Banished from bhadralok

Banished from bhadralok

KC Verma

This small town that I was posted to as the Assistant Superintendent of Police (ASP) was not even a one-horse town. It was but a huddle of huts and farms, bestowed with the status of a sub-divisional headquarters for no good reason. It was a village really, which had never seen the finer things in life. No stage plays, no musical soirees, and not even a satisfactory cinema hall. Unfortunately, I fancied myself to be a cosmopolite, a connoisseur of the arts and music, and an epicure to boot!

My life soon fell into a rut. My duties left me with little spare time, but to spend even this became tedious. My cook could prepare only tasteless dishes, which hardly evoked a desire to live. I had nothing to read, except old newspapers, and I missed books, music and intellectual company that one could enjoy only in a city.

Then one day, I met this amazingly soft-spoken person, who I shall call Mr Bhaduri. He practised criminal law in the local court and was the epitome of the Bengali bhadralok. He was an anachronism living in this small town, possibly because his ancestor zamindars never thought of moving to Patna or Kolkata.

The Bhaduri home was full of books, stacked in innumerable wooden almirahs, all carefully dusted. There was also an ancient gramophone in working condition, with a huge stack of records, ranging from Chopin and Rabindra Sangeet to Kundan Lal Saigal. And the pride of place in the very Bengali drawing room was occupied by a veena — one that Mr Bhaduri could actually play!

I was mesmerised by this oasis of culture and learning in the otherwise drab town, and over the next few months, whenever I felt like it, I invited myself to his house. Here, I enjoyed a bit of music, a stimulating discussion on current events or some philosophical concept, culminating in a dinner to tempt the gods.

But it was too good to last! One day, quite sheepishly, Mr Bhaduri requested me to stop visiting his house. Seeing my confusion, he explained that it was a small town that we lived in, and people knew that I, the ASP, was a frequent visitor to his house. He said for this reason, he had started getting such criminals as clients who he did not want to defend. Quite disappointed, I acceded to his wish and stopped visiting him. For the rest of my posting in that god-forsaken town, I missed the refined company, the books, the music and the food of the Bhaduri home.

It is now almost 50 years since I last visited Mr Bhaduri. In these many years, I have wondered more than once whether he really started getting undesirable clients or did he find me too much of a boor — and in his bhadralok fashion, he had got rid of me!

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