I poured the last dregs of wine into the two plastic glasses and handed one to Pranay. The sun had set on the ghats and the water shimmered under the lights of the Vidyasagar Setu. A boat glided past while behind us a group of amateur photographers set up their tripods.
We were in the home-stretch of a fight. As I emptied my glass of wine, and felt the breeze from the Hooghly on my face, the reasons seemed trivial. Here in this city of my birth, where the shadows of ancestors still roamed the old haunts, the world seemed more than the sum of domesticity, possessions, misplaced iphone texts and sulk-fests. Suddenly I was glad that I was sulking in Calcutta.
We walked the promenade of Prinsep Ghat and gravitated towards the pav bhaji stall. And then later dug our teeth into egg sandwiches at Trinca’s where the band played Suzie Q. That little stretch of Park Street seemed to have stepped out of the pages of Chowringhee – old liveried waiters, Black Dog whiskey and chilli chicken.
Over coffees at College Street and the strumming of Manna Dey’s “Coffee House-er shei adda”, we argued some more but hints of giggles were diluting the ammunition. Instead we rummaged through piles of books and staggered back to the car with children’s ghost stories, a biography of Enid Blyton, Jo Nesbo and Sunil Gangopadhyay amongst many.
By the time we stood for a standing ovation to Oedipus the arguments had run out. The auditorium echoed with Oedipus’ lament and as I struggled to keep up with the translations for Pranay, Calcutta – with its crumbling mansions, banyan trees shading the graves of dead poets at the South Park Street Cemetery and a montage of Satyajit Ray’s “Calcutta” trilogy – seemed the perfect stage for a Greek tragedy.
In front of Michael Madhusudan Dutt’s epitaph we ended the silly squabble. I read out aloud,
“Stop a while, traveller!
Should Mother Bengal claim thee for her son.
As a child takes repose on his mother's elysian lap,
Even so here in the Long Home,
On the bosom of the earth,
Enjoys the sweet eternal sleep
Poet Madhusudan of the Duttas.”
“Lets get a last phuchka,” announced Pranay.