Sunday, June 05, 2005


Mad Hatter’s Harpoon

Bankura is sizzling now. It’s next to impossible to venture out after 12noon.
The merciless sun beats down with all its might and furore and the hapless traveler has a torrid time. But then we have no choice, for venture out we must, for its part of our existence, as it is said that “MAN MUST EARN HIS DAILY BREAD BY THE SWEAT OF HIS BROW”.

The other day I had a lesson in humility. It was early in the morning, at daybreak; I was up and about taking a morning walk, as is my custom, when I felt like having a cup of tea from a roadside stall. Few stalls were open then and only one was fanning the flames of his coal oven. The shopper- keeper’s assistant brought out a dish containing the previous night’s leftovers of potato fries [known locally as Aloo Chop ] which he scattered to the pigs and dogs scavenging the ground in front of the stalls. There was a mad scramble between the dogs and the pigs for the leftovers with a murder of crows pitching in. I can hardly believe my eyes now, for I saw a woman emerging out of nowhere, as if a psychopomp, shooing away the birds and mammals alike and partaking herself of the food from the ground however besmirched with dust they might have been. She put them to her nose, sniffed it, found they were not all that putrid and promptly wrapped them in the folds of her saree and vanished from where she came. She never came to me begging for alms and I am not certain if she was not in the Lord’s mind when he said “I was hungry yet you did not feed me.”

Bankura like all cities surely has its vices but unlike Kolkata there is very little extortion. Street smart thugs do not approach house builders for donations nor do they insist on supplying the building materials however of poor quality they may be. This is in stark contrast to the simple Kolkatan who is left to fend for himself and who has no freedom to choose his own hardware store. I only pray that Bankura keeps alive her undefiled virtue for all eternity.

Bankura Medical College has the unique record of 15 thousand deliveries in one calendar year! Are there no other hospitals where childbirth can take place in the whole district? What are the other hospitals doing? Has Bankura’s fame spread so far and wide? It should be really taxing to the doctors and the para- medics to provide adequate care to all the mothers and their babies.


A sight that often plagues me is of men easing themselves on the roadside in Bankura, and for that matter all over the country where I have been. The Indian male is indeed a versatile subgroup of Homo Sapiens Sapiens and has no compunction in opening his fly and exposing his genitals to the elements, such that any quick eyed woman traveling in a rickshaw can at once identify the offender to be either a Hindu or a Mussalman. And spitting everywhere is his birthright literally; wasn’t it for this very reason our fathers served time in the prisons during the freedom struggle? Pan and Pan Masala are an integral part of our subculture, isn’t it?

I was talking to a charming lady, a home maker of fifty two summers, and I casually asked her what she thought of a man who kisses his wife goodbye
in a not so public a place as Dumdum airport when heading for a trip abroad .
Mind you, it was a closed mouth kiss and not an opened mouthed one I was talking about. She was absolutely scandalized. “It is against Indian culture” she asserted and kissing in public was “open sex.” No, I didn’t tell her that our robust ancestors, who built the temples of Khajuraho and Konark for all to see, admire and seek solace according to their own interpretations, thought differently. They were no hypocrites. They certainly knew what they were doing. And those temples are the much touted landmarks of Indian culture! Poor thing, she can’t see the wood for the trees. I didn’t ask her about homosexuals and same-sex marriages though; it would have been the proverbial last straw.

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