Saturday, 28 September 2013

A Sunday 'Well Spent'

I had asked a professor here for a place where I could buy art material. I had laid my hands upon water colour painting some weeks ago and the brushes I had were of very poor quality. 

This professor's story is that for a long time I didn't know that he was our our professor. He was somebody who was just there all the time. We would see him talk to other professors at times, sometimes have tea at Vimal da's, but most of us for some reason never thought he was faculty. It could be our casteism. I am not sure, because I always thought he was a friend of the professors', one of those film school pass outs who had failed to make it in life. I found lethargy in his walk. Anyway this man, SH, teaches graphics. We had a very interesting module with him where he took us through some interesting posters of movies. At the end of that week all of us made posters for our continuity in DV projects. I made one for one of the exercises I had done in the earlier practicals because I was trying to forget the blunder that my DV movie was. I tried to use Gimp to make the poster and failed. So I drew the poster and gave him. He said he couldn't accept that. But he was so kind hearted that looking at the poster I had drawn he replicated it in Photoshop. It looked like this. The exercise was called 'waiting'. The task was to show waiting without showing the clock. I don't know if I succeeded in that, but I liked the shooting process. My room mate, NN and my friend from the Dept. of Producing, Sri had come with me during the shoot. We were also asked to write about any poster/s which had intrigued us and I had written about the posters of 'Chaappa Kurishu'. 
During our Art Direction module I had got to know that SH painted. That's how I asked him to direct me to an art material shop and he directed me to a place in Gariahat called Kumar's Concern.

On 8th September, Sunday, I set out looking for the place. 
I took a bus to Ruby and another from there to Gariahat. 

I am very bad with geography and direction. [Yes, whenever I say this to people here I get 'Then why are you in direction?' I think its a very bad joke. The question is valid, though]. So even though I had been to Gariahat a lot of times, I wasn't sure of where to get off. I asked the man sitting next to me. He told me the place and asked me where I was from. When I said I was from Kerala he shifted to English from Hindi. 'You came all the way to Calcutta just to study?' he asked in astonishment. I smiled. He asked me for how long I had been in Calcutta. When I said it was going to be a year soon, he was surprised again. 'One year and you don't know where Gariahat is?' I didn't know how to explain my problem with places, roads etc to this man on the bus. So I said that it was the first time I was travelling by bus to Gariahat and otherwise I always came by taxi. I felt rich for a while. In talking, I mean.

After getting off where he asked me to, I took a right keeping SH's instructions in mind. Like he said, everyone knew where Kumar's Concern was. But when I reached the place I saw that it was shut. It was a Sunday, I was a fool. 

I was hugely disappointed. I had nothing to do in Garihat anymore. So I just took a walk and that ended in a disaster. Money-wise. I am sure anybody from a middle class/upper middle class family who spent some time of their student life on their folks' money will understand what I mean by this. But to most people here, it is a puzzle how people like me never have money for anything at all. Well, this is how. 

Your folks give you money. Which is just enough PROVIDED you live a normal student life. Now THAT you don't. You have your bad habits. And the Government in all its good heartedness likes to curb bad habits so it periodically hikes prices of substances which cause them. This results in you spending more on your bad habits and less on the good things in life like food, cinema etc. You can never go for a movie in the multiplex just half a kilometer away. You cannot take a taxi even if you have 15 kilos of equipment on both your shoulders. You cannot eat out. But in this scenario, you also have your sudden bouts of shopping and spending. This is what results in guilt pangs for two days and utter poverty for a week before you lie to your folks about some bizarre class project which requires money. On Sunday, I had a bout of shopping like that. 

The long walk I took on the pavements full of shops resulted in air tight containers for the kitchen, rice powder from Spencers (this is one of things unavailable in the markets nearby) and clothe clips. 
I would have been really happy if I had stopped there. But I didn't. What I did is take a bus to Park Street. And walk. In Chaurangee Lane I met my already thin wallet's anorexic end. 
Leather batik. 

I had glanced upon them many a times in the previous walks down that road. More than anything its the smell I like about them. But till that day I was pretty successful in controlling my shopping urges. 
I ended up buying five articles. A wallet, two purses and two coin purses. The shop owner gave me a complementary key chain as well.  I was really happy about the wallet. For a long time I had wanted to buy one. The one I was using was pretty good, it was dear to me. I was used to its comfort. There was the sadness of parting with it, but I made a choice. The relationship was turning abusive. 

