Friday, August 20, 2004

Siliguri 2004-2005

After being transferred to Howrah (in West Bengal) office of NSIC in 2002 , I joined my new company(ARDB) in Kolkata in 2003.

I was transferred to Siliguri in 2004. First few months in Siliguri was horrendous .I had breathing problem after staying in a damp house at Hakimpara. In fact I was treated in Kolkata after that incident . Jayashree Ghosh who used to work in my bank helped me a lot during those difficult times.

Later I was shifted to Kashinath Dey's house in Hakimpara.He used to supply stationery to our office. It was much better. I stayed in Roof top. But during rainy season used it used to leak.

There I met Anindya Bagchi , owner of one of the biggest Cyber cafes in Siliguri .We became good friends very first. I gave him the name Monsieur Verdoux for obvious seasons. I saw a very interesting thing in Siliguri , since there is hardly any park in the city (It is an extremely unplanned city with open drains , much like Bijoygarh of Calcutta) , couples go to cyber cafes for meeeting , chatting and making love!!! All the rooms in the cafe were having high walled partition with curtains. Once i went to his cafe for some urgent work. Since all the rooms were busy i was chatting with Subir (Anindya's employee - who looks after the shop) , until one of the couples came out. When I entered the vacant room/kiosk i found there is no net connection. On enquiry i found out (although music was coming out from most of the rooms) there is no net connection for quite some time!!!!

After meeting with me Anindya joined Shriram Finance (where Mohua used to work) and changed his career forever(update: ultimately he sold the cyber cafe in 2008, since with cheap computer and Internet, customers got reduced gradually.). How he got through the interview, how his resume was prepared that was a long story..........

In his cafe i also met his friend, philosopher and guide Tukuda (Pradip Sarkar). One day i went to his house to see a European football match final late at night. Anindya and Tukuda insisted me to shift to Tukuda’s house after seeing the leaking roof. Tukuda stays alone. I finally shifted to Tukuda's house.

The life became very easy after that. Tukuda was a man of very high principle and very courageous. He is a very good poet, Sitarist....... I met Charu Majumdar’s (famous Naxal leader) son Abhi with them. After meeting them, my perception of Siliguri changed remarkably.

We regularly used to have Adda session with lot of intellectuals coming to his house regularly. I stayed in Tukuda's house for 4-5 months,before I got a job in Kolkata. Tukuda is from Banarhat (Dooars) .We once went to Banarhat from Siliguri by inter city train. The train route is one of the finest route I have ever seen in my life.

In Banarhat Mithuda (elder brother) stays with his family. He is a Govt empanelled contractor. We went to Bhutan border and in fact went to Bhutan for few minutes. It is 30 minutes journey from their Banarhat house. Behind Tukuda's house in Banarhat there is Goodricke tea garden, which starts just from his backyards.

Another interesting fact of Banarhat is there is no water in that area due to peculiarity of soil of that area. Waters are to be brought from other places. I have been told when tea industry was booming Banarhat was lively town . Now it seems as though the whole town is under steroid. You can feel people suffering due to lack of opportunities.

We went to some of the friend's houses of Tukuda. One of them is Tapan.They were originally from Kolkata. They came here during booming times of tea industry, like gold rush and had the largest departmental stores in the town. Now it is still there , but it is more of a decrepit store.

My 4-5 months in Siliguri at Tukuda's house was quite memorable.

A typical day in Siliguri would be come back from office . Go to the Bidhan market with Tukuda to buy Royal Stag whiskey and come back. Tukuda will start with his glass of whisky and I will start with my Druk orange squash (only Rs 32 in Siliguri if it is illegally imported from Druk factory, compared to Rs 50 price tag) ,with a punch of whisky in it (very small quantity). Quite often artist Dipankarda (or sometimes his naxal day friend Rupak) will come with his share of booze. In the mean time Anindya will join for FOC (i.e phokot ie free of cost!) booze.Then Tukuda will start reading his poetry or Dipankarda will read one of his poetries. At the end they will fight (ie argue ) with each other and end the day.
On every Thursday Mashtar-moshai used to come to teach him Sitar. Tukuda used to learn Raga Malkauns. Before that he learnt Raga Bhairavi.

Anindya used to call Tukuda Tuku matal.I shortened his name as TM. We refer him as TM among ourselves!! However after coming back from Banarhat I have him a new name BKB or Banar(monkey) King of Banarhat!!! He was a well known name in Banarhat for various reasons.

I also met father’s friend Manas Das Gupta. They were really nice and were like breath of fresh air for me.

Once i went to Mirik on my own . I liked the journey a lot. During 2005 Kali puja we went to Phansidewa for Kali puja organized by WBSEB staffs. Since he was senior Super intendent of WBSEB he had to work even during Puja holidays. Even during pujas he used to catch hold of hookers of electriciyt lines and fined them instantly.

One can refer to Anindya's blog on tourism: Anindya and Tukuda know the place very well.

For official purpose i used to go to Darjeeling and Kalimpong regularly.

Once I went to Tindharia (toy trains workshop in the hills) with Anindya's bike.
Anindya near Tindharia

Thursday, August 19, 2004

Incredible Kolkata

Kolkata was founded by Job Charnok in 1690. It was formed by amalgamtion of three villages called Govindapur (near Fort William), Kalikata (near Dalhousie Square) and Sutanuti (near Sovabazar).

