Sunday, 16 January 2011


I now know enough Japanese to make smalltalk (on limited topics) with my teacher. The other day we were talking about our hometowns (Kōbe and Calcutta) and she asked me, “Karukatta wa kireina machi desu ka?” (Is Calcutta a kireina city?)

What do you say to that? The Japanese word kireina means both ‘beautiful’ and ‘clean’. Calcutta is a beautiful city, but even its greatest admirers would not call it clean.

It is not uncommon to hear negative comments about Calcutta and Bombay, often from people who have never visited these cities or bothered to look under the surface. Calcutta is my favourite city in the world, but when people speak ill of it, I usually adopt a superior, condescending attitude, rarely bothering to contradict them, much less launch a passionate defence. Perhaps this is because Calcutta is my hometown; perhaps it is because I am cool like that. But sometime back a classmate from college said negative things about Bombay, and I got uncharacteristically worked up and made some rather caustic remarks. I must have been in a bad mood that day because usually, when someone criticises Bombay, I tell them my favourite Bombay story.

When Sarbajeet was interning at a law firm in the summer of 2007, he had to go to a company’s office for a due diligence. The firm gave him the taxi fare, but in those days we were poor and a taxi ride was a lot of money. Sarbajeet naturally opted to keep the fare and take the local train.

Sarbajeet was carrying a laptop which belonged to the firm. When he was boarding the train at VT, in the crush of people trying to get on the train, the laptop bag slipped from his shoulder and fell on the platform. Sarbajeet himself was swept into the compartment by the crowds, and with throngs of people behind him fighting their way into the train, it was impossible for him to get off. He watched helplessly as the laptop lay where it had fallen and the train started to move.

At this point, someone picked up the laptop and started to run alongside the train, shouting, “Yeh kiska laptop hai?” Sarbajeet frantically shouted that it was his, and this man, this complete stranger, running full tilt to keep up with the train, threw the laptop into the compartment where it was passed over people’s heads to a shaken but deeply grateful Sarbajeet.

Ask anyone who has stayed in Bombay for an appreciable period of time, and they will always have a story to tell. Because Bombay is like that – an unpredictable city, a crazy city... I’ll say it then: a great city.


Karthy said...

It works! Your faithful college readership can collectively heave a sigh of relief. I know...too much snark in that sentence. :)


Sarbajeet said...

In all this mayhem, Abhiroop "The Body" Lahiri had not only comfortably boarded the train, thanks in no small measure to his stunted growth and stocky built, but was spotted standing near the seating area. Shocking!

Indecision Personified said...

Lots of work definitely agrees with you blogging wise. :)

Penny said...

The Japanese word for coffee is KOH-HEE and as i study japaneze i like to sip on a cup of KOH HEE i make with my keurig b70 platinum.


Sroyon said...

@Karthy: Dō itashimashite

@Sarbajeet: The Body himself could be the subject of at least a dozen Bombay stories.

@IP: I'm sorry, but from someone who has worked in Bombay, the only acceptable comment on this post is another Bombay story.

@Penny: Good for you. I like to sip on a cup of KOH HEE I make with my microwave.

Rahul Saha said...

I have a favorite Body Bombay story but I don't think the delicate readership of this public forum can digest it.

Btw, lets call him Body Bombay from now on.

Kroswami said...

"in THOSE days we were poor..."