Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Calcutta of the early '60s

This article in the Business Standard dated August 23rd  about the passing away of Pam Crain, who used to sing at Blue Fox, brought back memories of the Calcutta (not Kolkata at all then)I knew.  I lived in Calcutta from 1961 to 1966--five years.  The traces of the Raj were still there, though fading.  There were still a number of Britishers and I remember visiting a club--can't remember which one though--where non-whites were not yet allowed to be members.
Park Street was the place.  Blue Fox and Trincas were both there.  I knew of the live singing in both, but only have a vague memory of visiting Trincas the once.  I remember the American sailors as mentioned in the Business Standard article, swarming around on Park Street on occasion.
When I joined school in '61, we had different uniforms for winter and summer.  In winter we had a blazer as formal wear, which was made by a bespoke suit-maker, naturally, at the corner of Park Street and Middleton Row and in summer, all white cotton skirts and blouses.  But by the time I left in '66, the uniform was changed and there were no longer the separate uniforms for winter and summer.
I remember a darzi in Camac Street, who made really good Western wear.  There were always expats at his shop, waiting to get clothes done.
That was the time when the song 'Ladies of Calcutta' came out, as I remember.
I returned to Calcutta many years later, when we took my son there for treatment and were then frequent visitors there for a few years, usually staying at the YWCA on Middleton Row (no longer a YWCA now, I believe).  At that time Park Street and the streets around it had not changed all that much and I could still take my children around by myself, without getting lost.  I wonder now how it all looks and would love to go back just once to know what it looks like now.

Monday, January 14, 2013

The day I rode a cop car

Well, this is not a memory from my youth but one that happened around three and a half years back, at the ripe old age of 58.
I was in the US to help out with my son and daughter-in-law, on the birth of my granddaughter.  But in between that, I took a short break with my brothers over in the Los Angeles area.  Well, a niece very kindly offered to take me out to listen to some music--Latin music, which I love.  As it was summer, it was street music.  We duly parked in a free parking lot--around 7pm this was--and went to enjoy the music.
After enjoying the sounds and sights, we decided to leave.  By this time the parking lot area was more or less deserted.  We walked through the indoor lot, and oh dear, we just could not remember where the car had been parked.  All we could both remember was that it was in a corner.  We walked around on several floors for about 15 mins and no car!  It was a fairly expensive car and so my niece was convinced it had been stolen--after all this was like a downtown area and it was certainly not early evening.  So first my niece rang her dad and then called the police and then we waited on the street outside the parking lot, on the street.  The only thing open near bye was a tanning parlor--at around 9 pm!  As we waited we found we were getting strange looks from some passers-by, male of course.  By this time my niece was getting frantic at the non-arrival of dad/and or members of the police force.
Finally her father arrived.  Now, I forgot to mention, neither of us knew/remembered the number of the car.  So, the first thing that was done, on arrival of my brother, was to get the car number.  Just then a police car came and asked whether it was us that had reported a missing car.  On being told that we were, he asked for the number of the car.  Then he asked my niece to get in for one more ride around the parking lot.  She insisted that the car was not in the lot.  But he said, what's to lose by one more ride around the parking lot.  She then asked one of us to please get in with her, as she didn't want to ride alone.  So I promptly got in the back,as, after all, I felt this was a rare opportunity to experience the hospitality of the LAPD.  While we were getting in, we got even stranger looks from the passers-by than earlier, as you can imagine.  After all, what would you expect, when a cop car stops and makes 2 women get into the car late in the evening....
Now friends, I don't know if you know this already, but there are no cushioned seats in the back of an LAPD cop car!  It was a shock to find I was sitting on hard blue metal.  I kept moving, trying to find a comfortable spot on the metal, but with no luck.
By this time we had taken a turn through the lot and lo and behold there stood the car in the dim light.  The young policeman was triumphant and both of us felt extremely foolish.  We proceeded to apologize profusely, which made him grin even more widely and then he left, after which we got into the recovered car and drove home.
Now there is an even funnier postscript to this.  I had taken a camera with me and when we got home, I found the camera was not with me.  It had been left in LAPD's luxury limo!!!  So there was my brother--at 10.30 pm, calling the police dept office to find out if there had been a camera in a cop car.  We were told that the camera had been found at left at the main Police Dept office in the area we had visited, but that we would have to come and fetch it then itself as the next day was Sunday and the office would be closed.  Hence, my poor brother made his second trip all the way there, with me, to the particular office and then we had to wait, till the young policeman came in for a break, to claim my camera.  It wasn't that this camera was a fancy camera.  It was just that I had  quite a few pictures in it of my new granddaughter and family in general.  So anyway, a long and eventful evening filled with interactions with the LAPD.