Thursday, September 08, 2005
Walking down Cecile Street off Collyer Quay, during lunch time, I suddenly heard a voice call out, 'Dada, ki khobor?' Bengali. Sweet Bengali. But what was it doing here in the business district of Singapore? Not even Bengalis greeted each other that way here. In my heart of hearts, I hoped that it would be someone I knew, maybe an acquaintance from Calcutta here on holiday. I was dying to speak the language. But it was just some Bengali man greeting another one. They could have even been Bangladeshi, who knows? So much for my 'Singapore-Bong' theory... I guess Bongs did greet each other that way here after all.
Perhaps I was home sick. Perhaps I had heard that distinct accent after ages. I don't know. For a moment I almost considered walking up to them and joining in their conversation. But I didn't. I headed back to work. I guess it made me wonder. I have learned to appreciate 'home' (Calcutta/India) much more, after I actually left it in early 2004. I guess its true for most people living outside the country. Its strange how we don't cherish something enough when we have it. I have listened to more Hindi and Bengali-band music here, than in Calcutta. I jump at the opportunity of watching an Indian film much more now. As little as a cup of tea makes me all nostalgic. Make no mistake. I love it here. The place is great, the people very friendly. However, Calcutta doesn't let itself out of my system. And thats a good thing.
Listed below are few of things I miss the most about my 'City of Joy'.
1. The lingo : The mini-bus conductor going, 'aaste ladies', the para-dada admonishing his cronies, 'durr shala', the call of the workers on strike, 'cholbe na, cholbe na!' and the news reader going, 'aajker bishesh bishesh khobor'.
2. Very few things in life will match up to the combined pleasure of the following : A cold winter morning. Tea in an earthen cup ('bhaand'). A cigarette.
3. The 'Addas' : Bengali for a session of extended 'gup-shup', these invigorating sessions are used to discuss anything from particle physics to the neighbor's pretty daughter.
4. The Pujas : The Durga puja. The crazy crowds. The colour. The idols. The all night 'pandal hopping'. The laughs you share with your friends. The new clothes. The joy in the air. The city. The magic.
5. The people : You can hate the traffic jams and the strikes, but you have just got to love the Bengali. Where else in the world can you have a conversation, with just about any average-Joe on the street, about why Buddhadeb is doing a good job as CM, future prospects of the Indian cricket team - short and long term, how we are falling behind China in the growth statistics, and what needs to be done about global warming?
6. The Anjan Dutta song, 'Aakash bhora surjo tara', which says everything I'm trying to say far more eloquently.