3 August 2014

Recreating the First Date after a Decade


This is an imaginary story about a boy and a girl who had their first date on Park Street. Ten years later they again decided to recreate that special day. Any resemblance to any person living or dead is purely coincidental. 

It was a cloudy and windy Saturday. The weather was ektu beshi-ee romantic in nature. Rahul was inside St. Xavier's College. But he was in no mood to attend his Political Science classes. In this kind of a weather, one should not attend classes. It would have been an act of sin against nature to attend boring and outdated political science lectures in such a wonderful weather. Even the Professors should be given a break because of the natural feel-good factor all around. In this kind of a weather, the English Professor Mr. Mukherjee should have taken romantic poetry classes on the huge Xaverian playground and should have discussed the finer details of the romantic poems of Blake, Wordsworth, Coleridge, Byron, Shelley and Keats. In this kind of a weather, another English Professor Mr. Da Silva should have strummed his acoustic guitar and should have sung his self-composed romantic songs while sitting on the evergreen Green Benches near the back gate. 

Rahul went to the canteen to have a cup of tea. The legendary canteen manager Arun da saw him and immediately understood that he was bunking classes. However the grand old man also realized the romanticism of the weather and understood that in this kind of a weather it was a student's birth-right to bunk classes. Thus he did not say anything. He only smiled at him. Rahul smiled back. From the canteen Rahul went to chill-out at the Green Benches, which was like the official adda-zone of Xavier's. A friend from the English department also joined him. She was a bit tomboyish and could have also been a closet-lesbian in those days. Anyways just like any other Xaverian, their favourite past-time was to rate in terms of hotness anybody who entered from the back gate on a scale of 1 to 10. Simultaneously Rahul was also playing the Snakes-Game on his Nokia 3315


Suddenly Rahul got an sms from Amrapali. They had just met a few weeks back in Yahoo Messenger's Calcutta Global Chat Room Number One. Since then they had started chatting almost everyday. In those days, this chat room was very popular. He had impressed her with his witty remarks and she liked the way he was trying to flirt with her online. He had given her his mobile number but she refused to give him hers. She said that she would sms him whenever she felt like doing so.

Only a few months back Rahul had bought a computer and had got an internet connection at home. Back then he had 40 GB Hard Disk, 512 MB RAM and his net-speed was 256 kbps. Even with this configuration he felt like the king of the world while surfing through the web. Today he has 2 TB Hard Disk, 4 GB RAM, and his net-speed is 2 mbps, but somehow he still is not happy. He wants more and more and more. A decade back, Rahul had vaguely heard about some social networking site which was somewhat weirdly named as Orkut. His friend from the Physics department also had sent him an invitation-email to join it, but he was simply too lazy and reluctant to open it. He was happy and satisfied in his Calcutta Global Chat Room Number One. And sometimes for a change he also chatted on a pre-historic mammoth chat-engine named MIRC32.

Rahul and Amrapali used to chat on various topics ranging from the fossilized syllabus of English Literature in Calcutta University to the rise of the bangla rock-band Fossils. In those days the FM-Revolution had just hit Calcutta. Rupam Islam's Ei Ekla Ghor Amar Desh could be heard almost every hour at 106.2 Amar FM. Rahul had bought the first album of Fossils from Music World and had loved it very much at a time when only very few people knew about this upcoming band. Also during that time Rahul loved the song Sobujer Fikey Rong Bhaabnaai Dhora Jong which was beautifully sung by Mou Sultana. This song was also played quite a number of times each day on Amar FM. Rahul especially loved these lines : 

Ei Obiram Bhir Thekey Shantir Neer 
Bolo Kotodur Aar Kotodin 
Oi Rail Line-er Duto Somantoral 
Rekha Ek Hobey Naa Jemon Konodin... 

Anyways that particular Saturday weather also had an effect on Amrapali too. Ever since she became friends with Rahul, she always wanted to sms him or give him a missed-call. However she always restrained herself. But that Saturday morning she could not resist the temptation and thus sms-ed Rahul. After some initial exchanges of sms-es, Rahul called her and asked her to meet him at Park Street and spend the entire day with him. She initially refused. But later she agreed after eating some amount of those customary bhaos and throwing some amount of those typical nakhraas

It was kind of a blind date for both of them. They had not seen each other before. The moment Amrapali had said that she would come after an hour or so, Rahul immediately went out of the back-gate towards Vardan Market and bought a red rose for her. She came in front of St. Xavier's College around noon and gave Rahul a missed-call. He went out to receive her. He found a tall and beautiful girl waiting for him in blue jeans and a tight Benetton top. Her long hair was open and there was mascara in her eyes. However she was not wearing any nail polish and lipstick. He gave the rose to her. She was quite surprised by his filmy gesture and involuntarily blushed like a rose herself. 

First Rahul brought her in and showed her his College. But it was not a safe decision to roam inside the campus with a girl from another College and that also while bunking classes. Thus after some time he took her to the Park Street Cemetery. It was a very unusual venue for a first date. Mind you, Rahul was also an unusually unique boy. And Amrapali had never been inside, so she was also curious as hell. The Cemetery was a boringly dead place and hardly anyone alive was there. Rahul informed her that Park Street's previous name was Burial Ground Road. He also started showing off his knowledge about the British Raj period. He told Amrapali about Rudyard Kipling's book City of Dreadful Night where the writer had written about Calcutta in shockingly fascinating details and had also mentioned this cemetery. In this place names like Rose Aylmer, Elizabeth Barwell, Col. Vansittart, Robert Kyd, Charles Short, John Royds, Charles Stuart a.k.a. Hindoo Stuart, William Jones and ofcourse the one and only Derozio slept peacefully. 

