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Camac Street - Kolkata

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The Camac Street Crossing

"Yes, here and there some weary wanderer
In that same city of tremendous night
Will understand the speech and feel a stir
Of fellowship in all-disastrous flight."
"City Of Dreadful Night" : James Thomson


1 Camac Street on a Saturday evening presents a pretty picture of a city humdrum coupled with a secret longing for a day's rest. There are very few homes there as the street is mostly flanked on either side by a series of office buildings of various colors but which all look gray under the blazing sun. Men with loosened tie-knots and women with slightly smudged facial make-up stream out of the mighty buildings.

"I see crowds of people, walking round in a ring." ["The Waste Land"; Eliot] The brick mansions all flaunt their company logos which are of various geometries but which again, look quite the same under the weary rays of the setting sun. The people walk along, slowly like the workers who walk in and out during the shift change in the film Metropolis dragging their feet along the dusty pavements.

A bee-simile would give the most authentic picture but then, this street is weary, wearier than the thronging Pandemonium or the shores of Lethe. So the simile wouldn't quite be appropriate. One must be so careful with similes these days.

2 " Unreal city, under the brown fog of a winter noon." ["The Waste Land"; Eliot]

The snack-corners and takeaways along the boulevards have ripping business at this hour- the kebabs swirling along the red-hot iron sticks seem to glisten with a live intensity; the flour piles on the marble counters roll into various geometrical shapes again all tending towards a perfect circle, or a flat zero. The hard paper plates fly about with bits of chicken and sauce in shades of brown and red, while the white ones at the spotless marble counters wait eagerly to get heavy with flesh, deliciously cooked flesh. Flesh served hot in spotless white paper plates. For the tired streetwalkers to partake.

3 "I grow old, I grow old I shall wear the bottoms of my trousers rolled." ["Prufrock"; Eliot]

As the sun chariots away its photons on the other side of the geoid, the stony pavements begin to chime out the incessant foot-beats, trampled by insistent feet, tired in their ritualistic regularity. The stony pavements however, are dead, born dead, cemented and strengthened with dead stuff, with wee bits and pieces of fossilized creatures who breathed once upon a time like the ones who tread on them now they all grow together, in their deadness.

  4 The living, the dead, the living dead meet, commingle. It's a party. The pavements contain little morsels of the once-lived in them. The flesh of the much bigger once-lived burn away at the takeaway counters, glistening with an intensity that reminds one of life, tempting the eloquent tiredness with a reddish-brown charm, to replenish the tireds in Camac Street. They burn away at the marble counters.
They burn away in various geometries. " Burning burning burning burning."  Around sleek wooden sticks. Nothing happens twice thrice many times.

5 "What is that sound in the air Murmur of maternal lamentation." ["The Waste Land"; Eliot]

By 8:30 pm Camac Street is well-nigh deserted. But if one happens to pass by or saunter aimlessly with keen senses inside, one might hear some voices, muzzy voices that seem to orchestrate a montage of muzziness, of various narratives. The sounds in this world never get lost. They go and mingle in a big pyramidal constant which had always been there and which is so big that it does not grow even when new sounds are poured into it. Time draws itself out in concentric circles along its ripples in a pond. This is a safe simile. That constant had stopped growing sounds before time began. Growth is the bugbear of the finite. But the constant has many fissures from which old sounds come out every now and then. They are of so many types.

The sound of the birth of the first star
The sound of a fatso chewing crispy baby corn
The sound of snakes making love in the floors of purple seas
The sound of a nuclear explosion
The sound of lives coming out a million bodies in a nanosecond
The sound of hard paper plates, crumbled and hurled at street corners
The sound of the kebabs rotating in the red fires of Camac Street
The sound of the Saturday evening feet tired under the lights electric

The voices swirl in and out, crossing and re-crossing as scenes in dreams do, as they come from a mighty afar and go, like the ends of a giant giant wheel. Camac Street on certain Saturday nights is a séance table where voices from the past come and gather, like ancient storytellers buzzing around the metropolis, each with a story that took place many many sounds ago.

6 The sun rises in the east/ It's a Sunday at Camac Street/ The snack-bars and the offices are closed/ On either side of the Sunday roads/ A sweeper brooms and gathers the hard paper plates/ The red and brown shades/ This time, it's just a rustle, no voice/ No mystic sound, just a little noise/ But then, how can one be so sure?

How would one know? Looking at the closed offices, the shuttered down bistros,  One only knows, or thinks one knows. Monday's a few hours to go.

Contributing Writer: Avishek Parui - Born on July, 1983. Having finished my Masters in English from Calcutta University in 2007, I teach English to college students now and I'm passionate about reading, watching films and creative writing.  

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