Caveat: A rather objectionable post which might lead to my losing some of my Bengali women readers, their henpecked husbands and any ex Xaverians. On the plus side you can call a Bandh at Calcutta tomorrow.
All right. I confess. I eavesdrop at coffee shops.
I could pass this off as ‘ethnography’ which is legal in my profession. But the reality is that coffee shop regulars almost end up sitting on each other’s laps at space starved Mumbai. This coffee shop incestuousness takes an extreme form at one of our favourite coffee shops at Bandra. They serve excellent coffee here. The food sucks. But they make you feel at home with their nice cosy, earthen colours and sofas. But the place is cramped with a capital C. You often end up sharing sofas with strangers. Reminiscent of the working class lunch homes and Udipi joints.
K and I sat down on a couple of sofas today. Turned out that a gaggle of Bengali Mashimas (aunties) were eyeing them too. They came and sat down on the sofas beside us. Pulled a couple of chairs after giving us a dirty look. Four of them. Two of us.
A calm unwinding coffee with few words exchanged at one side of the table. And boisterous chatter of old friends catching up at the other end. Forget any notions of Sex and The City. The couture here was very uniquely Bengali. A mix of salwar kurtas, khaadi jackets and the odd long skirts and shirt which replace the usual sari when travelling out of Kolkata.
The conversation was stereotypical. Conducted in a mix of Bengali and English. Of course they had to be students of English. What else does a good Bengali girl study? Seemed like they were catching up after years. MA students. All Bengalis are post graduate if not Doctorate. Some of them were from St Xaviers as I gathered. A college whose students, which as Presidencians,we were conditioned to brush off as vacuous and superficial. The Presidency College - St Xavier’s rivalry was the stuff of folklore. We were the serious, intellectual, socially aware ones. They were ... well, well groomed. Till they met years later as I discovered today.
The conversation ran on expected lines. Mentions of English poets who took ‘cannabis’ to get inspired ... ‘Kubla Khan’ being the result apparently. A panning of beautiful women ... ‘ did you see Angelina Jolie in Salt?’ ‘Pointless all you will see is her running’ (all??!!!) ‘Aaar thyang chhurbe’ (and see her throw her legs).
They went up to the counter check the menu. Came back. One of them looked at the two of us disdainfully and said “ei du to ke taratari footiye debo” (we’ll bum these two off soon).
That got my goat. I was tempted to break into Bengali and point out the guy at the counter who was calling out their order for them. I wanted to catch their expressions. But 'hell hath no fury like a Didi scorned' as Budhadev Babu would say.
The Aircon wasn’t working. It was hot. Plus I had to catch the gym before it shut at eight. I did try to convince K to take a stand and hold her ground even after I left. She, alas, doesn’t have the Bengali revolutionary spirit. So we got up and left.
Carrie Banerjee and Samantha Mukherjee leaped into our sofas.
I entered the lobby of our gym. The lift opened. There was another Bengali lady to welcome me. She’s from Bhowanipore College. A model turned actress. A sight for sore eyes. Finally the Gods were smiling.
And, ladies who took offence from this post, the dusky Bong Beauty's half Parsi boyfriend was there too. So eat your hearts out.