These days Rahul loves to watch the series Bharat Ek Khoj on DD Rajasthan on weeknights at 10 pm. He has also bought the entire dvd-set of this series. He loved the episode where a very young blue-eyed Tom Alter played the role of Derozio. 

Here is an excerpt from the chapter Concerning Lucia from Rudyard Kipling's City of Dreadful Night

...But, once inside, the sightseer stands in the heart of utter desolation - all the more forlorn for being swept up. Lower Park Street cuts the great graveyard in two. The guide-books will tell you when the place was opened and when it was closed. The eye is ready to swear that it is as old as Herculaneum and Pompeii. The tombs are small houses. It is as though we walked down the streets of a town, so tall are they and so closely do they stand - a town shrivelled by fire, and scarred by frost and siege. Men must have been afraid of their friends rising up before the due time that they weighted them with such cruel mounds of masonry. Strong man, weak woman, or somebody's infant son aged fifteen months, for each the squat obelisk, the defaced classic temple, the cellaret of chunam, or the candlestick of brickwork — the heavy slab, the rust-eaten railings, whopper jawed cherubs, and the apoplectic angels. Men were rich in those days and could afford to put a hundred cubic feet of masonry into the grave of even so humble a person as Jno. Clements, Captain of the Country Service, 1820. When the dearly beloved had held rank answering to that of Commissioner, the efforts are still more sumptuous and the verse... Well, the following speaks for itself :—

Soft on thy tomb shall fond Remembrance shed
    The warm yet unavailing tear
And purple flowers that deck the honoured dead
    Shall strew the loved and honoured bier...

Anyone who wants to read the entire City of Dreadful Night, here is the link

Anyways coming back to the story, after around an hour Rahul and Amrapali came out. From the Cemetery they went to the Dreamland Restaurant for lunch. Rahul always had a special soft-corner in his heart for this restaurant. He always used to sit on the corner-most chair on the right side of the balcony. They spent almost an hour there eating mixed gravy noodles, having a great adda and also pnpc-ing a bit too. Rahul realized that both Amrapali and Noyonika used to go to the same school, though the former was junior to the latter by two years. At Dreamland his favourite waiters were Prabhash Rai and Bikash Maity. Most of the time Prabhash da would serve him as he was more or less in charge of the balcony area. Rahul just simply loved sitting on his favourite spot and loved to look towards Park Street. 

From Dreamland Restaurant they went to the Oxford Bookstore. They browsed through a lot of books and magazines. They discussed their reading tastes. Rahul greeted Mr. Satram Motwani who looked after this bookstore. He has been working at Oxford since 1948. He asked Rahul what book he was reading then? Rahul replied that he was trying to read Finnegans Wake and was trying desperately to connect the dots between the book's first and last sentence. However he was fighting a losing battle against this incomprehensible masterpiece. While Amrapali got a bit busy checking out the latest releases of that year, Rahul quickly went to the counter and bought Richard Bach's book Jonathan Livingston Seagull

Rahul did not buy the copy which was on display because it had probably been touched by the hands of a hundred strangers. He put in extra effort and took out a copy from the shelf which looked totally untouched. You see, in those days Rahul liked his books and women in absolute virgin conditions. And also in those days he was a big fan of Pierce Brosnan and in true James Bond-ish style, Rahul wanted to view beautiful women as disposable pleasures rather than meaningful pursuits. The pleasure of the hunt is always in the chase and never in the kill. But he could never be so cold-hearted and always got emotionally involved which always gave him heartbreaks in return. Anyways he gifted the book to Amrapali. She was literally surprised. Generally Rahul seldom bought books from Oxford and just used to hang-out at that air-conditioned bookshop. What he used to do was that whenever he wanted to buy a book, he would buy its pirated copy, at almost half the original price, from his favourite bookseller Bhola da who sold books on the footpath in front of Olypub. Only a few days back Rahul had bought the Da Vinci Code from him. Around that time this particular book had instantly become very popular and there were rumours that a Hollywood film would be made on it. Amrapali told him that she loved losing herself helplessly and hopelessly in the world of those Mills and Boon novels. Rahul confessed to her that he had never read those novels but loved to ogle at their cover pictures! 

From Oxford Rahul and Amrapali went to Music World. They spent another half an hour inside browsing through music albums, discussing their musical tastes and listening to free music. While she was listening to some english songs, Rahul bought Kabir Suman's english album REACHING OUT and gifted it to her. She was again surprised by this sudden gift. Only a few months back Rahul had gone for a musical programme at Gyan Manch where Anjan Dutta sang the songs from his english album BANDRA BLUES and Kabir Suman sang his compositions from his own english album. The two singers had ended the programme together with Bob Dylan's Blowing In The Wind. However after this song Anjan Dutta instantly started singing Kotota Poth Peroley Tobey Pothik Bola Jai. The audience loved it and could not stop clapping. 

