For The Love of Calcutta

It started to pour today even as I rushed to the studio to dub the strings section of my first composition in Hindi. Calcutta had been oppressively still and annoyingly sweaty the past week or, so. I was thirsting for rains as much as the parched earth was. Of course, it’s an absolute shame that my bags are packed and I’m ready to go…back to Bombay. Few more rainy days would’ve been the cherry on the perfect cake that Calcutta this time helped me bake, but then, it’s also the perfect excuse for me to come back. After all, yeh dil maange more!

I was in town to work on a project commissioned by a leading media house of the country. Believe it or not, this project mysteriously fell into my lap! I’m not great at publicizing my skills and marketing my talents. So, when such a big brand based out of a city a few thousand miles away from me showed incredible faith in me, and entrusted me with the responsibility of helping them promote their newest venture through my music, I wasn’t sure if it was for real, or I was getting trolled! Thankfully, it was the former and working on it has been a great learning experience!

Ever fallen in love, and not had a chance to express it? Ever messed up horribly, and not managed to apologize? Ever had a dream, and never got to live it? Don’t know about you, but I sure have lived through all of the above. From being a lousy friend to an ungrateful daughter, I’ve missed many an opportunity and am still consumed by regret. So, when I was given a chance to sing about one of my favorite cities, I wasn’t going to let it go! Being the emotional Bong that I am, I wrote mushy odes to the city, only for each to get rejected. The fact that my clients weren’t even remotely connected to Calcutta, and yet had a very definite opinion of the city and its people, made it an even bigger challenge. I mean, ‘hello, you don’t belong here. How can you even have an opinion?’ was what kept echoing in my head every time a track of mine got the boot. I was starting to lose my cool, and interest in the project, when a particularly humid afternoon at the Victoria Memorial made me realize where I was going wrong.

I got stared at and checked out by all-and-sundry that day, despite being dressed demurely in a cotton saree and not indulging in behavior that could be deemed inappropriate. And then, it struck me. I was an outsider, even though I spoke the language and dressed like a local. My vibe- the way I walked, the way I carried myself, the manner in which I spoke- was that of an outsider, and Calcuttans around me felt the same way I felt about my clients! That’s when I realized that Calcutta belongs as much to Babloo da who runs the neighbourhood cha-er-dokaan as it does to Pankaj Jhunjhunwala who grew up in Bada Bazaar, mixes up his ‘s’ and ‘sh’, and now works in Singapore. After that, it took us barely an hour to create the perfect song. Calcutta, I figured, belongs to my Bombay and Gurgaon-based clients, as it belongs to me! After all, George Clooney might be Amal Alamuddin’s better half, but that doesn’t stop any of us from loving him, does it?

Malini Banerjee is a snotty single child, mountain junkie, playback singer, Austen addict, hopes to soon finish writing her debut novel, and dreams of singing alongside Buddy Guy
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