Our Google profile form asked us what we were unable to find on Google. Our response was, as true mathematicians: a real black hole, and the infinite zipper. Well we forgot Monojda and Kda. No amount of Googling, Batchmating or Alumning is of help. So get prepared to get bored with the details of one of our most anxious and perpetual quests.
We are not going to hold forth here on the subject of bengaliyat, as one would expect. For one it has gotten banal now. For ohther (Haryanvi for ‘other’), the author has himself being suspected of being one. Monojda himself once introduced us to Proshanto, also of Bengali Mess as a ‘happhbengali’. He reads Desh he said, ensuring our entry into the charmed circle, more about which later.
A detour here becomes imperative, as it concerns our out-door identity crisis in our home-town, Delhi (in-doors, we were sure of being Marathis, but not outside). In good old, civilized, courteous, Delhi, those days, only four kinds of Indians were recognized: ‘Punjabbi’, ‘Hindi, ‘Maddrassi’ (dark, burst Deepawali crackers in the morning) and ‘Bangalli’(fish-wala visited them regularly on bicycle with out-sized basket on carrier.) Dad, a denizen of Vaidyanathan’s mess and Mani’s mess during bachelor-hood, looked a tambram, being diminutive and dark, dome like fore-headed, and had long being declared a Maddrassi. Maddrassi da puttar kaun? In our youth, we developed spectacles, and going by that bangalli sounding title Vokeel, and by virtue of being member of Liberty Cinema adda, we were often presumed to be bangalli.
Monojda. As indicated earlier, he was the founder of the Bangalli Mess (aka Thakchak Mess, in Proshonto’s words) of Maurice Nagar mod, where Kamala meets Maurice. It was a barsaati with three rooms, one, Monojda’s second, Proshonto’s, and the third, Dasbabu’s. Let’s not bring Dasbabu into this, he was a bhadralok, largely keeping to himself. There was a kitchen and there was a bathroom. Monojda and yours truly studied in MMH College, Ghaziabad, the refuge of students spurned by Delhi University. College catered also to serving people and classes would be from 7.00 AM to 10. On exam days it would be absolutely mandatory to catch the 5.30 AM Amritsar Express, and to ensure that, one would reach Monojda’s home the night before, and stretch on a durrie on the floor beside Moanjda’s bed. In winters, the creaks at the bottom of the door would let in chilly winds, and hardly allow one to sleep. Add to that the shine of the beam of the street halogens, and the constant screeching of DTC buses, making it along the round-about.
Monojda was (ij-ij) tall, dark, handsome, with large, watery, shiny eyes, with a crown of shiny black curly hair and a thick, black moustache. He worked as a Librarian in Metcalfe House in a defence establishment, DESIDOC, and studied Mathematics with us, or rather, in lieu of us. And did he pamper Vokeel and Proshanto! Every morning, classes over, one was treated to a huge glass of sweetened milk (thora sehat banao bhai, Vokeel.) On Sunday, the two of us, we and Proshanto would root for beer, and Monojda, would hold out sportingly for a while, succumb, and woooshhh!! whip out a hundreder, and challenge us to arrange that great party, which we would go ahead and arrange. Monojda would do a little cooking too. Eggs, he would boil with rice, periodically draining the rice, yuckk!
That was 1978, and in 1985 when we got an office car to ourselves, we launched on Finding Monojda. Shades of 3i? Sorry, we cannot make it as interesting as Finding Phunsukh Wanghdu, for all stale college gags have perished at the hand of Aamir Khan. Well, Monojda had left DESIDOC. We tried the Librarian Circuit, and were told that he was with an institution at Faridabad. Alas, that was another Monoj Bhattacharya, not our Monojda, the boss of Bangalli Mess. All trails went cold. But our eyes always sought our generous old Monojda.
That brings us to the finale. An apparition of Monojda– that too on the 86th floor of the Empire State Building, that is where the observation deck is located, on a chilly November day. We swear we saw Monojda- he, of the bright, watery eyes, the bushy moustache, the warm smile, only minus the unruly mop of hair! Ha! We were frantic! To our companion’s consternation, heart pounding, we jumped a queue, following the apparition on its downward journey. It took the elevator, we jumped the queue and rushed into one of the other 72 elevators. These Indians, eyes seemed to say. Stream of consciousness- wow, was he an NRI now? God bless MMH. Of course 30 years were enough for anybody to lose his hair! Etc. etc. Finally we caught up with it in the 34th Street, side stepping one of those trademark chimneys that spew subway moisture into the streets, making NY look like a giant ship. Woosh! Are you Monojda, Sir, we asked. No, of course , I am not! said he, with a benign and understanding smile. Sorry, we said, but we have been looking for Monojda all our life, Sir, and you resemble him to the whiskers of his moustache, only minus the hair, ha ha! What he told us was no less interesting and thought provoking. Lots of people mistake me for other people, boss, and I think I must be having a general kind of face. What a predicament! Sheepishly we walked back, embarking on another quest, locating our friend Kazmi, mhantala hyalach ata samaja ho Monojda!
Surrogate just before the
apparition(this is not Monojda)