Girls, Laalipop And Friday Night Jagrata

Ever since the arrival of two new neighbours, return of an exiled habit, proof of lives in the 6 rooms that face my balcony and a family of sparrows to nest under our air conditioning system, life in my neighbourhood has been different, to say the least.

Freud will tell you that people tend to resist change. That they'll almost always react badly to it. But by a twist of natural law, my neighbourhood seems to have welcomed it. There is harmony, cohesion, gossip at the local 'jagrata' club and random acts of rather unusual behavior seem to have made a comeback with a reinvigorated sense of purpose. All this in a matter of months. Mum says this is normal for our neighbourhood. And that all I needed to realize this, was to spend just a little more time at home. I'm guessing she's right! Like always.

After fighting a legal battle for ages, the ownership of the land lying right in front of my house was awarded to the local college for women. They were supposed to make something out of it. And although I thought a statue could accentuate the false upper-class charm of the locality, they chose to build a girls' hostel instead. That was a weird choice, as colleges in this city don't often entertain the idea of a hostel. I was annoyed. But soon I had begun to wonder whether they'll put airy balconies and large windows on the side of the building facing mine.

Anyway, after three years of planning and an agonizingly elongated timeline of it's construction, they opened the first floor of the building for prospective residents. At first we could see lights at the windows of only two rooms. But soon in a month's time, the entire first floor was filled and all the six windows showed proof of insulated lives. Why 'insulated'? Well, they were not to open their windows until the advent of summer.

And summer was about 6 months away at this point of time.

So by the time the windows were opened, our apartment got new residents; young couples, with an active social night-life. I was happy being a night-owl myself, but worry also found its way soon for two precise reasons: 1) Our apartment building was ancient. And although it has been layered again and again with the most velvety paint that money could buy, it sends up shivers every time someone laughs out loud. And 2) The young guns of our apartment turned out to be a happy lot. They laughed the kind of hysterical laugh that emanates only when one is hopelessly drunk, which on most of the nights, they were.

Enriched with this kind of an environment, a lonely quadragenarian celibate who lives two floors below our apartment, found an unopened bottle of 'Johnny Walker' kept deep inside his closet. An erstwhile perpetual drunk, he succumbed yet again to the incongruent pangs of longing inebriety. While losing his sobriety was the first thing he did after he returned from work every night, the next thing he would do was to stand at his balcony, bare-bodied, and stare at the six windows to watch the lights flicker behind the windowpanes.

Acting on a few complaints regarding his voyeuristic inclinations, he was soon invited to the local Jagrata club. The club is located at the Bhatnagar bungalow which is just two buildings away from ours. Ever since the club was founded two years ago, Friday nights have never been quiet. Incidentally, Mrs. Bhatnagar also passed away around that time. Flashy cars, silk sarees and high heels have frequented the place ever since. And I'm still trying to find a connection there.

Soon came the month of February when the climate started to get hot. Yet the people of Kolkata only reasserted the mufflers and sweaters that were wrapped around them. Kids were threatened by their mothers openly to keep their monkey-caps on, and school children started pulling out their sweaters, that they had previously kept away, as the school-buses sped homewards. It was the time when the blue and maroon school blazers were going out of style in the school campus and folded-sleeve full shirts were replacing them. I decided to readjust and clean the air-conditioning system on one such hot afternoon. Out of boredom, mostly.

When I opened the panel under the air-conditioning cabinet, which is kept at the balcony, I discovered a mess of items, excrement, hay and dried grass. And in between them lay four tiny eggs with green spots on white. It seemed that a pair of sparrows were sharing lodgings with us for quite a while. And considering the fact that they have apparently survived the wireless towers that intensify the pestilential malignancy of electromagnetic radiation in the air, I decided to let them stay in this haven. Soon I started to tend after them. I started keeping water and grains of rice near the air-conditioning platform for the sparrows to understand that some humans do come in peace.

