It rained all through the evening in Calcutta today and I was forced to shelve my plans of going around town to look for a repair shack for my uncle's record player, grounded by the disciplinarian weather. Instead as the lightning crashed down repeatedly and sometimes fearsomely close, with the rumble of thunder and the rhythm of wind slashed rain silencing the usually chaotic streets of Central Calcutta, I got into a conversation with my aunt and learnt a few interesting facts about the area where my house is located at, about which I was completely in the dark.
The whole chunk of land to the left of the St. James Church compound where my grandpa's house now stands amongst many others was a semi-orchard for the Tagore family. The Tagore family abounded in genius with many a artist and intellectual in their ranks but their name was truly immortalized and cast in gold by the creative output of a certain gentleman by the name of Rabindranath Tagore. Another thing the Tagore family abounded in was wealth, generated by doing huge volumes of business and trading under the patronage of the British rulers. So right where my house takes up space, there might have been a mango orchard where kids ran free of the chains of adult supervision. The huge walled in compound which forms the dreary godown of Crompton-Greaves adjacent to the Frank Anthony Public School was in fact a huge pond ('pukur' in Bengali) - green, teeming with fishes eyed by circling colourful birds and overhung by the lush greenery that is at the root of all of Bengal's poetic ruminations. The red tiled roofed shed located bang in front of my house where the hand pulled rickshaws park for the night and their dog-tired operators cram into to get much needed sleep was a stable for the horses once.
All of that seems to have happened not only in another age but on another planet. What remains is a couple of old buildings, the rest of them taken down to make way for relatively modern construction where ugly practicality has choked out spacious grandeur. The birds of beauty and song had left with the trees, the few that still stand witness house only the hungry hordes of inner city crows. Harsh sodium lights fall on overcrowded solid tar roads where at one time the silver moonlight filtering through the leaves was the main source of illumination as majestic horses comfortable and tired after a day's work snorted and shuffled in their stables.
The rain and the emotions that it washes down from the heavens though are just the same. The smiles that it brought onto the faces of people caught out on the street today said that it is as welcome now it was back then dissolving more pressing issues at hand in its cool embrace. Time moves on with hardly a nod to the past as do people tangled up in their private worlds of worries and desires. After all the endless philosophizing, we do acknowledge what is inevitable, what is indeed the only thing constant... change.