Once Rahul and Amrapali came out of Music World, then immediately they were surrounded by some street children who begged for money and also asked them to buy some stuff that some of them were selling. Rahul bought a few strips of chewing gums and also gave them some small change. Rahul and Amrapali decided to walk up and down the entire Park Street. Rahul lit up his cigarette. In those days he used to smoke Gold Flake. He offered one to her. She refused. She said that she hated smokers. Anyways while walking side by side, Rahul thought of holding her hand. He really wanted to hold her hand and walk the entire length and breadth of Park Street. But somehow he could not gather the courage to do so. He thought that it would be improper to hold her hand on the very first date. He thought that she might think that he was a despo! On the other hand Amrapali also wanted to hold his hand and walk the entire stretch of Park Street. However being a woman she thought that it would be improper to make the first move. Since her teenage years, whenever she found a boy to be cute, she always used to give him nano-second-eye-contact-hints and always used to hope against hope that the boy would be brave enough to make the first move. Ten out of ten times she would be disappointed. The general perception is that bengali boys tend to indulge in platonic relationships. Its like Plato neek, Aristotle neek, aami baba dur thekei bhalobashbo tomaay! Amrapali was a strong woman but every now and then she also needed someone to hold her hand and tell her that everything would be alright. 

Rahul cracked some silly and stupid double-meaning jokes to make her laugh. All boys blindly believe in the Hasee-toh-Phasee myth. Amrapali laughed at his jokes and blushed a bit at those double-meaning ones. She understood that he was trying his best to impress her and make her fall in love with him. She enjoyed his undivided attention. She had made up her mind that if he would propose to her then she would definitely take some time to accept him. She wanted to play that hard-to-get-game. Even when a girl likes a boy, she still prefers to go slow and believes that the boy must try hard to win her. She never wants to be too easily available. She fears that if the boy gets her heart too soon and without much effort then he will not value it later. And a girl only wants three things from a boy - security, faithfulness and ofcourse love. And love is not to find the perfect person but to find the perfect connection with an imperfect one.  

After his break-up with Shona, who was the first and only love of his life, Rahul always secretly wished that some other girl would also love him just the way Shona used to love him, if not more. There was always the dream of some one else existing out there just for him. Every man has this dream of some one else. It is always there just like a mirage in the desert of a man's life. Rahul always craved for a love so deep that the ocean would be jealous of him. And he always wished that his Lover-Girl would sing to him : 

Paagal Deewaani Hui Main Teri Yaar 
Karti Hoon Tujhse Tujhi Se Main Pyaar 
Tu Meri Manzil Hai Jaane Jaan 
Jaane Jigar Jaane Jahaan 

Khelo Na Yun Tum Paheli Meri Jaan 

Bolo Na Kya Hai Dil Mein Tere Haan 
Socho Na Kyoon Kab Kya Hog
Main Hoon Tumhaari Hamesha...

Rahul tremendously loved this part of the song. In a world full of only uncertainties, full of ups and downs, and in most cases, full of more downs than ups, what more can a man ask for when his beloved says to him exactly these words : 

Socho Na Kyoon Kab Kya Hoga 
Main Hoon Tumhaari Hamesha...

Anyways after walking for nearly an hour, Rahul and Amrapali decided to take some rest and have coffee at Park Street BaristaIn those days Barista was on the Music World's side of the road. There used to be a black guitar on Barista's wall and anybody could play it. Rahul picked it up and strummed a few random chords. He thought that this would impress her. He played the starting guitar portion of the song Jadoo Teri Nazar from the film DARR. Amrapali liked it. He also played the GODFATHER theme and also the theme from LOVE STORY. Amrapali could sing very well. She used to learn singing at Pt. Ajoy Chakrabarty's ShrutiNandan. Rahul told her that his first girlfriend Shona also used to have her vocal training there. After spending almost an hour inside Barista, they came out and went and sat at Allen Park. Amrapali took off her shoes and decided to walk barefoot on the grass for sometime. She just loved walking barefoot on grass. It gave her a feeling of floating in the air. It gave her a feeling of a strange kind of freedom. It was evening by then. Amrapali checked the time on her wristwatch a couple of times. It was almost time for her to get back home. Rahul wanted to take her inside Nescafe which was a small and cosy coffee-joint at Park Street. But she said that she would go there with him some other day. She told him that her parents would scold her badly if she was late. 

While sitting at Allen Park, Rahul and Amrapali also compiled top-five lists for every conceivable occasion. In those days Rahul loved to engage in this activity just like John Cusack in HIGH FIDELITY. Rahul's all-time favourite film-directors in order of preference were Charlie Chaplin, Woody Allen, Jean Pierre Jeunet, Baz Luhrmann and Guy Ritchie. Anyways Amrapali started getting really late. So they started walking towards Park Street Metro Station. While walking in front of Olypub, Rahul asked her whether she would like to go inside for some beer. Amrapali immediately refused. She said that she had never entered Olypub, or for that matter any other pub, and in fact did not like boozing. They went inside Park Street Metro Station. She decided to give the first two Dum Dum bound trains a miss and wait for the third one. They talked for some more time sitting inside the Metro Station. Then she went to Girish Park. He came on the other side of the platform and took the Tollygunge bound train and went to Rabindra Sarobar. It was a very well spent day for both of them. Both felt very happy at the end of the day. An entire day spent on the magnificent Park Street. Throughout the day both were simply lost just in themselves and felt aloof from the mediocre masses all around.   

Did Rahul and Amrapali meet again? Did they go to the Nescafe coffee-joint on their second date? Did he propose to her? Did she accept him? All these questions and many more will be answered in a later Blog-Post. For now lets take a leap of ten years. Lets make the decade pass in a blink of an eye. 

