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Sunday, January 10, 2010
Kolkata: Chilly Scenes
I had read some years back the book called 'Chilly Scenes of Winter' by Ann Beattie.
I still remember having stumbled upon the book one lazy summer afternoon, at the American Center Library, Kolkata.
It was not just discovering a popular classic. It was also a case of self-discovery for me.
It was an instance of serendipity.
The poignant tale made me cry, made my thoughts crystallize on a number of things.
The association was total.
And - of course -
Most of my readers are perhaps aware of the wonderful manner in which the book chronicles a year in a man's life after he loses his girlfriend.
And those who haven't read the book, must read it whenever they get a chance.
But the reason I started talking about the book in this post dedicated to Kolkata in winter, is that I would like it very much to see my favorite city - Kolkata - chronicled in contemporary literature (Bangla or English) in the wintry delights and/or pitfalls.
I am yet to come across such a piece of fiction (be it a novel or a short story) - if any of my readers can illuminate on the same, I'd remain grateful.
One of my friends had asked me to write about Kolkata's unique thrills in winter; let me confess that I am not much of a winter-lover so I think others can do more justice to that. However, I oblige by making a mention of just some of the delicacies and delights typical of Kolkata.
The chilly days & nights are just a few. Winter has a short stay in Kolkata. Though it nags and bothers distressingly at the fag end of the season. The chilly scene is enlivened by roadside dwellers and the bunch of homeless people who light up a bonfire with twigs, leaves and what not - unaware of the carcinogenic consequences, they even do not hesitate to burn rubber and plastics.
In my childhood, winter meant three wondrous things:
a mandatory visit to the zoo,
being treated to circus & magic shows, and maybe a film too, if my parents were in a mood to over-indulge,
and, last but not the least, the wintry food fare: ranging from the fresh seasonal vegetables & fruits, to the sweetmeats - notungurer rossogolla, sandesh, and paayesh.
Kolkata isn't as lucky as Delhi when one thinks of the relish of extensive & lavish delicacies from the eponymous Dehlvi cuisine; however, we are lucky enough to be spared the intense bite of the chilly winter that makes me dread Delhi in winter!
The circuses and zoos have become passé, what with the politically correct stand on the animals (can't lament on that too, if the animal rights issues are given a fair consideration) and the local sweetmeats have taken a backseat or are often lost in ignominy as the pizzas, pastries and other confections have gained our preferences.
Yet, winter makes us nostalgic.
And, the wintry blues rule.
Post Script: Today is the death anniversary of Job Charnock; without him there wouldn't have been the thriving city of Kolkata as we know it; Job Charnock died on this day in 1692. I dedicate this post to that servant and administrator of the English East India Company, traditionally regarded as the founder of Calcutta (Kolkata).