#111

my fingers are stained with tannin- “leave the windows open, will you?”- i can weigh the listlessness humming in the air, that scent of paraplegia- “what’s your name again?” the fork slides down the sponge, a burst of cherry bleeds through the chocolate; the saucer stares heedless through the teak, the brick. your hand on my trembling knees.

a spoon clatters. the scarcity of rain pounds against the sole of your mojris. the tea is ripe. if the floor upends, we will be two pendant lights- you brighter, ofcourse- and the bookshelves will open their tongueless mouths and gobble us whole. “what do they call this place now?” from the window, a foreign summer wafts in.

in a parallel world, i am writing you a drawing of the city that died. the cotton interweaves, my fingertips pucker; your eyes are shards of amethyst. “little blue bird has a magic bead,” i see your lips form words. you empty your pockets of stories as i sit, milky-eyed, licking a cantankerous sun.

©Mohana Das

Save Calcutta’s Architectural Inheritance

On a random morning as we rode a rickety bus towards Esplanade, the dilapidated warehouses (that I’ve seen a million times) lining Strand road elicited an abrupt “you can’t just let them die!” My best friend was caught unaware but he took it upon himself to show me the Calcutta of his childhood and a new love story began. Since then many an afternoon we have found ourselves gazing at houses with intricate railings and slatted windows and spiral stairwells, debating if there was just some way we could get inside and admire the red cement or black and white checkered marble floors and the long verandahs (we are yet to find the courage to ask the owners!) It is sad to see them crumbling, giving way to faceless structures that have no stories to tell, no whiff of nostalgia around them. Without her rich architectural heritage, Calcutta ceases to be Calcutta. Calcutta ceases to be the city many like us identify with. It becomes a city without a soul. It becomes just another urban maze stripped of poetry and memories and music. It becomes uninspiring. It becomes powerless.

We don’t want to lose the Calcutta we love.

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Amit Chaudhuri is spearheading a campaign to preserve Calcutta’s unique architecture. No, we are not talking about the mansions and memorials of the Raj or the rajbaris of the Bengali landowners. We are talking about the hundreds of unnamed houses that are being demolished to make way for swanky apartment blocks in the old neighbourhoods of the city. In no other city, in India or abroad, will you find structures built in what is called the Bengali-European style. For more about the cause, read this article on the Guardian.

Help us save Calcutta’s architectural inheritance by signing the petition here.

A house on Hindustan Park (Photo Courtesy: The Guardian)

A house on Hindustan Park (Photo Courtesy: The Guardian)