But the guilt trip lasted more than usual. I pacified myself with some papaya I bought there. It was really good. Besides that gave me the illusion of cutting down on food expenses. Back in the institute I accused the professor of rendering me moneyless with his grand idea of Kumar's Concern. I truly have no idea when I am going to buy those brushes. The leather batique items cost me 250 in total. It was a pretty good bargain and all that, but there is no end to student exigencies and contingencies and the month is long. All months are long. Here. 

This is how my old wallet looked. It was made of jute. 

These are the money purses. 

It opens to look like this. 

This is the big purse

and this the small one. 

This is the complementary key chain. 

Status update. 

Yesterday, 29th September or something, I finally went to Kumar's Concern. That truly IS the place for all things art. I got them brushes and some colour pencils and a crayon set. I had a lot of sweets from Golpark. But, I lost my phone. Must have happened in the auto I took to Ruby. The sky was overcast, it was going to rain any moment. A classmate, S. Kar was in the same auto and he was pointing out the contrast between the white buildings and the grey sky. When it was about to rain that happened, he said. This was supposed to be some artistically valuable information so I had to pretend to listen. My classmate Deb Banerjee was calling me on my phone and I didn't want to pick up because I had a feeling it was for the tripod I was carrying which was stolen from the transit room. It in all probability was hers. So I put the phone on silent and as far as I can remember I put it back in the side pocket of my bag. But in Golpark when I was going to check if someone had called me, I realised it was gone. 
By the time I had reached Gariahat it was pouring. I didn't have an umbrella. So when I reached Kumar's Concern I was soaked. The shopkeeper asked me if I came in the rain just to buy those things. I said it wasn't raining when I set out. 
But my misfortune didn't stop there. Today I went out for a shoot to Shyambazaar. On the way back from New Garia station I took an auto to Peerless hospital. I lost my wallet in that commute. I had almost fifteen kilos of equipment which included a camera and a tripod with me and I must have lost it while I was trying to balance these , my bag and my wallet in the auto. So that's why the fifth article I bought at Chowringee Lane is missing from the sketches. I am going home (Kozhikode, Kerala) in the first week of October. So I might get some money to do some shopping for folks at home. I hope to sneak in a new wallet also to that shopping list. 
Penniless and phone-less, I now feel like a bird or something. There is just sky above and earth below. Just wish I had pots of money somewhere in between them both. 

PS. Thanks again to VK for the camera. The writing that has creeped into some of the pictures have all got the spelling of batik wrong. Its only now that i googled it and learnt the right spelling. 

Wednesday, 25 September 2013

A visit to RK's village

14th September, Saturday. 2013. 

Into my second semester which is the beginning of my specialization programme. [I am 'specializing' in Direction and Screenplay Writing in a film school in Calcutta]. The last module was in Art Direction. Actually the term Art Direction used in the sense people usually use it is pretty much outdated, we were told right from the beginning. Art Direction, along with costume designing, set designing, props making etc falls under a wider category called Production Design. 

In this module we were supposed to do a location recce and fix a location for a hypothetical shoot, make a floor plan for the same to be replicated in a studio and finally make a working model for it. But as always in our department, things didn't quite work out the way it was planned. [Which is why half of us are surviving here too]. So we never made this trip which would have been to some place in North Calcutta had it happened. We eventually made a working model for the script we had written for our screenplay writing workshop. It was no fun. We were just cutting pieces of cardboard and sticking them together with a glue called Dendrite (apparently its quite famous and I was the only person who didn't know) which has an addictive smell. S, my classmate said he felt like he was in U.P school doing projects for a science exhibition or something like that. Out of our boredom and want of anything better to do in life, RK, my classmate, who is originally from West Bengal but settled in  Nagpur suggested we make a trip to his ancestral home in Rameshwarpur, a village in Bardhaman district. Anyway a trip was part of the original module, he said. Because all of us were dying for a change of air and atmosphere we uniformly nodded in agreement. And passing all the administrative hurdles we procured permission for this petite trip of ours. 

R.K said it was best to start around 6.30 in the morning. The institute had arranged a car for us. We who are usually seen loitering in the campus seeming to do nothing or actually doing nothing with a perpetual expression of penniless-ness, hunger and creative hunger etched on our faces, felt pampered. We are ten in our department. Five of us turned up. Two friends from the Dept. of Audiography also turned up. So along with the professor of Art Direction, Rana and the driver of our gaadi we were nine. I got up at 5 went for a jog and got ready by 6. 15. The car was at the guest house at 6 a.m. The driver was sleeping inside. Our guest house is called Melie's Tent. From the guest house you can see my balcony. I looked at it and thought of my room mate, NN who was fast asleep inside. She must have slept very late, I thought. 

The car was at the guest house at 6 a.m. The driver was sleeping inside.

