An odd moment of Dalhousie confusion led me into a taxi. To look for Suruchi. An old Bengali restaurant on Elliot Road. Where my father used to take us on Sundays. Snaking into Royd Street from Surendranath Banerjee Street, the cabbie and I found ourselves in a labyrinthine world of autos, rickshaws, burqa-clad mothers, skirt-and-shalwar-clad daughters, rubber pipe repair works, iron frame manufacturing ones, new and air-conditioned biryani places, their older and shabbier, disgruntled neighbours, sudden empty boxes named after Marwari builders in the middle of a continuum of old concrete box-buildings. Lesser known churches and their lesser known schools scrambling for attention. And seventeen-year-olds in maroon skirts, schooled by big churches sashay out. It is the end of a schoolday.
Religion, strategies to dig into economic flows passing by, culture-clothing, culture-food make up the labyrinth of Royd Street and Elliot Road. Very close to sheen of Park Street, the energy of New Market, the business-as-usual worlds of commercial Calcutta. Feeding off them. Feeding them. Making spare parts for their airconditioners. Stitching their school uniforms. Squeezing into secular worlds, covering legs in shalwars. Donning spectacles. And ensuring that biryani sells better now that there is air-conditioning.