Oh humidity

In a defeated red bastion, Maradona's blue flag flies like hope
Amit Sengupta Kolkata

If it's a city of joy, then even the humidity and heat and the infinite moisture inside the inner stickiness of your clothes can't beat it. In marriage pandals, women in heavy, exquisite, the finest and most beautifully crafted of Bengali sarees, move with such splendid fluency and flexibility, that the heat evaporates, inside the voluptuous humidity of their bodies, and outside, in the presence of their absence. They must follow every damned ritual, every little soft, sensuous detail, every meticulous, revered, crafted ritual of traditional Bengali memory, all lost, but cathartically retained in clockwise motion, like a stoic norm of love in the time of unrequited love. Once the ritualistic fire is almost dead, and the young couple is mesmerised with heavy jewellery and a river of sweat frozen in their harassed happiness, the women suddenly leap into an amazing flame of original feminine ecstacy.

Oh, how incredibly more beautiful can they become in this magnificent humid island of broken dams of sweat and joy. Big dams.
She, a dusky middle-aged beauty, defies the heat, and suddenly reproduces a bottle of sindur from her folds, red and resplendent, more red and resplendent than the line of the fine architectural map she already wears in her dense, flowing black hair, and smears the  powder on the bride's mother's face, like Dol, Holi, a collective joyous milan, celebration of, by and for women, and the red powder flies across her face into the sky and holds like suspended memory above the little fire and a little sandstorm of red blows all over, and all the women rush to that little powder box she holds, of red sindur.

It's called sindur something, I don't know, and hundreds of little boxes of red sindur appear and fly into the thresholds of this festival of cotton sarees and the couple doesn't know what hit them even while women touch each other and smear each other and paint each other and run after each other and fly and kiss and hug each other, not caring one bit about their exquisite sarees and pallus, strangers and beloveds, celebrating that great joy which unites and liberates and breaks shackles and yet is as normal as that red mark between the hair. Marriage in the time of humidity and heat.

Suddenly, there is lightening, and no one's expecting one drop of rain. The heat is as omnipresent in this defeated city of the CPM as the flower and two leaves of the Trinamool symbol or the Argentinian and Brazilian flag. Especially, the blue flutter of Maradona's flag as it flies over 'Ma Maati and Maanush', the Trinamool rejoinder to the totalitarian industrial enterprise of big brother bully, the CPM. 
Outside the remotest one room antennaes of ghettos in suburban Kolkata, the Argentinian flag flies. When Roger Milla of Cameroon came here, the city lined up from its small airport at Dumdum to the Grand Hotel at Park Street. When Maradona came, he was worshipped in every home and bylane. No wonder, the blue flag lines the horizon at Kolkata, as home and homage to the god. 

After the lightening, the rain arrives. Like a drizzle and a dribble, through the back near the goal and mid-field into the D and the D becomes a magic circle when the god moves, and the water gushes through thatched village roofs and old, classical British architecture, and it's so hypnotic that even the chain-smoker stops smoking at the corner rock adda. The rain arrives like Latin American tango and kisses the heat and fills everyone with longing and unfulfilled love, including the beautiful women with their dark eyes and dark skin and cotton sarees. Even while the humidity sticks, like sweat and end of sweat, in a slow motion of the season's love affair with the body. 

Kolkata's body. The city of joy, obsessively looking for joy. Compulsively. Almost atheist. Like the hand of god.

This story is from the print issue of Hardnews: JULY 2010

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