Traveller's Diary

The Horrifying Ride By Anujit Mitter

Chickens cackling in a barn, Just like this one! Remember this one line sang by phonetics professor Henry Higgins (Rex Harrison) in the 1964 Hollywood musical comedy My Fair Lady? Or recall the exchange between Kashibai (enacted by Lalita Pawar) and bus conductor Khanna (Mehmood), when she boards the long-distance bus with a hidden chicken in the Bollywood classic comedy Bombay to Goa (1972)?
For our member Mrs Roshan Ara Gani, a graceful pearls-and-chiffon lady with a distinct coiffure, a nightmarish bus ride a few years ago was a cruel reminder of both the movie situations.
To start with, Mrs Gani’s acquaintance, somehow, convinced her to hitch a ‘joyride’ on a public bus with him from Baruipur on Kolkata’s southern fringes to the innards of New Town on the eastern fringes. They somehow managed to board an overcrowded bus bound for their destination on the fateful day.
Somehow pushing their way inside, Mrs Gani and her male acquaintance, to their horror, found that the bus was teeming with rustic co-passengers carrying big cane baskets cackling with country chickens. Worse, bleating goats were tied around the seats and the support iron rods, giving the resemblance of an actual barn! To compound things, all the birds and animals gave off a nauseating stench.
Before Mrs Gani could recover from the shock, her relative had quietly slipped away and taken refuge in a faraway corner of the bus, afraid to face the wrath of Mrs Gani.
The best that Mrs Gani could do for the rest of the journey was to cast angry glances at him from a distance and pray to the Almighty for the ‘torture’ to end fast.
Years later, Mrs Gani laughs at the mirth of the situation but the bitter taste lingers in her memories.

Golden gift of knowledge

One of our members, Mr Dilip Kumar Dutt, has set an example of how spreading the light of knowledge cannot be bound by the barriers of age and language.
How far can a person’s conviction take him? Quite far!
Meet Dilip Kumar Dutt, a demure octogenarian and a retired engineer. Scratch the surface and out comes the gentleman’s resolve to teach and raise the two sons of the Odia caretaker of his residential house in Salt Lake, Kolkata.
The once-upon-a-time Bengal divisional cricket player, Mr Dutt, who has been playing guide and mentor to the two boys soon after their parents moved into the Dutt house more than a decade back. Not one to accept language as a barrier, Mr Dutt helped admit the two brothers into an Odia-medium school in Ultadanga for studies. And, the then septuagenarian started learning Odia himself. Right from learning the alphabets from the Odia primer and numericals to picking up the skills of spoken Odia, all Mr Dutt aimed was to guide the brothers ably in the right direction.
Mr Dutt initially insisted that the Odia couple put their children in a Bengali-medium school so that he could guide them easily. But they were more interested in the Odia school. Finally, Mr Dutt relented, thinking that the children would get educated unlike their parents.
But the brothers started struggling once promoted to higher classes. With almost no help from the school, they needed guidance in their studies. Mr Dutt thought of teaching mathematics, which would not trouble him with the language. But some of the sums needed explanation. With no other alternative, Mr Dutt went back to several bookstores in the hunt of Odia to Bengali/English dictionaries. He not only bought translation of mathematics but also ended up buying almost all the books where the stories were translated into Bengali. He studied the language in depth to explain the subjects properly to the boys.
When the elder boy passed Class X, Mr Dutt gathered information about an automobile course in the George Telegraph Training Institute and thought of paying its fees for the boy’s studies. But he decided to take up Plus Two in commerce in which Mr Dutt is guiding him now.
Mr Dutt’s sheer perseverance of showing the younger generation the light of knowledge by learning a totally unknown language in his silver years is inspirational, to say the least.