In my college years I was surrounded be many Bangla guys and girls. Lots of fantastic musicians I grew up with were Bangla. usually very intelligent and very intense people! Girls were very beautiful, intelligent but I found them quite hot tempered. But necessarily all of them by default used to miss ‘Cal’ a lot. I always kept hearing all sorts of Stories from ‘Back in Cal’. They used to describe ‘Cal’ as ‘It’s like Bombay’. And as I am not very keen on Mumbai, never felt like going to Calcutta. And so I for the first time went to Calcutta quite late. Could be around 2007-2008 don’t really remember. But once I saw it, I really liked it! By now I have been to Calcutta many times.
Today it’s one of my favourite cities in India. But I have seen only some parts of it. Because while visiting for a performance, I rarely get time more than a morning, as later in the day I have to go for my concert, But then lots of times I land up visiting the same places again and again…. Viz : Rasbihari Avenue and Garia Haat !! [ Or else you can be sure I will have troubled times at home ! ] Some day I shall write about these places too.
One visit I shall never forget just happened a month ago. This visit became different. Different for a great morning I spent. The lovely mother of my host declared that she is taking me to river Ganga next day morning and that I am to get up and ready by 5 am ! Tough task for a musician !! But I managed. I always do !
It was a short drive from their home to the river and it was good as there wasn’t any crowd on the streets. Calcutta streets are relatively busy with lesser traffic. Probably because of the underground railway system. Perhaps there could be some very crowded streets there on the Other side of the river!
Once we reached the banks of Ganga, we took a small stroll along the pathway made alongside the river shore. As the sun rises early there, it wasn’t so dark. And then there were several boats tied to some pole. And some people sleeping, just waking up and having a Chai and so on. These guys have a different relationship with water which I don’t have naturally. We don’t have such a big water body nearby, except a few dams some 30-40 km from Pune! I thought these guys love water, Ganga, their boats and all that!
We decided to take a small turn in the boat in the river. As soon as we left the bank the noise level dropped around us and there started an entire new experience ! It was so peaceful amidst the entire chaos of the city around! The boatsman took us upstream first and there were some more boats moored. It was quite early in the day and several other boatmen were still sleeping. These boats have a beautiful look on them. Lovely vibrant colours attract your attention immediately. These guys operate the boats with a single long oar which is passed through a ring attached to one end of the boat. After some time, the boatsman got into the Mood ! He started singing a lovely song in Bengali. Bhatiyali – the traditional song of the boatmen in Ganga of Calcutta!
The smooth and slow movement of the boat was pushing my mind away from everything else. The only sound I could hear was the soft splashy sound of the ore and the water contact. He took us for a nice hour long ride in his boat and the peace I found there is something I shall cherish for a long time now ! On returning home I just went into my room and had a lovely serene riyaaz session of Raag Lalit 🙂 I thought it suited everything there!