Where have they gone?
The old singer, with the raspy broken voice and the dirty stubble, standing below our verandah, every Tuesday, the khol slung over his battered shoulder, singing “E abar uma ele, ar umaaye pathabo na” (This time when Durga comes home, wont let her go back) and “Kemone chili porer ghore, Uma amar jaabe nai’ (How did you stay at someone else’s house, this time you won’t go?).
The reams of shirt and trouser cloth, collecting in the back of the Godrej almirah, Pujo gifts from relatives who didn’t care enough to buy a boy the things he wanted, slips of paper inserted in their folds, as a reminder not to gift back to source. As they say, if you don’t love a gift, let it go. If it comes back, no one loves you either.
Where is the tailor-man, who made Bharatnatyam and Kathak dresses and ladies’ blouses through the year, but turned into a tailor of men’s clothes for the Pujos? He would measure me up, with a sad shake of the head. “How can we deliver by Chaturthi, no no, madam, how much cloth should we leave at the waist, enough for a few more years of growth, no madam, this is unreasonable, I can’t deliver by Chaturthi, see there are so many blouses on my pile”, he would say in the same tone I use when I get yet another Webex invite at work. The only thing that would cheer him up would be the opportunity to upsell, pointing to his collection of labels of “Levis”, offering to stitch “American fashion” on any item of desi provenance, for a price of course.
Where are the privileged boys, them the sons of dads who worked in “private company”, with their ProLine Tshirts and Moustache jeans, premier ready-made, strutting about like peacocks outside Singhi Park, free of the curse of having to wear pleated trousers?
Where are the local toughs, who took a break from pasting Ganashakti at street corners and making home-made bombs for these sunny days in autumn, asking for “chanda” for “Four Friends Boys Club”? “I didn’t give chanda last year” you would say, and they would show you a receipt with your signature and you would point out that your signature has your name spelled wrong, and then they would would scratch your car if your dad worked in a “private company” or break your mailbox if your dad worked in gorment, because that’s all you had that they could damage.
Where is the music? Dekha Hai Paheli Baar blaring from pandals with no expectation of winning Asian Paints Sharod Shamman and anodyne cultured music from those that still held out hope? Where are the cap guns, the goat masks, the balloons, the little fake plastic TVs with a knob that could let you see pictures of Dharmanedra, Sridevi, Hema Malini, and Amitabh Bachchan in that order? Where are the oily egg rolls, the heat and the sizzle, the jaundice bait phuchka, the Campa Cola and Thums Up, and the saccharine heaven of kheerkodombos at Mahaprabhu Mistanna Bhandar?
Where is the taste of freedom, the smell of possibility, the sound of familiarity?
Where have they all gone?
I think I know.
The old singer is no more, the tailor’s shop replaced by one selling ‘lingerie”, perhaps made by the same people who tailored the shirts I once thought were high fashion, the local toughs have joined Trinamool and are now collecting parking tickets at Gariahat, the music is Honey Singh or Arijit Singh, first prem happens at Pantaloons, Mahaprabhu Mistanna Bhandar has now been replaced by a CCD, and those that pigged out on rajbhog and egg rolls now pour over their A1C and LDL cholesterol numbers.
Pujo is here. Again.
Where have I gone?