Posted by: Tanmoy Chakrabarti | June 5, 2009

Babai dada and others

Jyotish Roy Road somewhere between New Alipore and Behala was not the best place in South Kolkata to live in. First, most of the unruly cab drivers in Kolkata refused to go there. Secondly, in order to reach the place you had to cross the perpetually crowded Tollygunje Circular Road and more often than not you would be spending lot of time in traffic congestion. Thirdly, the place was extremely dirty due to the presence of some really big drains. Fourthly, the dirt not just attracted pigs on the street and coupled with already existing cows, dogs and crows they were a major disturbance in the area. Fifthly, the place apparently housed a lot of criminals and drug pedlars. Despite all these reasons, we stayed in a Jyotish Roy Road house for a considerable period of time during my childhood and we enjoyed our stay. In fact, the house where we were tenants is the same house where one of India’s prominent theatre personalities Shambhu Mitra breathed his last and currently his daughter stays there.

I have never been to Jyotish Roy Road after we left the place in 1988- 89 but I certainly do have memories of the place. I can remember the lane just beside the famous Hindustan Sweets shop on Tollygunje Circular Road, the temple of Goddess Shitala, the lake and the fish market. I can also picture our house and also the street infront of it which used to be our playground after houses were built on the playground just opposite our house.

Best part of our stay at Jyotish Roy Road was that we had good neighbours and most of them had children who were in my age group that time ( i.e 6 years – 10 years). That helped me to make lot of friends and play with them. Though the female friends never participated in it but our favourite sport was cricket and we played a lot of it.

The big high drains and the dirt never deterred us to try out our hand in playing the sport and we took lot of pride in the way we played. Often our parents got angry at us for the kind of time we spent outside or the kind of noise we made but honestly none of the parents ever imposed a curfew on our freedom. However, playing cricket in those days would not have been the same, if Babai dada was not there.

Babai dada was probably four years elder to me and was the eldest amongst all of us. Not just by virtue of his age, but by virtue of many other qualities he was our leader. Whenever I remember those qualities now, I smile at our innocence. Anyway, he was a nice guy. We admired him because he was the best cricketer, he could lead us to win matches against any team from a different locality (though we seldom won but we exhibited immense potential), he was never a bully, he ensured that we are motivated by his encouraging talks and he could dance like Mithun! I heard that he was not a very good student however he was so well-behaved with all our parents and with us that everyone liked him. It was as if whenever we were playing, we were playing to impress Babai dada. I am certain Babai dada enjoyed this adulation but I was surprised that he never exerted any authority on us. It was commendable.

Once under Babai dada’s leadership we thought we would formalise our team and start a club. We thought of calling the club ‘ Star Club’. We planned all the activities of the club and even went ahead and wrote a constitution. However we were stuck at the funding aspect. We thought of an innovative way to raise funds since we were reluctant to ask our parents to sponsor this initiative. Our innovation was to go to each and every shopowner on Jyotish Roy Road and asking for money! The disturbed shop owners complained to our parents about our efforts. Star Club’s sponsorship was then taken over by our parents only. Sadly neither did we adhere to the list of activities nor did we obey the constituion but we did start playing cricket under the Star Club banner.

Cricket was not the only game that we played. We used to get influenced by each other quite often. Once one of us brought a bicycle home from somewhere. Almost immediately we thought all of us should learn how to ride a bicycle. For a few weeks all the children practiced riding on that one bicycle, then slowly our parents brought us one. Within weeks all the children knew how to ride a bicycle. In similar way, we started playing chess too.

I am not in touch with most of them friends now but I wish all of them well. They have contributed to some nice days in my life.

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Responses

  1. Babai da sounds a lot of fun! I remember the fun times I used to have when I was around nine or ten years of age, we used to live in an apartment complex and there hasn’t been a single game we haven’t played I guess! Including cricket 🙂

  2. “Often our parents got angry at us for the kind of time we spent outside or the kind of noise we made but honestly none of the parents ever imposed a curfew on our freedom.”

    Spending time outdoors is a good thing for kids. Unfortunately, here we have a lot of parents who worry about their kids a little too much and keep them contained as much as possible. Combine that with Nintendo and fast food, and you have an unhealthy recipe for childhood.

  3. The ambience of a pada* in Kolkata has come alive in this post. (* Locality in English doesn’t convey the sense of pada, barrio in Spanish is a better synonym)

    I enjoyed reading it and I want to ask you a question. What differences do you notice between the kids when you were a child and the kids of today?

  4. I liked your posting.
    I too grew up in the same neighborhood in the 60s and 70s. Back then, Jyotish Roy Road was not nearly as crowded as it is probably now. These days when I travel to Kolkata, I do not usually visit Jyotish Roy Road, but I always enjoy fun memories of growing up there…yes playing cricket in the winter was a lot of fun indeed!
    Cheers!


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