The Day the River (Hooghly) Made Us Dance to its Tunes

Submitted by M.H Ghosh

Being a heritage enthusiast myself, taking part in the River Tunes programme was a fulfilling opportunity right from the beginning and that was not only because of the river that enticed and enthralled me from the moment I got onboard, but also because my friend and I had a little adventure of our own just before we boarded. Kolkata being a city of multiple celebrations was hosting a Kartik Pujo with aplomb and my friend and I were terribly late owing to the extreme traffic congestion on the road. But like the Pied Piper, the DAG programme was calling our names and we just had to reach in time. Once we reached the outside of Outram Ghat, I picked up my heels and we ran the length of the ghat to board the ferry just in time, to the clear amusement of all the programme organizers.

Clearly all of this madness was worth it, because if I had not boarded, I would never have seen the red moon playing hide and seek behind the colossal monuments of colonial Kolkata, nor been able to stand up and awkwardly tell everyone about the great tragedy of the Sir Lawrence Ship, near Chandpal Ghat. I live in Kolkata, but the view of the Howrah Bridge, all lit up with different coloured lights almost gave me the feeling that we had been transported back in time to some forgotten era, where things had been simpler and a ferry ride on the river was one of the top modes of entertainment. It made me feel like I was a part of the song “Chingari koi bharke” and Khanna Sahab and Sharmila Tagore were sitting there, under the starry starry night, contemplating life and mortality and the permanence of memories and photographs. When Whale in the Pond came up on stage, I was already in a wistful dream, looking at the tiny oil lamps that people had pushed onto the water, their hopes and desires trapped in these fragile earthen bodies. As the lilting tunes of the band interspersed with the invisible ley lines that had been cast by the river, I knew that our trip had almost come to an end, but I also felt it deep in my heart that I would walk out of this trip down heritage lane with a renewed sense of enchantment about not just the Europeans who had painted these ghats, but also what exactly they had felt as they had taken out their paints and tried to capture the essence of the ghats and the wild river in an enclosed space. For who can control the hungry tide after all, right?

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The Day the River (Hooghly) Made Us Dance to its Tunes