A particular stretch of road in north Calcutta is very grey. The asphalt is grey, the structures on the two sides, mostly small workshops, are grey, the sky above is always grey, the few leaves on the trees are grey and the rare sparrow perched on a tree is grey and stiff with dust. As if its stuffed.
A huge government office building is grey. Actually there are lines of blue paint visible, but the effect is grey. The windows look grey, the fluorescent lights that are switched on inside during the daytime too gleam grey. The people walking out slowly to have tea at the grey stalls outside look grey. It is as if a rain of grey dust has fallen is still falling on this place.
I have a feeling that I know where its coming from. Inside the office dotted with be-towelled chairs, tables and drawers are heavy with files. It has been possible to dislodge the British empire but not some of them. The grey dust blows from these files and fills up the sky and blocks the nose.
So it would be all quite unbearable had it not been for the corner created by the boundary wall of the office building that you pass on the left if you have entered from the Bypass. The small triangular plot 15sqft? has been walled and landscaped with a loving hand. True, it is also coated with dust, but the dust hasnt been able to overcome everything.
The park for want of a better name has a miniature straw hut with a thatched roof, which not many would enter, and a miniature straw gazebo, which no one can stand under, both structures slightly grey, and its boundary is lined with portraits of Mickey Mouse painted by presumably a local portrait painter. Mickeys features are slightly distorted, but on the fence, amidst all this greyness, Mickey in vivid shades makes the heart leap up like the poets when he beholds a rainbow in the sky. Mickey defeats dust.
There are six Mickey Mouses (Mickey Mice?) on a pink background. Some of them are a bit grotesque, but its the thought that counts. In one, Mickey stands with one hand on his waist and holds the other aloft, the classic pose, in red, white and blue. In another, he seems he could be attempting to swim. He is yellow, blue and red. In another, he looks ready to pounce on you. In another, he seems to be just posing for the artist, thoughtful, and the latter has responded by almost painting the black crescent top of his head with its balloon ears into the rest of his face. In another, he is Minnie Mouse, with a broad blue bow painted between the ears.
I am full of joy. Life is not a grey desert. Whenever you seem to be falling into despair, there is something to pull you back from the brink.
Then I begin to see Mickey everywhere.
I see him in an ad for an MBA school. The black and white ad, besides promising state-of-the-art in-house training, information services, soft skills, reputed guest lecturers and a canteen, features Mickey with his hands outstretched. Of course. I see him in a hoarding marketing the services of a local astrologer. The man promises immunity from marital woes, unemployment, stress, diseases (public and private), debts, childlessness and EMI problems. I see Mickey in an ad for the bumper draw of a lottery, for a Chaitra sale, for a locally manufactured water purifier, on the signboard of a mishtir dokan. On bedcovers, curtains, bags. In hawker stalls, as plastic masks held up by a stick. In every nursery school ad and every toy shop. On pencil boxes, water bottles, satchels, lunch boxes, socks, shoes, dresses. He is on the fruit juice tetrapack I am drinking from now. He is on my towel.
He is always smiling. He is always well-dressed. He is always happy. He glows in the dark.
Theres Mickey everywhere. You just have to look out for him a bit.