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Mellow Januarys in Kolkata

Why this month used to be like the wanting-to-stay-in-bed after the December hangover

Mudar Patherya | Published 20.01.22, 06:20 PM
A picnic at Alipore zoo is on many Kolkatans’ winter itinerary

A picnic at Alipore zoo is on many Kolkatans’ winter itinerary

The Derby

TT archives

Where the well-endowed uncle who buys a call for 100,000 Tata Steel on any lazy trading morning discovers a bigger kick putting Rs 2,000 on a wildly fancied horse, loses all his money and goes home telling his children ‘What fun!’ Where the lady wears her best Kanjeevaram maroon only to steal a glance at the PYT wearing a spaghetti strap (black, what else) every 10 seconds and going home wondering why everyone passing her was whispering ‘odd’.

Onusthaans

Ustad Rashid Khan performs at the Dover Lane Music Conference

Ustad Rashid Khan performs at the Dover Lane Music Conference

TT archives

In Delhi, the line to drop would have been ‘I intend to tell Narendrabhai when I meet him at a seminar this evening…’ In Mumbai, the line would be: ‘When I was invited to Nitabhabhi’s wine and cheese party…’. In Kolkata, our own January snobbery is: ‘We will drop in to listen to Rashidbhai at 240am at Dover Lane, then move to 363 for coffee. Coming?’

Picnics

Winter crowds at Eco Park

Winter crowds at Eco Park

TT archives

It’s that time of the year when motorists steer distant of Alipore Road, Rajarhat and Diamond Harbour Road as millions descend on the zoo, Eco Park and Raichak with their cream-green cane hats, spread satranjis, play net-less shuttlecock-lobbing they call ‘badminton’, collapse within 15 minutes panting ‘Onek holo! Ekhon kichhu khaaoa jaaye’, proceed to peel oranges liberally cast all over before condescendingly sneering at other picknickers doing the same.

Literary Meets

There is Apeejay’s Lit Fest, followed by the intense Kolkata Literary Meet at Victoria Memorial. Words. Books. Debates. Dissent. Performances. With organiser Malavika Banerjee peacefully floating through VM without a phone to her ear or ever hollering ‘Have you reached? What? Hello… Say it again? Hello. Hellowwwwww!’ And the inevitable urge after you have had your toenails frozen in the cold of the open (try finding a loo in VM!).

Farmers’ markets

TT archives

The new addition to the city’s social calendar. The humble haat of organic vegetables has evolved into a proper photo-op. Pursued by socialites. Covered by tabloids. Where Italian chefs toss salads. Where organisers advertise pasta. Where every attendee wants to make herself/himself visible to Rashuda (TT cameraman).

Marathons

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In the space of half-a-dozen years, what used to be a tortuous race run with keds has evolved into a full-blown ‘I must be seen’ event. Organised on Red Road and wetlands (jaah guru, imagine). Organised by agencies as diverse as Tata Steel and Kolkata Police. The kind of tick on the social calendar that gives people something to talk about while nursing their drink in evening parties: ‘I am on carb-free these days…there is a run coming up in nine days’ or ‘I just ordered heel cushions to get me past the 19th km.’

No-reason dinners

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When guests turn up at 9.30pm with wine bottle gifts, air-smooch everyone in sight, refer to strangers as ‘dear friends’, engage authoritatively on subjects (knowledge optional) and descend on food at 11.35pm followed by ‘ab koi gaana-shaana ho jaaye’ while the servants / dishwashers / drivers / durwans watch droopily for babu-log to start staggering homewards.

Parade

TT archives

Red Road ‘pyaaraid’ is about not being able to start the cricket match on schedule because ‘ekhaane gaari niye aashtey paarbeyn na’, parading schoolchildren moving directionally at 2 kmph, girls in khaki marching with boot-stomping importance with bereted heads turned perpetually left, the police sergeant with boots hitched to his knee with hand wielding a walkie-talkie like a weapon forbidding access with a decisive ‘Baaron!’ and everyone (including his mother-in-law) off to see on ‘chhabbeeshey janvari’ what they have been watching for years anyway.

Shaadi

TT archives

When the tithi turns favourable, expect large boxes on your table with grenade-laddoos, invitations in gold-foiled italics, no personal calls saying ‘We would be happy if you came’, city-wide gridlocks because some ‘Pinku weds Tinku’ – and 23 queued minutes to get to the stage to shake hands and have your picture taken.

To misquote the great man Faiz: ‘Nisaar teri Janvari pe ai watan, ke jahaa chali hai rasm ke koi na kaam kare…’

 

Mudar Patherya is a romantic who revels in Kolkata anecdotes, pictures, bylanes, characters and memorabilia.

Last updated on 20.01.22, 06:20 PM
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