One Sunday night Rahul was just half-heartedly surfing through random female profiles in Facebook. 91.9 Friends FM was switched on. Jimmy Tangree was playing some of the greatest english songs ever. Rahul loved listening to those timeless classics. But deep down in his heart he was a bit sad because of the heartbreaking news that Google has decided to shut down Orkut from 30th September. All Indians as well as Brazilians are deeply saddened by this news.

After some time Rahul got bored with Facebook, minimized it and started reading online certain portions of the epic Victorian erotic novel My Secret Life for the trillionth time. He loved books like The Pearl, The Romance of Lust, The Sins of the Cities of the Plain, The Nunnery Tales, Venus in Furs, The Autobiography of a Flea, The Lustful Turk, The Mysteries of Verbana House, The Whippingham Papers and Gynecocracy. However his most favourite one was obviously My Secret LifeHe had bought this book some ten years back from the footpath in front of the Indian Museum. Anyone who wants to read this masterpiece, here is the link. Those who have not read this book before, please enjoy it, wash your right hand and thank me later. 

During a commercial break in Friends FM, Rahul shifted to another channel where the song Aankhein Khuli Ho Yaa Ho Baand from the film MOHABBATEIN was being played. He especially liked these lines : 

Dur Kaahin Aasmanon Par 
Hotey Hai Ye Saarey Faaisley 
Kon Jaaney Koi Humsafar 
Kab Kaisey Kahaan Meeley...

Rahul believes wholeheartedly in Bollywood-Therapy. This therapy can cure anyone's depressions and frustrations and help that person to escape from the harsh biting reality for at least three hours. By practicing the art of voluntary suspension of disbelief, anyone can attain nirvana for three hours with Bollywood-Therapy. In India if a man has money left for only one meal or one Bollywood movie, then that man would surely prefer to stay hungry and go and watch that movie, simply because the movie feeds him more. Whether Rahul liked it or not but still he could cross-time-check most of his major life events with Shah Rukh Khan's films. Like when this thing happened in his life, SRK's that film was playing in the theatres. When he was dating Shona, SRK's DEVDAS was the talk of the town. When Mimi was his best-friend, SRK's DTPH was the craze among youngsters. And when he and Amrapali met for the first time at Park Street, that day they had also planned to go and watch the first day first show of SRK's Veer-Zaara

These days Rahul simply loves to listen to the Bollywood songs from the 90's. These days he loves the programme Total Recall on Times Now much more than the holier-than-thou and sometimes downright irritating Arnab Goswami's Newshour. Sometime back Rahul saw this picture on Facebook and loved it very much. 

Anyways coming back to the story, as Rahul's short attention span was changing clothes after every half an hour, suddenly he got a friend request from Amrapali in Facebook. He was pleasantly surprised. He immediately accepted it. They started chatting online. Rahul felt very nice talking to her after so many years. They again exchanged their mobile numbers. Rahul still uses the same number. He never changed it and will also never do so in the future. He intends to maintain his life's first Airtel number till the day he dies. Amrapali has got a new number. They started talking about the old days. They started reminiscing about their first date on Park Street. Both got very nostalgic. Out of the blue Rahul suggested that they should recreate their first date. She again initially refused. But later she agreed after again eating some amount of those customary bhaos and throwing some amount of those typical nakhraasSome things about some women never change with age or time! Rahul suddenly started missing his old Nokia 3315 phone. These days he uses Blackberry Bold. But he absolutely hates the Brick-Breaker and Word-Mole games in it. He again felt like playing that innocently wonderful Snakes-Game. He immediately made up his mind that next month after getting his salary he will buy a Nokia 3315 phone from anywhere that it is available just to keep it as a souvenir of the good old times. 

After logging out of Facebook, Rahul immediately felt like logging into Yahoo Messenger. Then he realized that it was not there in his Computer. He immediately downloaded and installed it. He experienced a strange feeling while logging into Yahoo Messenger after almost a decade. However the Chat Rooms were not available. Yahoo has committed a crime against humanity by closing down its Chat Rooms, especially Calcutta Global Chat Room Number One. So many people throughout the world had so much emotional attachment with these Chat Rooms. Yahoo should have tried to repair, renovate and repaint its Chat Rooms instead of closing them forever. The Rooms should have evolved by leaps and bounds with the changing times. Closing down something is very easy, but maintaining and further developing it is the hardest part. Yahoo chose the easy way and that is why it is such a big loser!  

Rahul and Amrapali met the following Saturday again in front of St. Xavier's College. Luckily for them the weather was pleasant, though not as pleasant as it was ten years back. She came half an hour late. Rahul patiently waited for her. These days the new rule is that if an ex-student wants to enter the campus then he or she must bring his or her old College Identity Card. Amrapali came and apologized for being late. She still looked beautiful though she has become a bit healthier. While chatting on Facebook Rahul had specifically asked her to wear blue jeans and a Benetton top. She had agreed to do so. She again kept her long hair open. There was mascara in her eyes. But this time she was wearing pink lipstick and had pink nail polish on her long finger nails. They hugged each other. Rahul could not figure out what perfume she was wearing but she was definitely smelling divinely. The moment they hugged, Rahul also felt like kissing her sweet pinkish lips. 

