August 31, 2013

Baraf Ka Gola And Waiting


With winter approaching, daylight succumbs to dusk early, and bright lamps that’d hasten wandering feet home early on most days now beckon Kolkata’s faithful onto the streets for Durga Puja celebrations into the wee hours of the night.

The lane is quiet save for the occasional light-stepping hand-held rickshaw puller depositing residents home in the old neighbourhood on Dr. Rajendra Road in Bhowanipore.

Shadows breathe life into passing life just as surely as sodium lamps stretch them into a slow, long caress along the beaten path.

Outside the north-west entrance to Northern Park, a woman has set up her Baraf Gola (Ice Gola) stall hoping visitors to the playground fair in the park will step up for some shaved ice candy.

Coloured syrups in square pockets line the edge of the wooden frame that betrays its age from years on the road waiting on street corners, come day, come night.

Among the syrups figure perennial favourites: Kalakhatta, Khus, Rose and Lemon. A hand powered ice crusher stands to one side, waiting with the vendor for someone to show up.

The white of shuttered windows frozen in a perennial pause in the facade of a red building across the lane from her, strip the night of its studied monotony.

As the night stretches its lonesome fingers, it traces a path to a family of three in a hand-pulled rickshaw approaching the entrance to the playground fair that’s come visiting Bhowanipore in South Kolkata, its character transformed from a small village in early nineteenth century to a bustling upmarket locality by migrants from erstwhile East Bengal who settled here in the early 1850s.

Behind her, and us, the fair is in full swing. But we might as well have been wrapped in the silence that anticipation spreads around it to shore up hope and make waiting, tolerable.

As the lean figure of the hand-pulled rickshawallah draws into view, emerging from the dark of the street into warm swells of Sodium dispersing over him, the woman straightens up on the makeshift crate she’s parked by her roadside stall.

No sooner her eyes adjust to the three forms in the back of the rickshaw, they light up in anticipation. A half smile spreads across her face as the trio draw closer, revealing a young boy among them.

"What child can possibly resist a colourful baraf ka gola?" I imagine her thinking.

She looks in their direction hoping to catch their attention.

And the yellow of sodium suddenly pours its weight into the pause now pregnant with possibilities.


TALON said...

Your photos are stunning, Anil. You captured dusk so beautifully and tenderly with your words and your gorgeous images.

Zhoen said...

Reading about the change in sunset there strikes me oddly. Having lived in northern cities with winter days that get down to just over nine hours of light.

Riot Kitty said...

And most people would just see someone getting a snowcone. You are a brilliant storyteller.

Sue Malone said...

Yes, I agree. Stunning photos and interesting commentary. Thank you for giving me a different view of the world

VioletSky said...

I am happy to see you posting more frequently. Your story telling makes me see the world in a different light.

marja-leena said...

Beautiful photos! The top one is my favourite - it looks like a painting. That rich deep red is so amazing. Love your stories too, as always.

Daisy said...

Wonderful photos and prose, Anil. Very nicely done.

Sujit said...

Amazing Photos...
Really good point of view.

Daisy said...

I loved your description here. Great photos!

Anil P said...

Talon: Thank you.

Zhoen: To the east of India, the days go dark sooner in the winter than most other places in the country, maybe not as short as from where you come from, but short nevertheless.

Riot Kitty: Thank you :-) But then it's so much in the eye and mind of the reader herself :-)

Sue Malone: Thank you.

Violet Sky: Thank you. Frequency is so dependent upon the lack of urgency in matters, other!

Marja-Leena: Thank you. Rich reds on the street always make for a suffused glow of delight in the lights.

Daisy: Thank you.

An Iengar Chick... said...

Wow, the red is fascinating and eerie at the same time. Have seen nights wrapped in blues & yellows but just never in this hue.

Anil P said...

Red: True. The reds are something else altogether in the night.