyond the farthest circumference of Bellerophonian realms. Ahem.
 
Dear Profrock,
You write very well. I am a passionate fan of your English. Your prose is very enthralling and very mellifluent. Encore.
 
Harbhanga, the place u ahve mentioned exists!! I thought it was a fictional town in Dhanni Meye
 
The first para is awesomely PSR&Tesque! Yes, yes, am an incurable PSR&Tic.
 
"Mathabhanga - headbanger". Please, sir, can I steal that name for a heavy metal band?

krishna
 
Was reminded of these equally magical names from my childhood...

Rakha Mines - many a evening was spent wondering about Rakha and his mines.

Burma Mines - if you followed the mine could you go all the way to Burma...we wondered.

Then there was Harharguttu - of the million elephant charge through the Dalmas.

And what of Kalimati, Jadugoda, Sukhinda, Chaibasa, Ghatshila....I could go on.
 
J.A.P. Nice. Am tempted to use the e word (but see it's already been done).

It's depressing that the only part of this I really relate to is the Siliguri bit - soulless hotel suites with copious amounts of alcohol and the thin nail of a good dinner to hang the hat of the evening's pleasure on are totally my thing. And Siliguri is such a dump (or was the last time I visited it).
 
very nice.
 
There is a place near Barrackpore called "Boro Mostaan"....which of course is not its name---its an opobrongso (modification) of its original name of "Bramhosthan"
 
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