Now Brewing

two wanderers and a few #capturethemoment #ig_portraits #hvmansouls

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she lives in london. i, in singapore. we’re both indians. i was born in india. she, here in singapore. i’ve lived in india for thirty-seven years of my life. she, never. we’re not the only ones i know, there are many like us, perhaps millions of people, who are similar in this regard; and not just indians, people from other countries as well. the world as we knew it in the sixties and seventies has changed, there’s unprecedented movement and finding of new abodes by people everywhere. beginning of december, we went to india for a short holiday. calcutta. she likes to take photographs. she posts some of her shots on instagram. for the first time, she asked me to write for her posts. i was touched. she’s my daughter, of course, as you’d have sensed by now. here are the three posts…

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a crush of people, dust hangs in the air, movement all around. we’re in new market and it’s the week leading up to boro din… big day. christmas. calcutta, now kolkata, was the capital city of the british colonisers up until 1911. once it was the (bold and underlined) city of the east, magnificent and modern. the third city in the world to get electricity. and this was the market to shop in. this huge covered shopping arcade opened on 1 jan, 1873. later it was named sir stuart hogg market, but the colloquially referred “new market” would catch on. everybody who was anybody in india came shopping here, they say. oh well, we the nobodies still do, ha. the sense of kitsch and harrum scarrum has multiplied chaotically since i used to come here more than thirty years ago from college, looking for bags and shoes (ohhh henry’s), lemon tarts and chocolate eclaires (nahoum’s, of course), nice silver things (chamba lama, where else), and even eye candy (yes, there were a few of those around too back then). “want to buy shawls, silk sarees, kashmiri artifacts?” comes the silken voiced invite from somewhere at the back as we step in… i don’t even turn around as i wave a “no thanks.” we go straight to chamba lama. a strange feeling of bequeathing as i watch my daughter pore over the tray of tiny silver things. like we used to. when do we make the switch from delicate and fine to chunky and statement, i wonder. as we walk past nahoum’s, the queues are forming… bengalis and calcuttans (hindu, muslim, sikh, jain, whatever) ready to buy their christmas cake from the jewish bakery of 1902 where the bakers are mostly muslim. INDIA

#globe_people #moodyports #visualsofearth

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what is home? what are roots? where do you belong, or i? questions that in a shifting world have no real answers, unless you’re pleased with a certain sounding thing, unable to or unwilling to examine it, sense its shortcomings. dare to step out and seek what the winds suggest as they carry the heat, the chill, the storm of dust. perhaps there will never be a clear answer. home… thoughts drift through my mind. here we are in calcutta, where many ancestors of mine made their home, yet i was never of the city and anyway i had to leave; where your ancestors found work, shelter, security… a new land, but you would know it as a visitor… as would i. the michhil progresses, the taxi is a study in tatter and tear, the taxi driver laughs when i ask him to tell me the fare on the meter. give me anything, he says. why should i, i half laugh, half rage back. the meter shows rs 30. he says, let’s make it rs 50. i thrust rs 40 into his hand. he smiles a ruined smile. you watch me, i give him another 10 bucks. you have that look on your face. never mind, we’ll have some nice kheer kadam later… come let me show you my bargaining skills. i need some hair bands, those guys outside new market they have the best ones… they call them garter here, i’d forgotten. INDIA

#bevisuallyinspired #portraitsociety #bravogreatphoto

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aajke chol market jai. let’s go to the market today. in bangla, we often called it just market, dropping the new. as if the english word gave it its identity… it belonged to the english speaking side of town, after all. the british, who designed this metropolis, carefully kept us all apart. black town, grey town, white town… or whatever. park street, new market, chowringhee, and that side were o para, “that neighbourhood.” ours, yet not quite us. glamorous, westernised, shahebi, aspirational. even after independence, the demarcation if not the divide remained. that was obangali (pronounced awbangali) para. the anglo indians, armenians, jews, sindhis, “non bengalis” as we said, had their homes there mostly. central calcutta… from where south calcutta felt like another continent. when a boy from that neighbourhood went to meet a girl from that other continent, he felt as if he’d crossed a border, not just taken an arterial road southwards. cities within cities. worlds within worlds. separations, divisions. all it takes is a road, and you meet, and.., well, here we are. you and i. you’re that o para, you’re that other continent, you are the path perhaps where many worlds meet. come, let’s go and walk around new market. chol market jai. INDIA

#lifeportraits #yourvisiongallery #thecreativers

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all pictures by estair robbins, she added the word “INDIA” at the end of each post. her instagram account is @blinkrejects.

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4 Comments

  • Popliarchana@hotmail.com'
    Reply
    Archana popli
    December 30, 2019 at 1:02 am

    Hi glad I got the message and I loved your daughter’s picture on an India that was a kinder version of what it becoming today. , I love the history behind all the places we used to visit when we were young and every corner of India has a story Glad I read your posts you always have a picture in your writing so a reader can visualize the moment

    • Reply
      indrani robbins
      December 31, 2019 at 11:03 am

      thanks so much, archana. so happy you read. hope all well with you. i love the richness of our country too and its open broad mind… hopefully, we’ll never lose that, even if the current environment is what it is.

  • lalitasarya@gmail.com'
    Reply
    Lalita Arya
    December 31, 2019 at 12:08 am

    Thanks, indi. you took me back to September this year when my sister & I went searching for Indenture Memorials. For me this was my second trip to Kolkata – first being with my youngest daughter who wanted to have a glimpse which we call darshan of Kali at Kalighat. I did not know some of the details of the history of Kolkata, but I did not like the sound of some British names that were carried over like the Hastings area etc. We also went to get the best rosogollas from this place where we were told Bollywood celebrities come to buy. I am impressed with Kolkata, glad I visited, so much history in one place, connecting with so many parts of the earth. It has become one of my favorite cities. thanks again.

    • Reply
      indrani robbins
      December 31, 2019 at 11:19 am

      hi lalita, that journey must have been fascinating. if you write about it, i hope you’ll publish on writersbrew too. your history and the compact of influences is just something else. so little we know of it growing up in india. i enjoy the glimpses you give us.

      thanks so much for reading and liking the piece. kolkata is, yes, a city steeped in our history. i just feel sad that an essential depth of the city and the ordinary calcuttan seems to be on the decline. many reasons for this, including the rise in wealth among some and the hankering for just material things, nothing else. i used to visit my paternal grandparents in calcutta every year as a kid. then two years in boarding school there when i was nine. not my favourite city and yet i felt its depth, it’s gentleness, its complexity, its colour. i went to college here, then stayed there for a few more years. my first job, my first boyfriend, falling in love, all there… a uniqueness lingers in kolkata despite the unkempt, quite dirty, surrounds, there’s a beauty. it was the first truly cosmopolitan city of this part of the world… and something from that is still all about. i do miss the drop in the quality of art/movies/music from there though. glad you had a good time. hope you ate the mishti and the other lovely food, and bought some super sarees.

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