Kolkata Dreams K. Gandhar Chakravarty 8th House Publishing, Montreal Canada 2009, 75 pages
“I wonder what it must be like
To fuck with a severed penis.”
Montrealer K. Gandhar ‘Ginsburg’ Chakravarty knows his penis from his elbow. He knows the stuff that Bengalis shy away from. He knows that he must say what should not be said. Yeah! Because expatriate Bengalis are just that.
Well! He calls a dick, a dick. Plain and simple. No fig leaves to spare. He did the road trip thing to Calcutta, now Kolkata, lived there for half a year at the age of twenty one and probably did the stuff his parents would not be proud of and probably would have made Allen Ginsburg squirm with delight. (PS: You may want to know that Allen Ginsburg and his partner Peter Orlovsky spent a lot of time in Calcutta and here is a blog about the famous Calcutta Coffee House’s 50th anniversary. It was in Calcutta that the Beat Generation found their contemporaries in The Hungry Poets –http://ginsbergblog.blogspot.com/2009/04/calcutta-college-street-coffee-house.html). But Gandhar did what every Bengali of Montreal origins or every hyphenated Canadian of Indian origins should have done when they realized the smells, the decay, the blessed protuberances in the body and mind of the Indo-Canadian entity. Travel alone, without your parents, without advice, avoid your kakas (uncle in Bengali) and pishis (Aunt in Bengali) and give a wide berth to the maternal and paternal well-wishers. Sounds like this Montreal PhD student in religion and prolific musician as well, hogged the streets and suburbs of Kolkata and got neck deep in its noises, filth, poetry, religious absurdity and the ranking insensitivity of its middle-class. In verses and shout-outs that ring out a thunderous simplicity, Gandhar says this in one of his poems –
Ode to a Riksha-Ola
Oie Riksha-Ola!How much to take me to Chuchra station?
No, I’ll give you only twelve.
Yes, I know that you can barely feed your family,
And your feet have calluses two inches thick,
And I know that it must hurt your back
To keep peddling around these fat cat pricks
And, sure, you can barely feel your own ass
After each day’s work.
But three rupees mean just that to me.
Hell! This sounds so familiar. It is just the type of riposte one would hear from a CPI(M) (the Communist Party in West Bengal has ruled for thirty years) supporting, raging bull Calcutta middle-class charlatan liberal.
Gandhar Chakravarty covers a wide spectrum of Kolkata reality in a mordant, acerbic and extremely entertaining style. He picks up on Kolkata, where the Hungry Poets left off. And he is only in his twenties.
“Öne poem, two poems, Under a tree he sat, Finding Rhymes To pass the time.”
Starting out from Kalifornia, slowly Gandhar winds his way into Kolkata, right past Dom Dom– that is how Bengalis pronounce Dum Dum, the Airport town where the Brits developed the bullet with the same name.
Kolkata is falling apart.
Destruction would be a welcome fresh start
To resurrect a city that’s falling apart.
A welcome relief
From years of breathing
Chakravarty covers it all from the cutting of Coconuts for life-giving fresh water inside, the marauding mosquitoes, the topsy-turvy world of Park Street discotheques, roadkill, Gandhi on bills, the green suburbs and the inevitable Ma Kali-
Now the tongue,
Stuck out and bitten,
Serves as the nation’s expression
For wrath and shame,
All the same,
Almost blood red
When stained by Paan.
Kolkata Dreams is a great read, especially for those who are always looking for new voices in Montreal’s various spoken word scenes.