From the guest house you can see my balcony. I looked at it and thought of my room mate, NN who was fast asleep inside. She must have slept very late, I thought. 

S, another classmate would join us at Ruby. (A place here called that because of a hospital there by that name. This place is so full of private hospitals which charge you like crazy). At Ruby, S, a Tarkovsky fan came in a black kurta, his usual cloth bag and an additional accessory which was a red cotton stole which looked like our 'thorthu' or bathing towel. We burst out laughing seeing him and RK said S looked like he was going to perform in a street play. 

At Ruby, S, a Tarkovsky fan came in a black kurta, his usual cloth bag and an additional accessory which was a red cotton stole which looked like our 'thorthu' or bathing towel.

Pretty soon I lost track of time and direction. In the highway we heard some noise and stopped the car only to realise that we had hit a flat tyre. We decided to have tea or breakfast by the time the driver changed it. All of us had tea. We took paav and a boiled egg for him. He had it after resuming the journey while driving.

In the highway we heard some noise and stopped the car only to realise that we had hit a flat tyre.

From when we took the detour from the highway RK started telling us stories and giving all sorts of information about the place and the people. He said that in such places people were Bangla speaking. None of them spoke Hindi. He said that pretty soon two storeyed houses and concrete structures would disappear and you'd see only huts. That happened. And most of the huts were made of mud and looked like they were about to collapse any moment. Our friends from Sound (Dept. of Audiography) Mal and  Aj and Vi, my classmate had already been there once. All of them insisted that we had hot rasgullas from a famous sweet shop there. So we stopped there and waited in high anticipation. They didn't have hot ones. But the ones they had were the size of an apple. And even though I am more of a gulab jamun person than a rasgulla one I LOVED it. And it was so cheap! That huge thing was just ten rupees. At the usual shops you get rasgullas for ten or twelve which are not half as good as them and are only half in size. From there Mal, Hiwa and Aj led us to RK's house. 

The lane to the house so reminded me of home and my vacations at my grandparents' in Thrissur. There were all sorts of trees and plants around. Most of the houses had a private pond. RK later told us that apart from the Santhalis who were the majority, the area had Muslims as well and that the three storeyed building we saw across the pond was of a Muslim family. The pond was used by both RK's Santhali family and them. RK later told us that Santhali women themselves usually never smeared vermillion on their forehead to show that they were married but of late the Bengali culture had  crept into them and they had started doing it. He also told us that even the Muslim women there had begun the practice.  
There were goats, hens ducks and dogs there who occasionally became curious and came to us only to go away perhaps finding us utterly boring. 

There were goats, hens ducks and dogs there who occasionally became curious and came to us only to go away perhaps finding us utterly boring.

Even though to the dean and our HOD Rana had said that this trip was a study tour, it was nothing of the sort. The main attraction of it was the home made liquor that RK had promised us. Its called Maadhi and is made of fermented rice. Rana our professor and RK both told us that it was really good except for the strong stench that it had. Its so bad that people get to know that you have had it from the smell of your sweat. RK's cousin Chanchal was to fetch the alcohol. But he was missing from home since when we were there and had left his phone in the house. So we decided to take a walk around the place in the meantime. 

RK took us to an uncle's barber shop. The uncle called Bhola kaka was a jovial man who looked around 40. Later we got to know he was 52. RK had stories about everyone there. This cousin was known for wooing women. He would leave his customers in the shop and talk to women. Sometimes take them for walks leaving his customers sitting in the shop with shaving cream on or hair half cut. Chaacha denied this completely. 
Even though RK was divulging all his stories to us Bhola kaka had a surprise in store for RK. A polythene packet full of weed. RK's almost exophthalmic eyes bulged a little more outward when he saw the jackpot he had hit.  
RK entrusted Bhola kaka with the job of finding Chanchal and fetching him home. 

Bhola kaka had a surprise in store for RK. A polythene packet full of weed.

RK's almost exophthalmic eyes bulged a little more outward when he saw the jackpot he had hit.  

Everyone there seemed to know RK. Everyone who passed us on the way asked him how he was and why he hadn't been there for a long time. We asked him to contest in elections seeing his popularity. A little away from all the dwellings we only saw endless fields where rice was being cultivated. Beyond that, mountains which looked like a narrow purplish  stretch. 
RK said there were poisonous snakes in the place and asked us to be careful. 

