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when ganga meets hoogly


when ganga prasad, jansatta correspondent for bihar, warned me against severing his relationship with me in case of not making it to his daughter’s marriage at kolkata, i knew what he exactly meant. ganga babu, as we call him, belongs to rare breed of classical school of journalism. he is one of the few who can tell it to face to likes of nitish kumar and lalu prasad. he has nothing to lose for his ethical brazenness as he has only gained credibility and respect from it in life. rather, he commands respect of his media friends, juniors and politicians for his no nonsense talking.

i was not alone to get threatened by ganga babu’s warning. so there we were on 5 july evening at patna railway station. six of us boarded danapur-howrah express. lokmat friend shatrughanji had taken two baskets of patna’s khaja. he and prashant, carrying a basket each, looked real ladkiwalas and we their followers. we had to get down at wardhman (is the spelling correct?) to take shorter route to ganga babu’s house. we reached wardhman at 5.20 a.m. now we had to take a local train to bendel. none of us had travelled by local train for long. we were quite apprehensive about jostling crowd and its behaviour. from ac journey to local train, it was a going to be some sort of experience to come by. we were so happy to get the local train vacant. seated comfortably, the journey was on. station after station, passengers started flowing in and out of rail compartments. there were no grievances for people not getting seats. rather than pushing some of us to make room, they stood and waited for any vacancy. we reached bendel in an hour crossing some 20 stations. the destination next was nehati. till then, our team leader shatrughan had not told us that yet another train had to be taken from nehati to kanchrapada, where ganga babu lived. nehati journey was as much pleasing. six guys had in fact started enjoying local train by now and discussing its importance for commoners. reaching nehati in a flash – less than 25 minutes, surprised us. now, amarnathji (the pioneer’s bihar-based assistant editor) wanted a breakfast break at nehati. puri-sabzi caught his attention. though not sure about medical definition of hygiene, the vendor had kept his stuff behind glass cover and looked to maintain desired cleanliness by standards of a railway platform. we were quite amused by the way five puris and sabzi were served – subzi was served on cupped topmost puri. what one needed to do was to keep sliding puri from below. the paper folded below could be used as napkin. (sorry for boring the puris out of u but anything unusual looks news to us. you may curse my home state vendors to not have learnt such little things yet).

so, the third local train was for kanchrapada. this time, we had the real feel of a local train. it was crowded making us jostle our way to feel feet. but it almost took nothing to reach there. i wonder why people call the station “kachrapada (thus meaning home of garbage)” when it is kanchrapada.

ganga babu, the beti’s baap, had woken up from 4 a.m., keeping track of our each stop and timing. he was right at gandhi chowk (miniature gandhi in ravindra nath tagore land did surprise me). we can see the blush on his face at our arrival. we knew once again how much we valued us and we also knew yet again why he is respected so much. traversing along market place, giving glimpse of 5 kg something katla and rohu fish, ganga babu led us to residential area. it was speck clean. roads, though not very wide, had drainage by its side, cleaned and flowing unobstructed by polythene and other unprintable stuffs.

ganga babu had now taken us to his home, typical two-storey wb house he had built with his hard-earned money. foot-wears, as unsaid and unwritten rules, had to be taken off as main-gate. a small guestroom welcomed us. his to-be-married daughter, also a journalist, was introduced. we have been hearing about ganga babu’s family all along.

last year, he lost his wife. but he soon recovered to embrace life and that winning smile he is always associated with. he took us to show his house. amarnathji cursed apartment culture, seeing his ground floor house and terrace showing bits and pieces of peripheral kolkata. in fact, he suggested ganga babu to settle down there after retirement an write books on lalus and nitishji and reveal some of those well-kept dark secrets of bihar’s political underbelly.