Rahul had obviously brought a rose for her. Amrapali had a hunch that he would again behave in his trademark filmy style. But this time she blushed voluntarily. First they went to the Park Street Cemetery. Nothing much has changed there. While going in Rahul bought the two books available from the Cemetery's office for hundred bucks each. One book contains the history of this graveyard and the other one is the register of all the graves and standing tombs since 1767. Rahul also met Mr. Kenneth Rodrigues who is like the Caretaker of this Cemetery. He is a wonderful gentleman and it is always a pleasure to meet him. Anyways this time Rahul did not have the urge to show off his knowledge about the British Raj period to Amrapali. They just roamed there for an hour chit-chatting. The place did not have that special charm and novelty which it had a decade back. The only thing that they both loved was sitting together on the same cemented bench on which they had sat ten years back. 

From the Cemetery they went to the Dreamland Restaurant for lunch. The previously open balcony has now been turned into an air-conditioned room. Rahul hated it. He missed the old open balcony. He again sat on his old favourite corner. A decade back during monsoon Rahul used to sit on this open balcony and watch the falling rains outside. He just loved his favourite corner of the balcony. Around a decade back once Rahul and Mimi were having dinner at Dreamland and suddenly over some trivial issue they had a huge quarrel in the middle of their meal. In a fit of anger Mimi left the restaurant, took a cab and went home. Rahul however stayed back and finished his dinner peacefully. In a poor country like India one should not waste food over small and petty matters of the heart! And he also remembered Kabir Suman's words : 

Phool-er Cheye Bhat-er Gondho Ichchey Korey 
Amar Deshey Sobaar Deshey Sobaar Ghorey...

Rahul and Amrapali again had mixed gravy noodles. They again had a great adda, though this time they did not indulge in any pnpc-ing. From her hand-bag Amrapali took out the book Jonathan Livingston Seagull and gave it to Rahul. He immediately realized that this was the same book that he had gifted her a decade back. He flipped through its pages. Suddenly there were tears in his eyes. He saw that buried inside the middle pages there was a decade old odour-less fragile flattened rose. Sitting in his favourite corner-spot in the restaurant's balcony, Rahul realized that in life eventually soul-mates meet again because they have the same secret hiding places!   

Rahul became a bit sad when he came to know that Prabhash da had quit working at Dreamland. These days the restaurant has acquired a liquor licence and is now called Dreamland Restaurant and Bar. Thank God, Bikash da was still working there. He saw Rahul and immediately recognized him even after so many years. He also assumed that Amrapali was Rahul's wife! 

Anyways from Dreamland Rahul and Amrapali again went to the Oxford Bookstore. Even after so many years this book-shop still has a kind of Jeffersonian-Purity that Calcutta needs in order to maintain historical integrity. Rahul again greeted Mr. Motwani. The grand old man of Oxford smiled at him and was happy to see him again after quite a few months. Rahul and Amrapali browsed through a lot of books and magazines. These days she only buys books from online book-sites. Rahul is a member of National Library, RKM Library at Golpark and also the American Library. Thus mostly his reading thirst is quenched by these libraries. He only buys those books which are not easily available in the libraries. For example recently he bought all the volumes of Subimal Mishra's collection of short stories which have been published by Gangchil. For the last ten years he was searching for the works of this recluse writer and was euphoric when finally the stories were brought forward by Gangchil. Subimal Mishra will always remain a genre in himself. Nobody can imitate him. Rahul personally knows Adhir Biswas who is the owner of Gangchil and has thanked the old man immensely for finally publishing these masterpieces. Rahul has a thing for subaltern literature and it gives him a strange kind of a high. From Kamal Kumar Majumdar to Nabarun Bhattacharya, he loves them all. Particularly Rabelaisian elements in subaltern literature help him to achieve earth-shattering mental-orgasms when he indulges in this kind of intellectual-masturbation. And he mostly loves to hate that monstrous Bazaari Publication very happily! 

A decade back Rahul used to read at least one new book every week. These days he is simply not bothered about reading all the latest crap-material that is floating around. Instead these days his passion is to collect old 80's and 90's magazines. He wants to relive his childhood and teenage-hood years through these old magazines. If he had a Time-Machine then he would have instantly gone back to the late 1990's and the early 2000's. Rahul is also a huge film buff. He loves everything from Chandril Bhattacharya's Y2K OTHOBA SEX KORMEY ASHITECHHEY to Alfonso Cuaron's Y TU MAMA TAMBIEN, from Vera Chytilova's DAISIES to DISNEY-PIXAR films, and obviously from Kanti Shah's GUNDA, which is unanimously considered to be the greatest Indian film ever made in the world of Blogosphere, to Q's GANDU. These days Rahul's passion is to collect dvds of old Doordarshan serials and all the films that were once produced by NFDC. This organization has done a great service to the nation by launching its Cinemas of India dvds. Rahul has already bought all of them and loves watching these films over and over again. 

