I was born in North Calcutta and the years I spent there are the ones before the formation of coherent memory. But I would still be able to walk to my kindergarten school (Montessori Shishu Niketan), the market and most of the houses our friends and relatives stayed in. What I cannot do is to give directions or identify addresses simply because I never went anywhere without my mother or grandmother. So, while I still remember exactly where Jyoti Medico, Kesh Karu Saloon and Madhuban Restaurant are, I have no clue of the names of the roads they are located on.
It was in South Calcutta – where we had moved exactly a quarter century ago and I moved out about seven years ago – that I started navigating for myself. It was where I went to school, college and most of my movies within a span of two pin codes. Actually, I had to go a third one for my college.
I spent an inordinately happy time between the four boundaries of Gurusaday Road, Kasba Bridge, Dhakuria Bridge and Kalighat Metro Station. I ventured only sporadically beyond these to go to ‘shaheb-para’ occasionally and college even more occasionally!
And the memories of this part of Calcutta are endless…
* St Lawrence High School, where I spent 12 years of my life, met some of the most remarkable people I know and have only happy memories of.
* Kookie Jar, which is simply THE best confectionary shop in India.
* Priya Cinema, where I enjoyed watching films the most. Be it a terrible Anjaam or super hit Saajan or art house Titli, Priya was celluloid heaven.
* Bedwin, the roadside stall that expanded into a chain and still serves artery-cloggingly good mutton rolls!
* Dover Lane Music Conference, where I spent the most number of sleepless nights willingly.
* South Pole, a hole in the wall on Gariahat Road, which serves such amazing Mutton Kassa that I have to have it every time I go home.
* Lending libraries near Gol Park, which fed me Archies, Asterix and Ludlum in great quantities and never complained when I read full comic books standing in front of their stalls.
* Gupta Video for their Bud Spencer & Terence Hill collection to start with, for having a copy of Citizen Kane and for letting Dito have the cassette he wanted!
* Maddox Square Durga Puja, where the adda sessions seemed to go on for the entire four days of the Puja.
* Most of my friends' houses (Kochi and Bnaru, for example), where innumerable evenings were spent discussing life, universe and everything.
Pin-code 19 was where it started off and 29 is where we stay right now.
“We stay” can obviously be disputed because in the last four-odd years, I have lived in four cities and have had mailing addresses in nine different pin codes. But my ‘Permanent Address’ is still Calcutta 700029.
Wherever I stay for the rest of my life, that one thing is not going to change. The place I call home.