we had to stay at kalyani, some six km from his ganga babu’s place. none of us liked this beti’s baap to spend extra bucks for our comfort. but then, he liked it this way. after having settled in hotel rooms, we decided to skip extra hour sleep during day-time. our prabhat khabar friend rajnish had already taken to market in search of a saloon. he returned two hours later gloating over kind of acupuncture-type massage he had got despite slip-disc complications. others could only sigh and envy at rajnish’s ‘nerve-to-nerve’ smile. now was the time to reach marriage venue and see if our help is needed. ganga babu was right up there belying any signs of tiredness and burden of the occasion. everything was in place – mandap would be ready by 7 p.m. hot food would be served to baratis in time and blah-blah. just as mind was thinking food, it was ordered. sakhua leave plate with round-cut banana leaf affixed to centre of plate showed yet another rustic wisdom. any daal and curry was not to take any escape route other than to our hungry stomach. the first spoon of dehrudun rice (photographer friend paras immediately identified it with its details). i wanted more of it as per our habit to accumulate it on plate in the first go. but there was no scope for raju srivastava joke of rosgullas becoming badas in food medley. came daal and fried aloo bhujiya. hunger, they say, is the best sauce. we were at it, wondering if this was all to eat. through mid-way was served another vegetable. now, i learnt how bengalis serve food. then came usual bengali-culture fish. the most talked-about, heard and almost idiomatic mistidoi (please bear with my over-enthusiasm). it was one thick milk stuff, brown with sugar or jiggery treatment. it was the taste of life. amarnathji did not take a second to react – “i have never tasted such curd or any milk stuff in my life”. i had the cut-and-paste feeling as him. taking another spoon was on. we asked hotelwalas how it is prepared and also wondered if we can take it home. but ganga babu and kolkata were not done yet. rosgullas followed, they were as much tasty. so were mango chutni (it tasted superior cousin of my mother-made gudamba). it concluded with papad and multiples of wow.

after a break at hotel rooms, we walked down to marriage venue. though the idea was not to walk the talk but our leader shatrughanji could not it strike the deal it with rickshaw-walas or might well have conspired the walk. though it was day of lagan, there were no blaring loud-speakers. soothing bengali songs were playing at some places. i could not make out what it was about but the sheer music sounded passionate and endearing. marriage halls, said ganga babu, do not charge much. they offer package -- catering to mandap decoration. a small mandap was prepared with flowers taking most part of its beautification. women were sporting gaudy dresses and gajras in hair. a bihari pundit from hisua, nawada, had the duty to solemnize marriage. punditji looked a perfect begali in accent and dress. he makes a decent living here and goes to paternal village at regular intervals.

while we left ganga babu to take care of marriage ceremony, we settled at the marriage hall terrace with other journalist friends from ranchi and some bihari-turned-bengali friends of ganga babu. there were embraces and warm and not-so-warm handshakes all around. chicken and paneer pakodos were ordered over those liquid. ranchi journalist brajesh was in a mood to open the show with his poetry collection and kishore songs. i knew it would come back at me. i guessed it right – amarnathji once again goaded me to say some shairies (i can never say no to him, i can read his english letters for life). the sawaal-jawab no to him, i can read his english letters for life). the sawaal-jawab went on till brajesh took to kishore songs. his friend mahadev sen also requested him to sing bhinge hoth tere. after that liquid inside, sen asked for bhinge hoth once again. request conceded. this song finally became the theme song. the next morning, we would wake up others with – bhige hoth tere. kunal ganjawala would have killed us for the intended derision of his life-time song.

kolkata trip was coming to an end. while others had to take train back to patna in afternoon. i had to take train to kharagpur to meet my brother ashutosh, posted as branch manager with newly-opened corporation bank branch there. my friend amarnath recounted during train journey to sealdah what once great journalist the late surendra pratap sigh or sp (the man behind aajtak) once told a patna job hopeful managing interview with him. sp told the boy how life is like a local train – you jostle to get in, then feel your feet, some space, get to sit on edge of seat, then seat and you may finally get space to sleep. the job hopeful was returned with the reprimand that one must never try to find space for sleeping in the first go but come through the process.
i took a local train after missing my morning express train. it was 2.30 hours journey. i had got window seat because of reaching the 2.30 hours journey. i had got window seat because of reaching the station early. midnapur local had all the flavours – people filling crosswords and engaging hawkers with buys of eatables. but again, there was no pushing each other for seat and leg space. everyone seemed to know how to settle and adjust. though cpm-time roads, which can be seen from train, did not impress, people’s sense of disciple and culture did. i was also tempted to buy two sets of chinese spoons (eight) for just rs 20. it was in fact my way of time pass and to feel the local train. my brother was there to receive me. i could spend 24 hours with him. contrary to kolkata, there was little trace of development – roads from kharagpur to district town of midnapore, now maidinipur, was bumpy. people said mamata didi had to change the rule of game from cadre-dominated politics of cpm to welfare-dominated west bengal. my brother took me to his swanky office but he has been still waiting for those babu moshais to help boost his bank’s business.

