July 25, 2010
The Grand Trunk Road
The Grand Trunk Road maneuvers its way through the Shibpur Bazar and temples and jute-mill relics to pour out into the Howrah Maidan and onto the Howrah Bridge. The busride on it is rarely reminiscent of Sher Shah Suri’s majesty. Tall buildings look over it on both sides. These are brightly colored and have rusty railings marking their pigeon-hole windows. Most of them are held together by rows of shops, ATMs and bank branches at the bottom. Rickshaws wait patiently next to garbage dumps. We pass distinctly Mussalman neighborhoods on the Grand Trunk Road. Women here wear glass bangles. Some younger women wear embroidered jeans and platform heels. They board our bus in giggling groups. Sometimes, they are accompanied by a pan-chewing matron who battles the crowds to get them the best of ladies seats. Sombre and bearded men board the bus in lungis. They often travel alongside young boys with darting eyes and middle-parted greasy hair. Hindi-speaking not-Mussalmans board our bus with diamonds on their nostrils. Pulling their saris over their shoulders as they survey the status of the ladies seats. They are probably heading to the shops in Burrabazar that their menfolk own for a weekly visit. Ambition is conveyed to the Grand Trunk Road on sign-boards proclaiming LIC Agent, Desi Daktar Dawakhana, Muslim Marriage Registrar. The Grand Trunk Road remains sullen on Sunday afternoons.