Coming back to the story, there was a big discount on many books at Oxford. When Amrapali was checking out Rathin Mitra's book comprising of sketches of Calcutta, Rahul quickly went to the counter and bought the book SOMEPLACE ELSE FOREVER for her. Again he did not buy the copy which was on display. He again put in extra effort and took out a copy from the back of the shelf which looked totally untouched. Still today Rahul likes his books in absolute virgin conditions. However the same rule does not apply anymore regarding the women in his life. He believes in the sexual freedom of women. A woman must be free to do it whenever she wants to do it, before marriage or afterwards, and must never succumb to the pressures created by any man or any society. The printed price on the book was Rs. 725/- but Oxford was selling it at a discounted price of just 145 bucks. The sale is still on. Anyone who is interested in the history of Park Hotel's pub Some Place Else must buy this book. This great pub had opened on 19th August 1994 as a discotheque. On 30th April 1997, Hip-Pocket first played here. In his Xaverian years Rahul was a regular at Some Place Else. Orient Express, Krosswindz, Hip-Pocket, Span, Saturday Night Blues, Skinny Alley and many others used to rock this pub with their distinct brand of music. And everyone must thank the great Nondon Bagchi. He contributed immensely to bring back the live-music-culture during the formative years of Some Place Else


Anyways while roaming through this book-heaven named Oxford, Rahul for a brief period ogled at the cover pictures of those cellophane covered books displayed on the Sexology shelf. Amrapali caught him in his voyeuristic act and winked at him naughtily. They went upstairs to The Cha Bar. She wanted to sit there and drink something. But Rahul wanted to take her to another place. He took her to Au Bon Pain which has now come up in place of Music World on Park Street. They both missed Music World a lot. They sat on the window side and had a good view of the flowing river named Park Street. They sat for almost an hour inside. They drank mango-lassis. This was Rahul's favourite drink. She also liked it. While sitting inside Au Bon Pain, Amrapali took out Kabir Suman's REACHING OUT album from her hand-bag and showed it to Rahul. This was the very same album which he had bought for her a decade back from Music World. There was a lump in his throat!  

The moment they came out of Au Bon Pain poor little children surrounded them and begged for money. Rahul again bought a few chewing gum strips and also gave them some small change. They now decided to walk up and down the entire length and breadth of Park Street. But first Rahul took Amrapali to M3, which is the new music shop which has opened bang opposite the new Pizza Hut. From M3 he wanted to buy Anjan Dutta's latest album UNOSHAAT and gift it to her. This is the first solo album of the great singer-songwriter after a gap of almost twelve years. But the album was not available there. The shopkeeper was totally at a loss about the whereabouts of this album. A sweet girl inside the shop informed Rahul and Amrapali that this particular album would not be available in retail shops anywhere. Anjan and Amyt Dutta have created this album only for those people who really care about music. One has to buy it directly from them and only through the Facebook page Anjan Dutt - Personal. There is no other way. Rahul thanked this sweet girl for the information. Her name was Sylvia. Then he and Amrapali left the shop. Anyways, Anjan Dutta's last solo album was RONG PENCIL. Back then Shona had bought that audio cassette and had given it to Rahul because he wanted to listen to it very badly. Rahul was always a very big fan of Anjan Dutta. Unfortunately only a few months later they broke-up and Rahul never got the chance to return this album to her. He still has kept this cassette with him in great care. He still loves these four lines : 

Aaj Sob-ee Kromoshoi Gholaatey 
Aaj Jai Na Dewa Ichchey Moton Rong 
Amar Sottyi Kothaar Jontronaar Jogotey 
Nei Mithhye Korey Debaar Pencil, Rong Pencil...

From M3 Rahul and Amrapali walked till Mullick-Bazaar, crossed the street and started walking towards the Asiatic Society. While walking in front of the Metropolitan Book Store, Rahul really felt sad because the shop has now shifted to Loudon Street. Ten years back Rahul used to buy all his note-books and other stationery from this place. He had a special soft-corner in his heart for this little shop. 

Rahul has quit smoking and drinking. But these days Amrapali smokes Gold Flake Lights. She said that she also has started boozing and boozes almost every weekend. She lit up her cigarette. Rahul said that nowadays he suffered from melancholia, clinical depression and chronic insomnia. While walking Rahul cracked a few double meaning jokes. She laughed a bit, but Rahul could understand that she was faking her laughter. Somehow somewhere in the last ten years Rahul has lost the art of cracking double meaning jokes. And in the last ten years she must have heard almost all of them. Moreover a decade back both of them were virgins. Therefore the double meaning jokes had a curiously tempting appeal. There was also the novelty of hearing them for the first time. These days those very same jokes do not have the same kind of effect anymore. They seem childish and immature at this age. Rahul again thought of holding her hand. However this time while walking side by side, he casually touched the fingers of her left hand with the fingers of his right hand. She didn't object and didn't remove her hand. Thus Rahul got his fingers entwined into hers. Both of them walked the entire length and breadth of Park street hand in hand. Sometimes Rahul would slightly squeeze her hand and in return she would also squeeze it back. Dirty-minded readers must think that Rahul wanted to squeeze something else too. There were obviously two good reasons, which were obviously too good, for dirty-minded readers to think in that way. But believe me, this line of thought had not crossed Rahul's mind even once!    

Rahul confessed to her that ten years back he had wanted to hold her hand but had failed to do so due to his lack of courage. She replied that if he had succeeded in holding her hand, then probably the last ten years could have been different in both their lives. Both shared with each other the details of their failed relationships of the past decade. While walking with her, Rahul was also clicking pictures of Park Street with his Blackberry Bold. The Sun was setting over the Park Street flyover. The last remaining gentle rays of the day were caressing Park Street in a loving manner. Rahul also felt like caressing Amrapali and felt like running his fingers through her long hair and also felt like nibbling at her earlobes. 

