Monday, October 21, 2013

Episode 2 - Taxi & Beyond [From P For Pheesh]

I have been writing a weekly column for the Bengal based site - - started by Derek O'Brien and associates since August 2013. I will be reproducing those articles here in my personal blog too. Here's part 2. [Original link]
For all the talk about the lazy Bangali enjoying life in slow motion with a cup of milky tea and the morning paper, Howrah Station is an anomaly. It is in a perennial state of motion. There's more energy and speed on the platforms than the trains that chug into the terminal. Standing on the platform feels like being in those fast forward scenes in the movies where things around one character seem to move at a much faster, almost cartoon like pace.
Once off the train, the usual sequence of events would be Dad following the coolie - who seemed to be in a constant rush to catch the next train, all the way out of the station. Mom holding on to me and my sister with both hands, bags strewn over all our shoulders, following in the blazing trail left behind by the coolie and Dad. Remember, this is much before the age of cordless telephones, let alone cellphones. One goods laden cart coming between us would mean losing sight of Dad, and a series of frantic Lost & Found announcements from the Inquiry office.
If this wasn't enough, the road to the taxi stand would be laden with the land-mines of private drivers – ever ready to take you anywhere from Belghoria to Bulgaria (lifted that from an old Kolkata newspaper tag-line) for free, and give you a chilled Frooti for the honour.
Finally, after tackling the crowds, keeping up with the Usain Bolt-Yohan Blake combination of the porter and my father, and tactfully dodging the driver's promises of flying chariots, we'd reach the official taxi queue - row after row of the iconic yellow ambassador taxis waiting for their passengers; the guy at the pre-paid taxi counter, playing his match-making role of assigning passengers to their correct cars with unparalleled efficiency and boredom.
The sun starts to get stronger in its fight against the wintry morning around this time of the day. The smoke from the nearby food stalls make the air thick, and the smells of the last shingara (samosas) and tele bhaja (vegetable fritters) from breakfast start to get replaced with the aroma of starchy steamed rice and the frying of the fish about to go into the curry.
We finally reached the front of the queue, paid the fare to Jadavpur and started to load our bags into the cavernous boot of a yellow pre-paid taxi...

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