I never thought I would meet Anjan Dutta and Amrik Singh Arora, or for that matter, S. B. Mathur of Olympia Bar and Rajiv Khanna of Flury’s, at Tantra, the city’s most adventurous disco.
I never imagined that the members of Cactus, Calcutta’s Nat King Cole, Rueben Rebeiro and the legendary guitarist Carlton Kitto would have a common interest at Tantra.
I never believed that I would spend so many hours with Usha Uthup in a music zone, hear her speak and make a presentation, not sing, and still be impressed by her performance.
Let me put you out of the suspense before you throw the tablespoon at me. These musicians, performers and restaurateurs were with Ushadi and myself at Tantra recently, making a commitment to be a part of The Park Street Festival.
What started off as a simple article (this column, June 10), has exploded into what promises to be a huge celebration. It was a nostalgic piece on Park Street in which Ushadi spoke about the tribute she always wanted to pay to the street that brought so much joy to so many people over so many years. The article has crisscrossed the globe from India to Israel, from Arizona to Australia, from the UK to USA, from Bhubaneshwar to Bangkok, and we now have hundreds of e-mails from diehard Calcuttans telling us how they are dying to come home for the big bash. The response has been so amazing, so genuine, so spontaneous, from those so near and so far, that Ushadi and I must go ahead with The Festival.
How could we brush aside Saveeta Mohanty, who sent us this message from Bhubaneshwar' ‘I lived in Stephen Court and studied at Loreto House. My life revolved around Park Street… till the Naxals came. Park Street has been my life and blood. I remember listening to Usha Iyer singing at Trincas where we would go after our Girl Guide camps... and often, even dance with her in our Girl Guide uniforms. Oh, I could go on and on... in fact I was in a trance for a couple of hours, going back 40 years, when I read the article. Do keep me on your mailing list. I would love to land up for the party.’
How could we ignore Niaz Ali, who wrote from Perth' ‘I may fly in just for the night... let’s get the greats like, Gyan ‘sing’ and the Great Bear together — Nondon is still in Cal and Adi Irani lives in Toronto... where are the rest' Must have someone like Bull Bantia on stage for a few minutes. I believe he still is kicking it at the discos. Don’t forget to stick a Nizam’s kati-kabab outlet. Some of us lived on the stuff!’
| Anjan Dutta and Usha Uthup — just two of the many Calcuttans who turned up at Tantra to pledge their support for The Park Street Festival
How could we let down Angela Abraham, who poured her heart out from Israel' ‘As a former resident of 63, Park Street, fond memories come to mind — Allen Gardens, the Margaret Walker Hair dressing salon and American songbooks being sold on the street. I took some to England with me in 1961. I still dream of Park Street though I was only 12 when I left. I could take anyone on a tour of Calcutta and its beauty. I hope I can come to Calcutta for this great occasion. Please add me to the list of people who lived and loved Park Street’.
Ushadi and I are in it now whether we like it or not, whether we want it or not. Of course, we like it! You bet, we want it! So, we shot off letters to those who cared for Park Street and/or music. What music, which generation, which language — nothing mattered. We called them all. Many came in support, many called to offer theirs. Nondon Bagchi says Park Street is where he’s ‘still growing up’, so he’s on ‘one hundred percent’. The maestro V. Balsara responded spontaneously with, ‘I will be very happy to be a part of The Park Street Festival. During my early years I worked not far from Park Street. I was employed by Isais Bar to play my table organ from 7 pm to midnight, on a salary of Rs 175 per month in 1954. I shall be very proud to play Western and Hindi nostalgic melodies of those days.’ All the way from Bangkok Nirmal Ghosh chips in saying, ‘I am a Martinian, class of 1975 and a Xaverian, class of 1979. I have a band in India I started with another old Calcutta boy, Gautam Ghosh. It’s called Ind Tranzit. It’s a free form world music band. We’ve done several shows in Delhi, and most notably on March 5 at the Gateway in Mumbai, where we were lined up with Shivamani and Silk Route. It would be a blast to come and play on Park Street. Play or not, I'll be there.
They came at very short notice; they came because they care — for music and Park Street. We were touched to see Shayne Hyrapiet’s mother representing her busy son on the rise and Sumit ‘Sinatra’ Roy’s wife not just representing her out-of-town husband, but reciting her ode to Park Street — she said she wrote it that morning, straight from the heart. We were touched when Birdie Jordan handed over a CD with a Barefoot original saying we could consider using it as the anthem for the Festival. We were touched to see Sumit ‘Ad Man’ Roy and Subesh Roy take time off from their busy corporate schedules to represent the bands they manage — Insomnia, Lakkhichhara and Parash Pathar. We were touched by the spontaneous and strong commitments from the Pauls of The Park and the Puris of Trincas, the livewire nightspots of Park Street even today.
In fact, over the last couple of weeks, these two brands, synonymous with the Street, have put their feet on the accelerator peddle of live entertainment. The Elvis Night the other night, took me back to Trincas for the first time since my mother shut my teenaged eyes just when the cabaret artiste was about to shed something — those were in the dark days of loadshedding. Don Saigal got us all shook up on Elvis’ death anniversary, with Shiva and Sensations backing him. Pam Crain, Usha, Skinny Alley, Hip Pocket, Orient Express, Krosswindz, Sivamani and Louiz (formerly Louis) Banks took it in turns through last week to celebrate Someplace Else’s birthday and there was no point being someplace else.
Come December 12, 13 and 14, all these great music people of yesterday, today and tomorrow will light up The Park Street Festival. So, you better not be someplace else. We’ll tell you what’s happening, where and when. For now, all you’ve got to do is cross those dates off your calendar. They belong to Park Street!