It was now evening. Rahul wanted to take her inside Barista. These days on Park Street, Cafe Coffee Day and Barista exist peacefully next to each other. Ten years back Barista used to be on the main road and Cafe Coffee Day used to be on Peter Cat's side. The coffee joint Nescafe is no longer there at Park Street. In its place the V.I.P. Luggage showroom has come up. The best thing about the Nescafe coffee-joint was that one had to buy the coffee from downstairs and could then go upstairs and enjoy it in complete privacy in those cosy corners. Mostly couples in love who wanted to share a private moment used to hang-out at this coffee-joint. 

But this time Amrapali suggested that they should enter Olypub. Rahul agreed. They went upstairs. As usual it was crowded but they were lucky to find an empty table. The place was full of college students, mostly Xaverians, creative people from the advertising world, lovers, losers and obviously alcoholics. Topics that were flying in the air ranged from Rakhi Sawant's Rashtriya Aam Party to Meghna Patelfrom Kabir Suman's music in Srijit Mukherjee's Jatishwar to the death of Philip Seymour Hoffman, from Robert Downey Junior to Benedict Cumberbatch, from Jean Pierre Jeunet's The Young and Prodigious T.S. Spivet to all the women of Calcutta who are real life Amelie Poulains

Rahul ordered the traditional OlyPubian beef steaks. However the quality of food has really gone down. The new waiters are rude and inefficient. Sometimes rats of all sizes roam freely under the tables. Some people sometimes actually love to feed these rats. Around fifteen years back Rahul had his life's first beer and beef steak here. That is why he still loves to come to Olypub simply for the nostalgic element. And of course Rahul's favourite waiter Hasheem Khan still works there. Rahul fondly calls him Hasheem Bhai. He is the oldest waiter in Olypub. And he loves Rahul dearly. Hasheem Bhai has been working here since the 70's. Rahul was a bit saddened when he came to know that Hasheem Bhai was going to retire and leave Olypub by the end of this year. Anyways Amrapali ordered vodka with lime cordial. Rahul gulped down a Bacardi Breezer. While boozing Amrapali opened her heart to Rahul. She confessed that for the last ten years she had stalked Rahul first in Orkut and then in Facebook. She confessed that she had saved all his pictures, which he has uploaded over the years, in a special folder in her laptop. She confessed that many times she wrote lengthy sms-es for him but at the last moment her ego stopped her from pressing the SEND button. She confessed that many times she also gave him blank-calls from public booths just to hear his voice. She also talked about her parents' divorce. She talked about her new job at Rajarhaat and the hardships that she had to face every day. She talked about how her ex-boyfriend had cheated on her. She talked about how she needs Valium-10 on most of the nights to sleep. She also talked about her failed attempt at suicide. Though faint in nature, but the cut-mark on her left wrist was still visible. 

School and College years are the best time in anyone's life. But once you face the big bad world outside your comfort zone, you realize that life is not a bed of roses. In today's world, a woman without beauty and a man without money are pathetic creatures. No one gives a f**k about them. No one cares whether they live or die. College romance is a beautiful thing but when words like inflation, price-rise and market-prices of essential commodities enter the scene, they really spoil the party. Rahul suddenly remembered these lines, Chheletar Nei Bhobisshyoter Bhabnaa, Meye Taro Nei Dabi Dawa Kono, Dampottyer Shokto Maaney Ta, Tara Dujonei Jaaney Naa Ekhono, Sudhu Ekti Baarer Jonnyo Ektu Dekha, Chhuti Hoye Geley Dujonar Ishkool, Nei Je Tader Aar Kono Chawa Pawa, Sudhu Khaatar Bhetor Chyapta Golaap Phool. He also remembered, Tokhon Toh Bujhini Boro Howa Boroi Shokto, Boyosher Sathey Sathey Komey Jaai Chokher Jol, Themey Jetey Chai Aaj Kotobar Amar Mon Ta, Tobu Thaamini Je Aami Ekhono Mister Hall. And finally Rahul remembered, Ekhon Masher Sheshey Majhey Modhyey Kanna Pai, Mini Bus-ey Daariye Office Jawar Somoy, Ekhon Bujhechhi Shei Odvut Shoor-er Ki Maaney, Phirey Toh Jawa Jaai Na Jey Aar Sekhaaney...

Sitting inside Olypub Rahul listened patiently to whatever Amrapali was saying. There was a hint of a few tears in her eyes. He wanted to comfort her and lift her spirits. He wanted to make her focus on the brighter side of life. He wanted to reassure her that the greatest pleasures in life are found in the simplest of things. He wanted to remind her that she was still very beautiful, intelligent and hardworking. He wanted to ask her for one moment to imagine the plight of people who are mentally-retarded or physically-handicapped. He wanted to ask her to imagine the plight of the poorest of the poor of our society. But he did not say anything. He just kept quiet. He suddenly remembered Jon Bon Jovi's decade old words : 

Maybe We're All Different 
But We're Still The Same
We All Got The Blood Of Eden 
Running Through Our Veins
I Know Sometimes It's Hard For You To See
You're Caught Between Just Who You Are 
And Who You Want To Be

If You Feel Alone And Lost And Need A Friend

Remember Every New Beginning 
Is Some Beginnings End

When Everybody's In And You're Left Out

And You Feel You're Drowning 
In The Shadow Of A Doubt
Everyone's A Miracle In Their Own Way
Just Listen To Yourself  
Not What Other People Say

When It Seems You're Lost  

Alone And Feeling Down
Remember, Everybody's Different 
Just Take A Look Around
Be Who You Want To Be, Be Who You Are
Everyone's A Hero, Everyone's A Star

When You Want To Give Up 

And Your Heart's About To Break
Remember That You're Perfect  
God Makes No Mistakes 

Welcome To Wherever You Are 

This Is Your Life, You Made It This Far
Welcome, You Got To Believe
That Right Here, Right Now  
You're Exactly Where You're Supposed To Be... 