on way back, i met a siwan man, running a snacks stall at howarh station. he said he was a proud bihar now and is being treated with respect. he also told me why all benches were removed from platforms. the lovers and couples, getting platform tickets, would get in station and occupy those benches at genuine passengers’ expense. the indian railways finally decided to uproot sitting arrangements. they say god is in details. i am not sure about godliness but i may well have left you with some details.



hats of to santosh(i do not know) and the bihar times news website for a brilliant piece on ganga's daughter marriage and bengal! well crafted and interesting reading, santosh has made out. a few months back , i had been to also cal and some parts of 24-parganas for a naxalite comrades' meeting at kakdweep at the "sangam" of ganga (called hooghly in west bengal) with sea of bay of bengal. after meeting , we enjoyed a tremendous feeling of courtesy and humbleness of bengali brothers in interior rural areas, surrounded by huge water of sea and ganga (hooghly called in bengal) from all sides. but i salute the discription of bengal by santosh and hospitablity at ganga's house there at the marriage of ganga's daughter.
ganga and myself are also aquintances since long and his days with nav bharat times, patna edition! i am unable to describe in words the piece written by santosh! ganga, the pious river, coming out from the legs of almighty vishnu fell down on earth on the heads of loard mahadeva after strenuous prayers of raja bhagirath, excatly came on earth at "gangotori" , just near the himalayan mountain range , also near to kailash mansarovar , via some parts of china, loard mahadeva has had permanent living in uttarkhand state of india! after traversing different parts of north and eastern states- the holy river, ganga called hooghly in west bengal, mingles with "sagar" and the place is called ganga-sagar- i personally watched the turbulent mingling of ganga in sagar (sea). as per hindu mythology sagar is also one of the gods. sagar, it appears ,becomes more turbulent in welcoming ganga- and the scene cannot be described in pen and paper-but one thing is surprising the water of holy river ganga, having medicinal value right from its coming out from gangotri to different parts of many states, becomes sour and it tastes salty as soon as it mixes or mingles with "sagar" (sea)! perhaps it is god gifts to "sagar" ,, that its water will be salty and not fit for human consumption!
another thing i must add one thing in the piece of santosh that i was surprised to find of media hype over deeds ana misdeeds of left front government in the last 30 years-and mamta , coming as saviour to the people of bengal- people are fine; works going on at its own regular pace, rural bengal still in poverty but comparatively in better condition, peace is there, no turbulent situation as being penned in the media. like left front government of buddhdeo bhattacharya government earlier mamta is also govering the state in style of her own. by and large law and order situation was far beetter than the so called good governence of nitish government in bihar-police by and large have cooperative attitude not like brutal approach of the police in bihar. farm sector in bengal appears in strengthened position throughout bengal-its farm produces are exported different parts of the country-but there is lack of proper facilities from government end. good farm produce s particularly fruits like bananas are cheaper there in cal- similar is the case with other farm produces- lands problems unlike bihar are streamlined in rural bengal etc .
but one thing surprised me incourse of frequent trips to bengal that colonial hang-over estill exists there- santosh this you will find when you visit victoria memorial, launding the atrocious governor -generals and other top ranking officials of the then british raj with arms and ammunitions in their hands- long statues of these "evil" people are their as exihibitions. only some space , now has been earmarked for guru rabindranath tagore,s works. even the left front government could not clean the exihibition of british raj atrocious people and convert it into the real museum of bengal where people like subhash chandra bose, ravindranath tagore, sharad chandra bose , surendra nath pal, swami vivekanand, swami ramkrishna paramhans and others were born and had given message of freedom and peace, secularism, schlolarsism throughout the globe. in my opinion , the imposing mansion -victoria memorial must be made museum of contributions of great bengali personalities. after removing the colonial hang-over of atrocious british people, being shown in the me sprawling memorial.

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dear mr chatpat chhatopadhyay,

though the editor has already made the correction, i felt like thanking you immensely. it was an oversight and surprisingly no one pointed this out till you did. there is no need for me to enlighten you. rather, i am enlightened. thanks a lot.... . getting paid writing amazon reviews


with the consent of the author, we have corrected it



i enjoyed reading the piece but i’ll be enlightened to know from the writer mr santosh singh to throw some light on “hubli”…is it a place or the river[!!!!], as he appears to have described in his write up…pls educate me on this...the old yet energetic ganga has to travel a long long way down to south and chart a new course to reach hubli in karnataka! my little knowledge suggests its hoogly which flows in wb.

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hoogly [wb]



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