162, Kalighat Road

Trina Talukdar

“Ei dikey line lagiye chutchhey, kintu ekta make-up kinbena, chirunio kinbena…”

It was said so casually, by a pimp about a whore. When you think about it, it makes sense, fits in with the mileu. But it just totally held me by my shoulders and rattled me. For the first time I realised that “chut” is not just a gaali here. It actually has a literal meaning. This is the place where “fucking whore” stops being a swear and means ‘a woman who has sex with variousmen for monetary gains.’

I see tha lane flash in front of my eyes all the time. It’s not just a nightmare. I see it even when I’m awake. I can now make my way through it with my eyes closed. I see it so many times a day in my waking dreams, I have committed it to memory.

At the mouth of the lane sit the Nepalis in decreasing order of age so that the older ones may have an equal share of customers. Next, the bald woman sleeps on a bench on the left. The quarters of the Biharis are on the right. They eat ghugni at 4-30pm everyday. Then comes the tubewell and you have to jump over puddles around this patch. This stretch smells strongly of Lux soap because all the people who take showers here lather-up with Lux, fully clothed. You turn left into a tiny quadrangle. A moustached man sits on a three-legged yellow plastic stool counting money on a salver. There is a grey steel Godrej Cupboard with a cracked mirror, inside which a 5-year old kid sleeps. Six stairs bend left, then five more stairs steep up. The second-last step has a tile missing so you have to jump over it. In the room right of where the staircase ends, a boy watches circus videos on an 11-inch T.V. placed so high he has to crane his neck up.

The stairs lead to an open rooftop where children fly kites. But with the end of the season the kites will stop flying. Then what will the children do on the open rooftop?

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"162, Kalighat Road" by @bongbuzz

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