Rahul felt like reciting the following poem to Amrapali. He had memorized this in his school days and since then it had got riveted in his brain : 

Keu Ba Tomay Bhalo-bashey
Keu Ba Baashtey Paarey Na Jey
Keu Bikiye Aachey, Keu Ba
Siki Poisa Dharey Na Jey
Kotokta Jey Swobhab Tader
Kotokta Ba Tomaaro Bhai
Kotokta E Bhober Gotik
Sobar Torey Nohey Sobaai
Tomay Kotok Faanki Debey
Tumio Kotok Debey Faanki
Tomar Bhogey Kotok Porbey
Porer Bhogey Thakbey Baaki
Maandhatari Amol Thekey
Choley Aaschey Emni Rokom
Tomari Ki Emon Bhagyo
Baanchiye Jaabey Sokol Jokhom

Onek Jhonjha Kaatiye Bujhi

Eley Sukher Bondoretey
Joler Toley Paahar Chhilo
Laaglo Buker Ondoretey
Muhurtekey Paanjorgulo
Uthlo Kenpey Aartorobey
Tai Niye Ki Sobar Songey
Jhogra Korey Mortey Hobey
Bheshey Thaktey Paaro Jodi
Sheitey Sobar Cheye Shreyo
Na Paro Toh Bina Bakye
Tup Koriya Dubey Jeyo
Eta Kichhu Opurbo Noi
Ghotona Samanyo Khubi
Shonka Jethai Korey Na Keu
Sheikhaney Hoi Jahaaj-dubi

Tomar Maapey Hoini Sobaai

Tumio Haoni Sobar Maapey
Tumi Moro Karo Thelaai
Keu Ba Morey Tomar Chapey
Tobu Bhebey Dekhtey Geley
Emni Kisher Taana-taani
Temon Korey Haath Baaraley
Sukh Pawa Jai Onek-khani
Aakash Tobu Suneel Thakey
Modhur Thekey Bhorer Aalo
Moron Eley Hothath Dekhi
Moraar Cheye Baanchai Bhalo
Jahar Laagi Chokkhu Bujey
Bohiye Dilaam Oshru-saagor
Taharey Baad Diyeo Dekhi
Bishwo-bhubon Mosto Daagor

Nijer Chaya Mosto Korey

Ostacholey Boshey Boshey
Aandhar Korey Tolo Jodi
Jibon-khana Nijer Doshey
Bidhir Songey Bibaad Korey
Nijer Paayei Kurol Maaro
Dohaai Tobey E Karjota
Joto Shighro Paaro Saaro
Khub Khaniktey Kendey Ketey
Oshru Dheley Ghora Ghora
Moner Songey Ek Rokomey
Korey Ne Bhai, Bojhaporaa
Tahar Porey Aandhar Ghorey
Prodip-khaani Jwaaliye Tolo
Bhuley Ja Bhai, Kahaar Songey
Koto-tukun Tophaat Holo...

Sometimes all a girl needs is a man who would patiently listen to her ramblings. Rahul just listened to Amrapali while she spoke about her miseries. Ten years back they had so much to tell each other. They had so many things to talk about. They could have talked non-stop for seven days and seven nights. But now there were those long awkward pauses in between their conversation. Both felt uncomfortable during these pauses. It seemed like both had many things to say but both struggled to find the right words. It seemed that she was waiting to hear something specific from Rahul. He could feel her anticipation and thus he never ventured into those alleys. After a certain point of time both realized that there was nothing more to say. The idea of recreating their first date after a decade was marvelous in theory but in reality it was not working out properly. They decided to call it a day. While coming out of OlypubRahul met and tipped the gate-man handsomely. His name is Mukhtar and he lives in the Ripon Street area. He has been working at Olypub for many years now. Whenever Rahul hears the name of Ripon Street, immediately the words, Roye Geley Tomra Aankrey Ripon Street, Duto Ghor Shireer Tolaay, comes to his mind. Rahul just loves Park Street and all her adjoining tributaries and distributaries. 

Rahul and Amrapali walked towards Park Street Metro Station. They just walked hand in hand and neither spoke a word. They entered the Station. This time she took the first Noapara bound train that came and went to Girish Park. Rahul came on the other side of the platform and sat for some time on those cubicles. He really missed his first girlfriend Shona. He felt like talking to her again after almost a decade. Just plain simple conversation like, Hi, how are you? What are you doing now? Which song are you listening to? Which was the last movie that you saw? What did you have for lunch? How is your husband? etc. etc. etc. Rahul put on his earphones and listened to the Casablanca Song by Bertie Higgins from his Blackberry. He kept on listening to this song on a continuous loop. A Kavi Subhas bound train came but he let it go. After some time a second train came. Still he sat there alone. Then another one came. This time he boarded it and went to Rabindra Sarobar. The song was still playing in his phone. He especially loved the last line of the song : 

I Love You More And More Each Day 
As Time Goes By... 

PS : Happy Friendship Day to All of You and always remember this...