Monday, March 20, 2006
Pen, Paisa, Monthly, Chasma
I grew up in a back of the beyond suburb of Calcutta (now Kolkata) in the 70s. It was called Belghoria (it still is called by the same name, and I still don’t know why and, quite surprisingly, I have never ever been curious to know why).
In 1970 I was 10. I left in 1979, for Delhi.
I have mixed feelings towards Belghoria. It is where I spent much of my growing years. It is also where I felt economically, intellectually deprived - a frog in a hopeless, humourless, prosaic well.
Don’t get me wrong. My parents (bless them!) tried their utmost to provide us four siblings the best they could. But my father was an incurable dreamer, scheming his next big capitalist move every now & then, of course without much success. Trust him to have left a comfy permanent service (of a decade or so long) in a Central government outfit, and move with four young children and an unwilling wife from a familiar & much loved Delhi to an unknown outpost called Calcutta, on the basis of a later-proved-dubious offer from a well-off childhood ‘friend’. He spent most of his working years in Calcutta fighting the sure slide of the family into a barely lower-middle-class existence.
One of his failed ventures (‘Associated Data Processing’, I think, when computers were just coming in – before that he had tried PVC sheets & pipes, if I remember right) left him with a Remington portable typewriter as the lone surviving asset. I still have it. In fact in my pre-PC avatar (not so long back), I used it extensively, lugging the heavy ‘portable’ wherever I went in search of greener pastures – Delhi, Mumbai, Jaipur, Pune, Ahmedabad… My first (and only, till date) feature film script was painstakingly typed using this beautiful, messy mechanical gadget. Mind you, an error on a page meant retyping the whole damn thing all over again (using the liquid whitener meant smudgy letterforms, and I am an incurable perfectionist).
I love my father. The older I become, the more I find myself in his image. He is the one who blindly supported me, much beyond his means, in my often foolish ventures. I was able to go to FTII only because of him – my elder sisters, younger brother and mother knew very well that the family’s economic circumstances could hardly sustain the exorbitant expenses (to us then) of me staying in Pune. And cinema was an inadvisable profession for a middle class lad to try and get into.
I am glad I went to Pune, however. FTII and the dreamy 3-year stint there gave me a clear direction and purpose in life.
Thank you Chachaji (that’s what we call our father, probably because we were originally growing up in a loose joint family, where my father was the youngest brother, and hence Chachaji to most children). Thank you Mummy. Thank you Sandhya, Deepa and Aloke. I am truly grateful.
Coming back to the title of this piece. My father was a slightly forgetful person. So everyday, when he had to leave for work in the morning, either my mother or one of us would remind him of having taken – Pen, Paisa, Monthly, Chasma. The monthly (railway pass) meant it was the phase when he was catching the local train daily to go to Calcutta city proper (earlier he used to work in Belghoria itself, walking back home in the afternoon break, for lunch and perhaps a quick snooze - I sometimes get to do it nowadays - the wheel of life inevitably & uncannily churns).
Chachaji is past 75 now.