On one such day when I was tending to the sparrow family, I felt like I'm being watched. I looked up at the sky, wondering if a certain CIA spy satellite had it's crosshairs focused on me. But no, I found no glint in the sunny sky. Instead I heard a muffled giggle, a scuffle and the shutting of a window from the building in front of me, leading me to believe that I was unknowingly soliciting the prying ambitions of bored teenaged girls.

And to think that I believed that I would perhaps react happily to such interesting prospects! The giggle-scuffle-and-'bang' meant that winter was officially over in our neighbourhood. Every once in a while, the windows would open and would stay open to fuel the whole world's intrigue. Everyone in the neighbourhood wondered "Aakhir karte kya hai andar, yeh ladkiyan?!" almost as if it is their birthright to know everything about the mysterious lives flourishing behind the scenes, at a girl's hostel.

In the past 3 years when the hostel was only being built, most of my friends had enquired about old residents seeking to vacate our apartment building. They sought after the ambitious idea of living next door to a girl's hostel. While their excitement was justified, my reaction to it was rather perplexing. Because I realized only too soon that when it gets really hot in summer, it'll be impossible to roam around the house topless. And I really hate the summers of Kolkata! Later I discovered that these girls can also be really presumptuous - whenever the aroma of homemade Biryani reaches their rooms, they tend to shout collectively, "What's cooking, aunteeeey?!"

And knowing my mum, she'll only be happy to invite them over someday! I still don't know whether to feel good about it or otherwise.

When summer comes, soon follow the cuckoos. Our neighbourhood was soon flooded by unknown faces: men, boys, uncles and urchins. They never missed to look up at the hostel building - with renewed eagerness every time - doing wheelies on their bikes. There is a Bhojpuri rickshaw-puller stationed at the end of our street. He is famous for his flashy and well-decorated ride that houses even a music system (complete with woofers and subwoofers). Even he suffered a change in attitude after the building officially started to get filled. Whenever his rickshaw approached nowadays, we could hear a familiar song being played loudly every single time...

"Lagaweli jab lipistic, hilela arra distric, Zilla top lalelu..
Komariya (dhik-chik) Komariya (dhik-chik) kar lopa loap, laalipop lagelu!"

Needless to say, when this guy gets married, the song will be played in loop. The fifty-something year-old rickshaw puller however, is still on the lookout for a bride. Possibly one who lives behind one of those 6 windows, showing occasional signs of life and react only to the smell of Biryani. Yes, I have a crazy neighbourhood.


  1. Okay, I am not getting into the whole "you really write well" bit because you do. This post kind of made me smile and look forward to the coming weekend. I don't know why. This was a feel good; complete post. :)

  2. I understand why. This whole description of the neighbourhood can be quite romantic and feel good - and with your comment (slash compliment), I feel.. "Mission Accomplished".. Yay! :)

  3. Another one of your funny posts...doesn't come as close to the love story is born post. But a lovely read nevertheless. I'd read this one and forgotten to comment :P

    Keep up the good work, DC!! Looking forward to reading more of your posts :))

    P.S. - Why don't you write a post on your first and last trip to the book fair? :P

  4. Picking bits and pieces of everyday life, comprehensively describing the surroundings and then adding a pinch of your humor in to, is my most favorite style of your writing. Needless to say, it was hilarious. Komariya (dhik-chik) - What beats, man!
    Aur yeh kya kar diya comment section ko.. Can't comment from my blog. kitch kitch! And even after selecting Facebook, it is asking me to log in to Disqus. Kya Deeptiman..

    Also, Google map for the background? - RAD!

  5. Why would I be the villain?? o_O I was the one who dragged you kicking and screaming to the book fair :-P :-D

    Get well soon!! You really are 5 and a half years old, DC.... :-P

  6. "And a half"..? How do you figure? :D

  7. Because Soumya is 5.25 years old... you'd be a bit older than him, right? :-P

  8. And with this I personally welcome myself to your blog!
    And thanks to you, I am now singing that Bhojpuri LIPISTIC song!

  9. A very warm, big-hearted welcome, Green-eyes! :)

  10. Aree I had Disqus on my blog too, but I didn't like it so I dropped it and forgot the password. I tried to get it back. Let's see if it comes from the blog now.