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The home where the heart is

Nondon Bagchi, musician and food writer, plays on Park Street and parties on Park Street. He shares his shock with Metro

Some 15 years ago, in the middle of the night, close to 1am, the phone rang. It was a very close friend, some years my senior, a man I deeply respect and am very fond of.

“Bagchi,” he said and I could tell he was slightly in his cups. “Don’t you think the nouveau riche jokers of this city are spoiling Park Street?”

I could tell he was not in the most peaceful frame of mind and I just skirted the topic, but he would have none of it.

“Don’t hedge. You know what I mean. You know they don’t know what Park Street is all about. The fun and the magic along with the heritage, self respect and dignity that does the city proud? You think these guys have a clue about the true spirit of the place? How to carry yourself even after eleven drinks, at three in the morning? Entertainment of just about every kind that you could possibly think of, with at the most a 0.001 percent sleaze factor even in a decade?”

“Cool it, buddy,” I said with all due respect, before he got too carried away. “I know what you’re getting at, but I don’t think they will actually ever succeed in spoiling the spirit of Park Street. Sure, there have been huge changes, but the sheer history, energy and vibe of the place is far bigger than that lot, and I’m sure good old Park Street will retain its charm through thick and thin.”

I must have managed to pacify him, because that conversation turned to other matters, simpler, more general and convivial in nature and finally when I hung up, all was well.

But it did get me thinking. Why, for a start, did he ring me? Of course. It was obvious. He knew me well enough to know that even though I was not born on Park Street, it was fair enough to think I was raised there.

First visit at six years of age — lunch with the parents at Bar-B-Que which at that time did only continental food (no kidding) and the most expensive item on the menu was Baked Abalone which came for the princely sum of Rs 44!

Many, many more family visits for the purpose of dining out, but gradually getting infected by the music virus. I can still remember super bands playing even at lunch — one clear memory is of the late Claude Kenny, grandfather of Rock On!!’s Luke Kenny, playing drums in Mocambo; they were doing Take Five, and Claude, who was also a well-known ventriloquist, played a fine solo. And we were having lunch. Or maybe even tea. There was live entertainment through the day, at more than half-a-dozen establishments. Bands, cabaret, stand up comedy, magicians, guys who could eat metal and glass, drag acts, young pop and rock groups — you name it.

And then at the ripe age of 15, me myself playing at Trincas…. One could just go on and on. Anecdote after anecdote... a fascinating journey. Still at it. Twice a week minimum. Enjoying every moment.

And then disaster strikes in a way that even the seasoned, weathered and grand old Park Street, the home where the heart is, could never envisage.

I did not go close to Stephen Court even days after. I didn’t ask for details. I am not reading the papers. I don’t know the post-mortem report.

All I can do is feel pained that that such an awful thing has happened. All I can do is pray for the departed and those who are grieving.

I have buried my head in the sand. I do not want to face the reality. We have even resumed playing there.

Let us only hope that such a thing may never happen again, and that time may heal and that Park Street will show that it can never lose its true character of which compassion is an important part.

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