Sunday, September 04, 2005

Blues In A Major Key

• Sometimes, the curve of a rich man’s mouth tells you everything there is to know about him.

• As our collective shame unfolded last week, it did so globally. One of my first sources was writer Sonia Faleiro's blog, in Mumbai, India.

• Last year, my friend Gordon and I wrote a short paper on how college faculty could apply principles of jazz improvisation in the classroom. We took the paper to a conference in New Orleans. It was my first trip there. I could not get over how similar New Orleans was to Calcutta — the gleeful heat, the musical ether, the vast waterfront, but most of all the masala-gumbo of humanity. The beignets at Cafe Du Monde reminded me of the rosogollas at KC Das on the Esplanade. Satchmo and Tagore seemed like brother-poets.

Last week, I happened to flash back to a deluged Calcutta afternoon of my childhood when my father abandoned his prized possession — his new car, submerged in opaque brown water — and swam home through the monsoon streets with me strapped to his back like a knapsack. The waters receded overnight and the city returned to its casual and customary disorder in about a week. How lucky we were.


Anonymous acquarello said...

Your observation reminds me of John Hood's comments on how Mrinal Sen derives creative inspiration from Calcutta's state of constant flux, perpetually teetering between demolition and renewal, decay and rebirth, but always imbued with a richness and sense of history. I've only been to New Orleans once, back in 1991 for a conference at the Royal Sonesta in the French Quarter, and there is definitely an atmosphere of je ne sais quoi about the place that's uniquely untranslatable: lively, sordid, chaotic, you said, a masala.

September 07, 2005 12:42 AM  
Blogger girish said...

Acquarello, your (and Hood's) comments about Calcutta seem dead-true to me. There are neighborhoods in Calcutta that are so infernally sordid that even as contrarian teenagers, we never wanted to venture into them. One of them was the North Calcutta neighborhood that contained the red-light district in Born Into Brothels. I had no idea what those streets looked like till I saw the movie.

September 07, 2005 9:41 AM  

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