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For a puff

It is difficult to imagine how well equipped some Kolkatans could be . Many half sleeping persons on the pavements around Medical College and Mullick Bazaar possess some substance or the other to get them into a stupor. During a colleague’s aimless strolls from Kumartuli to Ahiritola Launch Ghat, she watched the people along the railway line squabble for inches of land. She saw old men sleeping curled up under tarpaulin sheets. The stretch from launch ghat to the crematorium is a colourful concoction of stalls and people, with few selling even crow’s claw and fishes’ fin. The colourful cheroots caught her eyes and she went on to have a close look at them. The shopkeeper showed her smoking pipes of various shapes and sizes. On being asked by her how to use them and the unusual sight of a woman at a cheroot shop, many more shop keepers joined in and the explanations became more elaborate. Their eagerness and enthusiasm made her ask for more. Silence descended after having done with the pipe, she asked the shop owner, where could she get the stuff to put into it. The crowd dispersed. The shopkeeper waited for sometime before asking for Rs 20. On being given the money and he took her to the same old man she saw sleeping curled up under the tarpaulin sheet. The man got up, took the money and in a flash of a second handed over a pouch to the shop owner who gave it to her. Feeling the plastic pouch tickling her palm, she walked towards the ghat trying to make sense of what happened. Dr Ramadoss would certainly have a heart attack if he walked incognito on these streets of Kolkata that are so well a paradox in itself of what he tries to lay down.

Soma Basu

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