Why I love Calcutta?

Kolkata is the home of India's Nobel Laureates: "Rabindranath Tagore", "Mother Teresa "and "Amartya Sen". All others are connected to Kolkata one way or other.

* Kolkata is the "Third largest city" in the country, with a population of 5,080,519 and world's 8th largest metropolitan area as defined by the United Nations.

* Kolkata has the second largest cricket stadium in the world, "The Eden Gardens", the biggest in Asia.

* It has the world's third highest capacity football stadium and the biggest football stadium in Asia, "The Salt Lake Stadium".

* The "Cricket and Football Club - CCFC" in Kolkata is the second oldest cricket club in the world.
* It boasts of having the very first "Metro" in India, that too at a time when the very thought of having metro trains in India were impossible.

* The one and only home of the "Trams" in India.

* Kolkata has the largest open park, "The Maidan", third in the world after New york state park and the Hyde park in London.
* 75% of the players in the Indian "Football" team is from Kolkata and is the home of major leagues and tournaments, having the best football clubs in India along with the IFA-The Indian Football Association.Mohun Bagan Athletic Club -the National Club Of India is one o
f the Oldest Club in Asia, was established on 15th August 1889

* It is the home of India's Oscar winner "Satyajit Ray", considered by many film makers, Western and Eastern alike, to be among the four greatest directors of film history.

* Kolkata is the home of India's only Olympic medal winner in Tennis, "Leander Paes"

* The "Royal Calcutta Golf Club (RCGC)" is the second oldest golf club in the world, which was established in 1829 in Kolkata.

* Kolkata is the main business, commercial and financial hub of eastern India and the northeastern states. It is home to the "Calcutta Stock Exchange" - India's second-largest bourse.

* Kolkata houses "The Asiatic Society", "The Indian Statistical Institute", "The Indian Institute of Management", "The Saha Institute of Nuclear Physics" and the first IIT of India nearby.

* The first post office was established by East India Company in Calcutta in 1727. This was shifted to the Court House building in 1762. This makes the Calcutta GPO the oldest post office in India.

* Kolkata has one of the grandest colonial architectures in the form of Victoria memorial.

* Kolkata used to be called the city of palaces and was considered the 2nd capital of England after London
* Kolkata high court used to be called the (first) Supreme court of India.
* Kolkata has long been known for its literary, artistic and revolutionary heritage. As the former capital of India, Kolkata was the birthplace of modern Indian literary and artistic thought. Kolkatans tend to have a special appreciation for art and literature; its tradition of welcoming new tal
ent has made it a "city of furious creative energy". The city also has a tradition of dramas in the form of jatra(a kind of folk-theatre), theatres and group theaters.

* The "Indian Museum" in Kolkata is the oldest museum in Asia.

* Kolkata houses the "National Library of India" which is India's largest library.

* Kolkata has an eminent place in the history of American diplomacy as one of the oldest "American Consulates" anywhere in the world, and the oldest in India.

* The "Indian Botanical Gardens" is home of the world's largest banyan tree (the banyan tree with the biggest girth), which is around 240 years old.

* "The Kolkata Book Fair" is the world's largest non-trade book fair, Asia's largest book fair and the most attended book fair in the world. It is the world's third largest annual conglomeration of books after the Frankfurt Book Fair and the London Book Fair.

* "Bankim Chandra Chattopadhyay" was one of the earliest Bengali novelists and is popularly known as the author of India's first national song, "Bande Mātarom" (pronounced in Hindi "Vanderam").

* Calcutta University has been termed as the first modern university in the Indian subcontinent.

* The Bengal Engineering and Science University, Shibpur is the second oldest engineering university in India, although it is not directly in kolkata, but it's root is in kolkata.

* "Medical College", Kolkata is one of India's oldest medical institutions.

* The first college for women in India, the "Bethune College" was set up in 1879 in Kolkata.

* The "Indian Institute of Social Welfare and Business Management (IISWBM)" was set up in 1953 as the country's first management institute.

* It is also the hometown of India' s first Miss Universe title holder, "Susmita Sen".

* Home of the First Indian Woman to swim across the English Channel "Miss Arati Saha" and First Indian Man to swim across the English Channel "Mihir Sen".

* Kolkata the largest and the biggest selling outlet of Music World.

* And who could forget that despite all the shortcomings, the difficulties and the pain, the people of kolkata always manage to put a smile of their face. That is why the city is named as "The City of Joy". The people of this city are also known for their helpfulness, their hospitality and their honesty!!


* Kolkata is home to the probably the largest number of little magazines in the world. Little magazine is a non commercial magazine which people bring out of passion - without thinking of monetary benefits - breaking their life savings. The life of little magazine is normally 5 yrs.

* Kolkata has the highest concentration of artists and litterateurs in India.
* College Street has one of the largest collection of book shops in Aisa.

* Kumartuli is probably the most interesting and has the higest concentration of potters anywhere in the world.

* Kolkata is home of the greatest magicians in India P C Sorcar(Sr.)

* Kolkata is the hometown of one the greatest musicians of India Ravi Shankar and Ali Akbar Khan.

Chronological order