Tuesday, December 12, 2006

My neighbourhood

Sujit K Bhattacharyya has written an article in today's The Statesman about his neighbourhood (Amar Para).

The place he is referring to is very near where I live. Some of my playmates in my childhood lived there. I am reproducing his article.

Haripada Dutta Lane ~ off Prince Anwar Shah Road on the south ~ is amar para (my neighbourhood). It is butted and bounded by Prince Anwar Shah Road in the north, Chittor Jhil and Golf Gardens in the south, Rajendra Prasad Colony in the east and Anjuman Area Begum Row and RP Colony in the west. Till the 1990s its entrance was flanked by the ancient and famous pharmacy cum factory called Dacca Ayurvediya Oushadhalaya, which is no more ~ but the name remains, christened and shortened to Dhaka. Presently, a swank eight-storied residential building called MK Towers stands thereon as a landmark. The pond which the Oushadhalaya had, and used for medicinal purpose, is kept away for time and garbage to fill and kill, respectively.

The presiding deity of amar para is Goddess Kali whose temporal abode is Dhaka Kali Bari ~ at the west of the amar para entrance, to whom everyone passing by genuflects. The bus stop is proudly named after Her. On the east of entrance stands a masjid, keeping a secular and similar distance.

The entrance to amar para is yecchingly narrow, made narrower by the eateries encroaching and operating with flourish and impunity. As you enter, wrong impressions grow by the sight of cheek by jowl housing of the RP Colony. Refugees living there are blessed; they aren’t not bothered by municipal taxes, nor by the building rules. As a result, they’re a little freer and argumentative. Just ignore it, come inside, it’s wider and cooler.

Till the 90s the para was middle class in looks and outlook. Everyone knew everyone else by name, or better by one’s father’s name. There were playgrounds and open spaces, but not anymore. The old world camaraderie is gone with the wind. Earlier, if you forgot to switch off the rooflight long after the evening set in, neighbours would alert you. After the building boom and invasion of tenants and co-owners, the spirit of togetherness is lost.

That the famous artist, Gopal Ghosh, lived and died here is not known to many; present generations are ignorant of him. He, however, rarely mixed with others. No other famous personality ever lived or live now. Presently, it is a field day of the nouveau rich who splurge with their uncouth display of wealth and noise, the chief being noisy mother bikes and noisier pet-dogs.

Pets are primarily meant to show off the master’s affluence, who never have any affection for the canines. The pets may eat well, but not live well. Without company and rarely taken out or played with, the dogs refuse to be treated as show piece and voice their protest with loud barks from the chained position in verandah, while the master does his things nonchalantly behind closed doors. As a result, pets are a constant pain in the neck for peaceful neighbours.

Since the area is well-connected with all sorts of transport, high rents reign, low rents from old tenancy however equally exist. The area is free from political rivalry or disturbances.

Being divided in worship is one of the tests of separation according to Hindu Law. As the Bible is divided in two, amar para is also divided in plots two ~ 60 and 62. It is divided in worship too. The watershed area of division is roughly a pond ~ now turned into a park called ‘Kumir Park’. It is so named, as the old-timers narrate, that in the 30s somehow a crocodile found its way into the pond, and on discovery, it had to be shot dead by a saheb called banduk saheb living in a classical two-storied red-brick building with a spiral staircase, near the west-end of Anwar Shah Road. This building too has recently been demolished for a highrise.

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