Friday, February 22, 2019

Gopal Lahiri writes

City of joy

Beyond its apparent history and heritage
The esplanade and the old palaces hide
Conflict and wound, sacrifice and forgotten
And blur the dense boundaries
Between the real and fiction.

The city still sparkles with deception,
It’s slum boys and stray dogs with their gloomy eyes
Sink daily in the halogen emissions,
The night then curates the distant stars
With unknown algorithms.

Despite its dark and quiet isolation,
The street corner revives as a shadowy stage,
Echoing in perfect pitch the minimalist score,
Faceless figures in sketches and watercolours
Whisper on the subway entrance.

The memorial light is buried now
Under the loads of whispers,
In pursuit of the endless dreams
The lips murmur on the wingspan of the
Lonely skilled fisher.

The trees turn into a series of promises,
Syncopated words and sentences
Sublimate into the secret diaries,
The hustle of the avenues
Swaddle in our lengthy playlist.

When the cloud descends and the rain pours
It can be bleakest over the deeply cut river,
The boats and streamers
Lie stark naked in the middle,
As if beating out the source of all life.

Stirred by its bravery
The million smiles fill the pores of
The collapsing brick walls, and
The evening sky in search of the truth
Writes the anthem of the generations.
 Calcutta - Ronnie Patel


  1. In 1658 Job Charnock joined the British East India Company's service, stationed at Cossimbazar, Hooghly. About 1663 he rescued a 15-year-old Rajput princess from her husband’s funeral pyre in Bihar, and she became his common-law wife. Their daughter Mary later married Sir Charles Eyre, the 1st president and governor of Fort William in Bengal. In 1685, Charnock was named agent and chief in the Bay of Bengal, and he established a factory in Sutanuti the following year. By then, the secret committee of the company’s court of directors in London had decided to establish a fortified settlement in Bengal to resist the threats from Mughal emperor Muhi-ud-Din Muhammad “Aurangzeb.” In 1688 the largest naval force the firm had ever assembled entered the bay, with orders to blockade the ports and seize the Mughal’s ships and possibly take the town of Chittagong. As Charnock had predicted, Chittagong proved remote and unviable, and the squadron departed, arriving in Madras (modern Chennai). Sutanuti had in the meantime been razed by the nawab's troops, therefore in 1689 the squadron sailed for Madras (modern Chennai), the 1st major English settlement in India (since 1640). There, Charnock persuaded the council that Sutanuti, a weavers' village on the Hooghly river, was the best place to establish its Bengali headquarters because of its defensible position and its deep-water anchorage. In March 1690 Aurangzeb granted the company permission to re-establish a factory in Bengal, and on 24 August 1690 Charnock returned to set up headquarters in the place he called Calcutta, named after the fishing village Kalikata. (The 1st use of ”'Calcutta” was in 'a 22 June 1688 letter from Eyre to Charnock.) Kalikata was derived from the Bengali word “Kalikshetra” (Ground of the Goddess Kali); its earliest literary reference was in Bipradas Pipilai's 1495 “Manasa Mangala.” The site was part of an estate belonging to the emperor, and Nur-ud-din Muhammad Salim “Jahangir” had granted taxation rights to the Sabarna Roy Choudhury family in 160; these rights were transferred to the East India Company in 1698. The agency was made independent of Madras in 1692, and it grew steadily to become the British capital in India in 1772. The city acquired its nickname as the “city of joy” from a 1985 novel by Dominique Lapierre, “La Cité de la joie,” although the slum it depicted was actually based on the neighboring city Howrah.

  2. Good insights. Lovely , bare encapsulation of the city' s wounds and you poet

  3. Thanks Duane for your insightful introduction on Kolkata! Much appreciated

  4. Thanks Abu Siddik for your kind words! Much loved !

  5. Envisioned like a painting, displaying the subtle and deep attachment with the city,the poem comes alive with a plethora of images creating nostalgia.

    1. Thanks Parneet for your kind words! I really appreciate your thoughts!


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