Curious Case of Calcutta’s Chamcha

There is nobody in India today more unfortunate than s/he who doesn’t have a chamcha ! From the neta to the abhineta (turned neta!), everyone has a follower or a pet-chamcha!


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We, being a part of the ‘Humans of Calcutta’ team while making an entry to the The Great Indian Blogging Contest, as a part of the Apeejay Kolkata Literary Festival 2015, couldn’t possibly be in a better position to realize that while a teaspoon cannot deliver what a tablespoon can, a chamcha of the correct denomination CAN move mountains in the country! We are not saying this. You are. Yes, we interacted with individuals in the city and the response was… well, let the response speak for themselves.

The first person whom we spoke to, said something which even his chamchas wouldn’t dare to deny. “Chamcha may seek favour for anything from a parliamentary ticket to a metro ticket – when the line is too long, there are chamchas who challenge the usual ‘givens’ in socio-cultural paradigms. Even the most strict meshomoshai of the para pays obeisance to his unlettered durwan to let him have a puff of a forbidden cig-twig, reciprocating his pledge of secrecy with a few currency-leaves! After all, he ‘guards’ him. And so meshomoshai overlooks durwan‘s small indiscretions or lapses and ensures that the show goes on!”


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Meshomoshai‘s uppity son – an IT honcho, who swears by his I-Phone and I-zones, is a chamcha no less! He is the Yes-man of his boss, the typical US-returned phoren-lisping, high-flying guy, and looks every inch the Raja of techno-crowdy Rajarhat! Yes-man is every inch the Superman, except when the thought of a pink slip takes the oomph out of him! He has become the Man Friday to his boss, and faces board-meetings with equal èlan as he shops online for perfumes; for his super-busy boss who needs to pamper a miffed wifey !” was what a lady residing in Tollygunj had to say.


(Photograph taken at Swabhumi)

She was almost simultaneously attacked (verbally) by a senior citizen passing by. “And no need to think that men have monopolised chamcha-dom! Mashima and her Laughing Club members are a unique community of mutual chamchas, pampering each other while bitching about each behind their backs. So is mashima’s obese bouma who teaches in a school and obviously needs to keep her headmistress well-lubricated with dollops of praises and sundry gifts for occasional favours! Families of chamchas contribute to the Gross Domestic Product of Indian chamcha-hood! Parents training kids to become teacher’s pet in school and boss’s pet in offices, eventually ensure that the System runs well without any hitches!”


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In a month when all the chaa-er dokaan addas are incomplete without Feluda, one of the students whom we met at Gariahat also had his share. He said, “As an every-inch rational detective such as Feluda cannot be imagined without a Lalmohan babu, every spoke of the bureaucratic wheel of Indian administration also cannot be imagined without a throng of chamchas! Be it assembly houses or friendly-neighbourhood corporation to municipality offices, a chamcha is an integral part of our lives!”


( Photo taken at Southern Avenue)

That just sums it up, doesn’t it?
We rest our case.

Links :

Neta – Politician
Abhineta – Actor
Durwan – Security guard
Meshomoshai – Uncle
Phoren – Foreign
Raja – King
Mashima – Aunty
Bouma – Daughter-in-law
Chaa-er dokan – Tea shop
Adda – Light conversation


The protrait.


Our friend wanted a portrait tattooed on his arm. The protrait of his girlfriend, who passed away two years back.
After it was done I asked him, “Why do this now?” He said, “This, right here on my arm is the link to my past, to her, to what we had and this tattoo might wear off but she can never wear off from my heart.”

Taken at || Tollygunj ||

From the florist’s diary.


“I distinctly remember it. 1985. 11th of December. My shop being on the other side of the market, we got the news some 10 to 15 minutes late. We were tensed and knew that something had gone horribly wrong.
New Market, one of Calcutta’s heritage markets, was on fire. There used to be a reservoir right beneath where you guys are sitting. The British architects had built it.
But, as luck would have it, there wasn’t a single drop of water in the reservoir that day. We did all we could till the fire brigade arrived. New Market was closed for 15 days.

But that’s history. New Market rose up. Time and again. See my shop for example. S.C. Daw is 130 years old. We’ve gone through many ups and downs.

We are florists. And flowers never fail to make a person happy. Don’t they?”

“When I was seventeen…”


“Amar biye class 10’e hoyechilo. Tokhon ami Madhyamik’er porikhha teo boshini, amar boyesh matro 17.”
[I got married when I was in class 10. I didn’t even sit for my Matriculation exams then and I was only 17 years old.]

“Kon meye oyi boyeshe biye korte chaye? Tokhon kar din’e baba-ma’r mukher upor kono kotha bola jetona. Onara ja bolten tai hoto, oto shahosh chilona amar.
Tobe hain, tor dadu (referring to her husband) biyer por amake porato.”
[Which girl would want to get married at that age? But during our days, our parents’ decisions were final. We couldn’t cross it and their word was the law. 
But yes, my husband used to teach me after we got married.]

Contribution credits : Ipsita Kobirage

“From the moment I wake up!”


“Being an Economics teacher, I always tell my students that if you work hard, you’ll definitely succeed. Its just not about hardwork. Its about not neglecting one’s parents, being health conscious and focussed.

You know what, I work throughout the day right from the very moment I wake up. The only time I took rest was the time I spent in the hospital when I had to undergo an operation.”

Malls? What?


“My great grandfather worked under Sir Stuart Hogg. Hogg gave him 8 shops, Imperial being the biggest one. It is 150 years old and the oldest shop in New Market.

Due to the government’s negligence, New Market isn’t getting a much needed renovation. I believe that New Market lives on with its pristine glory even after the advent of new malls. Oh, this shop specialises in cakes still made by the age old methods.”

He made us taste the cakes from his shop after speaking to us!

HIS call.


Thand bohut zyada hae.”
[It’s very cold in here.]

“Beta, yeh kya thand hae. Humra Bihar mein issh sein kahin jyada hae.”
[Son, this isn’t cold, back in Bihar, it’s freezing.]

Aap log Bihar seh yahan kiyun ateh ho? Itna dur?
[Why do you all come all the way from Bihar?]

“Hum ko bulayah jatah hae.” 
[We are called.]

Kon bulata hae?”
[Called? By whom?]

[The Almighty]

Taken at || Babughat ||

THAT old Calcutta.


“I miss that old Calcutta. The liveliness. That spirit on the roads. Everything seems to have died now. The development these days is not co-ordinated at all. People are too engrossed in their own individual needs. According to me, POPULATION EXPLOSION is the root cause of all problems which needs to be solved.”

Taken at || Rabindra Sarobar ||

City’s own daughter.


Hello, where are you from?”
“Siliguri, I am staying here with a friend. ”

People from North East India are often ridiculed and disrespected for various reasons. Is it the same here?”
“Calcutta is amazing. I haven’t been disrespected by anyone. This city has accepted me like her own daughter. ”

Taken at || Ballygunj Place ||

Never let go.


“I’m not very expressive, but if you ask me about the biggest regret in my life, it has been to leave DBPC (Don Bosco, Park Circus). Yes, leaving Bosco was no less than a suicidal attempt.

Nevertheless the attempt was in vain, and the Bosconian in me still breathes today.”

Taken at: || Southern Avenue ||