My friend Chintamani was born and grew in a 10X8 room in one of those dated and fragile houses near College Street. In this room, he studied, slept, read and introduced me to a Bengali magazine called Dafa 302 and also to Kalika – the televaja institution in Surya Sen Street which I consider as the only contemporary institution of Calcutta (I am not forgetting 200+ year Institutions few hundred feet West of Kalika) which can be said to be first-class, global-leader, authentic, confident, genuine, innovative and glorious.
Chinta’s mother – a portly Mukherjee used to feed me dishes of such excellence that I have developed a weakness for Mukherjees. Should I been a top boss of a Consulting Firm or Corporation, you must have found some Mukherjee lurking somewhere with whom I must have been indicted for doing something called ‘Insider Trading’. Chinta grew up there and with a high genetic plus, rose and rose and finally became a mover and shaker ( what to move and what to shake ?) in a large multinational corporation in Calcutta.
He dutifully did the romance in College Square and in those days ( mid 1990s), romance did not cost much and men and women could eat jhalmuri or some kabiraji and it was a very nice, low-maintenance affair.
In 2007, Chinta sold off the Dafa 302 memorabilia filled house and shifted to a tallish Complex in Calcutta East. He also had a longish car and and his childhood love – now a well-groomed corporate lady managed various complex issues for ‘global customers’. I met him after some 12 years, while taking editorial walks one evening in East Calcutta city park while trying to cook some story.
I spotted him and went ahead and asked and 12 years fell off just like the barber’s thread wipes the hardened facewash. After customary information exchange, I came to know that he is a millionaire now and with both of them working, total family earning is little more than an average American’s earning.
I congratulated him for being a true millionaire and also being very successful executive. He could detect the sincerity and accepted. His mobile rang and he mumbled, ok, yes…ok….
“Wife.. stuck for few more hours in the office for a presentation to be pitched tomorrow’, I never played basketball and ‘pitching’ is something I could never feel at home with.
I remembered the old dishes and my tongue after many bitter taste of life and liquids in general still felt young. He sighed and reported of passing of both his parents quite after they all shifted into the new habitat.
‘My father died may be because I forecefully shifted him from our old home, mother followed him. She became uninterested in life after father;s passing.’
I fell silent.
The summer heat was bearable now, a half-shy moon was shining and Chinta called his driver, handed him some money. The driver went and the car sped off.
I asked : what is that ?
Chinta told with a morose face : ‘ I have asked him to bring two top ramens for dinner.
I visualized the fabulous lunches and dinners the man has been accustomed two decades back.
He opened his office bag, took a small bottle and drank directly from it. The sweet sickly smell notified that water of forgetfulness is nearby,
He lit a Dunhill and offered me one. The smoke apostrophied our silence. Then suddenly be burst out laughing.
” Tell me, how much was our pocket money those days ?’
I remained silent for the question had the answer.
‘Look, in those days, I used to eat like a king, earning nothing. Now, you say I am a millionaire and perhaps I am. But see my dinner.’
He smiled, lowered his voice, coughed – not for Dunhill for sure and said :’Because my cook has taken leave for 4 days and today is the second day and this was yet to be tasted.’