Back home all of us sat in a circle talking bullshit of all kind. S said that to make a Tarkovsky film you only had to make a horse drink Bhaang and let it go. Rana laughed like crazy. He talked about some of his crazy batchmates at FTII. There were pigeons on the rafters which would flutter their wings noisily and startle us occasionally. After some time we got used to it. I was the first to detect a strong unfamiliar stench. Pretty soon S and the others also got it. We knew the liquor was there. 
It was brought in a plastic can which looked like the ones in which we used to get kerosene from ration shops. This was transferred into a jug. RK brought chicken and some 'mixture'. The weed would be smoked in a chillum.  It was a nice ornate chillum that Bhola Kaka had brought with him. But everyone had a hard time trying to smoke from it. It would get put off from time to time. Bhola kaka kept on asking RK to inhale harder through it. It was a funny sight, an uncle asking his nephew to blow harder and not be a 'sissy'. Eventually we stopped using it and started rolling it in cigarettes. 

It was a nice ornate chillum that Bhola Kaka had brought with him.

The maadhi didn't taste bad. Nor did it taste good. RK asked us to gulp it down from the jug directly so that we wouldn't have to smell it.

RK started telling stories about Chanchal. He said everyone there was afraid of inviting  Chanchal home to eat because he would finish all the food off. That if he started sleeping nothing could wake him up. In Santhali weddings the groom's people cook the wedding meal at the bride's place, staying there. So during his wedding even though everyone was drinking like crazy, Chanchal had decided that he will not drink, lest he slept. He controlled his urge quite well till late at night, but at one point he lost it and started drinking. Soon he was sleepy and gave in to it. At the time of the wedding when everyone was searching for the groom, RK and his other friends were all trying to wake him up saying 'Wake up, Chanchal, you have to get married'.

After the booze got over all of us went outside in the portico. RK spotted his grandmother walking in the road outside and called her. We exchanged some pleasant greetings. RK told her that he had said a lot of things about her to us. She drew him closer and whispered if he had told ALL the things. He laughed and said no. Right after she left RK told her story. When RK and Chanchal were children they were very scared of this grandmother. If they were being mischievous she would catch hold of them by their balls and twist them. All the children ran at the sight of her for the fear of their balls. 

There were three daughters in law at their house. RK introduced them to us as big sister in law, middle sister in law and small sister in law. One of their children was called Titli. Meaning butterfly. There is a snack here called Prajapati. Prajapati in Bangla means butterfly. The snack is called that because its somewhat shaped like one. I love the language Bangla. 

The three daughters in law called us to have food. We all went to the old house in front of the new house and sat at the far end of the portico, on the floor, in a row. It felt like a 'sadya' because food was served in banana leaf.  A goat kid tried to eat Hiwa's food. He salvaged it by lifting it off the ground and holding it close to his chest. The goat was persistent and was pulled away by Titli's mother.

We all went to the old house in front of the new house and sat at the far end of the portico, on the floor, in a row.

He salvaged it by lifting it off the ground and holding it close to his chest.

After lunch we all were sleepy and Rana sarted telling us various anecdotes from his FTII days. Rana was wearing a tee shirt with a really nice logo of FTII. He said he had designed it when he was a student there. On the back of his tee was the tag line, 'Rolling since 1960' or whichever year the school was established. I really liked it. 

We had seen a motor vehicle parked in front of the house. It was one used to carry grains from the fields. Similar to a cycle rickshaw only with a motor. Chanchal took us for a ride on that. That bumpy ride was a lovely experience. We went to a pond nearby. It was a private pond. A family was growing fish there for commercial purposes. When we went there the water was being cleaned. On a boat with a pump a man was pumping water in and out of the pond taking circles. All of us sat there immersed in our own thoughts unified by the roar of the motor. 

That bumpy ride was a lovely experience.

On the way back we again dropped in at the sweet shop. NN had already said that she wanted four rasagullas from there. I bought those, another amazing sweet for myself and her and also some sandesh which was too, needless to say, out of the world. 

It was dark by the time we reached back. RK's uncle was home. He offered us tea but we were already full and were also getting late. We promised to visit again and said goodbye to all. 

In the ride back to the institute I slept. S later said he dreamed of this journey that night. NN greatly liked the rasagullas. She said I had got tanned. I loved the journey. I decided I will go out more often. Every journey you make outside the institute makes you grow a little bit. Adds a little bit to your imagination. Makes you feel a little better. I  was in the spell that the place cast on me for two whole days. Then as usual the assignments and the endless deadlines caught up with me and all of us started working like dogs forgetting all things beautiful in the world. 

A bathing place
A woman putting her clothes to dry on the clothesline by the pond.
A kitchen outside
A woman taking bath and washing clothes in the pond
The house of hay used to store grains

PS. Thanks to batchmate and student of editing, VK for lending the camera to click the doodle. I have however been faithful to my lazy self by not even bothering to crop the unwanted parts of it. Forgive, please.