Chilলি Chiকেন্‌, সৌরভ Ganguly এবং Mall [Chilli Chicken, Saurav Ganguly & Mall]

If you ask me where did I had my first Chow Mien (Noodles) or Chilli Chicken or Momo…I’ll reply from the local shop…actually, this what we most boys and girls will reply who have grown up in the late 90s…what a time was that…

The 90s means when Celine Deon will sing “My Heart Will Goes On…” you’re either kicked out of the room or the cover goes down; when there will be an ad on the condom or sanitary napkin same scenario follows…

When anyone needs to contact you, he or she has to call your neighbor and have to ask for you, then if the phone is downstairs or upstairs there will be a sort of war roar–“ফোন আছে…” (there’s a call for you) and if it is beside your house or few houses later the housemaid or the little girl or boy of the house has to run to you to convey the message…

The 90s mean Mahabharata repeat telecast…the Sunday morning echoing Main Samay Hoon…the famous every episode opening line [I’m the time]…followed by Ramayana…the road used to get deserted during those hours…

The 90s mean looking at the star and waving away the mosquitoes when there is a powercut; you’ve to use local STD/ISD Telephone Booth to call your lover or a friend or some distant relatives; hair styles means Sharukh Khan or Amir Khan or Salman Khan…Amitabh Bachchan was there but in his dull years…

The 90s mean when there is a cricket match, crowd can be found outside tea shops to have a look at the small TV screen…the order for teas, biscuits, and cigarettes is peppered with “দাদা, স্কোর কতো…[What’s the score, brother or man] or “কারা ব্যাট করছে…” [ which team is batting now or who are on the pitch]…if Sachin is batting at score in the 90 runs, you can hear if a pin falls and if he got dismissed (out) then the innuendoes fill the air sprinkle with curse (elders’ words we were taught)…

I do not remember the year Saurav Ganguly scored his famous Century at Lords but I remember how elders pass doubt when Dada was selected as captain after Sachin Tendulkar flopped as Captain of Indian National Cricket Team and the scandal of betting came in light…

The 90s mean Indi Pop era…Lucky Ali…Instant Karma…Shaan…Sonu Nigam…Bryan Adams…Enrique Iglesias…Celine Deon…Bangla Bands Cactus, Chandrabindu, Fossils…Durga Puja used to play the popular Bollywood songs…first time listening to the soundtrack album of Hum Apke Hain Kaun, Kuch Kuch Hota Hai…

The 90s mean elope…looking around before getting close to the lover or holding hand…I remember one of my neighbor Dada suicide because she had fallen in love with a Muslim girl and his house thrashed him and house arrests him…he was a brilliant student and was studying at Presidency or Jadavpur University…

The 90s mean Durga Puja in its glory not in themes…crowding in the pandals and getting scold for not posing properly for the camera or asking for a candyfloss (burir chul in Bengali) or phuchka or cold drinks…the Kodak film roll (reel in popular Bengali colloquial term) used to see a boom during that time…queueing up outside the big restaurants for a lunch or dinner…in Ashtami looking through corner of the eyes the girl in fantasy wearing sharee first time…

The 90s mean payesh on birthday prepared by the mother or an elder…on Sundays noon watching the new Hindi movies at local cable channel or renting VHS tape from a local Tape renting shop or at evening old classic Bengali movie in DD-7 (DD is the short form of Doordarshan)…when there will be a storm in Summer and Monsoon, we little rascals used to run to collect mangoes…

The 90s mean not some mall or fancy diner or restaurant, but, some local shop selling different dishes prepared at the shop…four to five workers in a make-shift shop or under a building…sweaty and delivering the orders…the owner used to be at the cash counter or on a high stool outside the store….the menu is made of Calcutta-China or Calcutta-Something else dishes…

When the first mall opens at vicinity just crossing the Bijan Setu we are surprised…an elder uncle joked “মল…কি করতে যায়…বাথরুম করতে…” [mall….what’s that…is it a place to piss…]…mall in Bengali means excretion…

When Delhi Public School opens their branch at the nearby, we are surprised to see the cars and the people they carry…man with no neck and big fat belly, the buttons of the shirts seem to be burst away, and hand full of rings of precious stones and metals…their wives…we in early-teen use to pet the wish of having such beautiful wives…the eligible bachelor used to sigh and converse on their curves or smiles…elders used to act innocent…

The 90s mean marriage at full throttle…no caterer…only mismanagement…having meal on plates made of banana leaves or of dried leaves (sal pata popularly called) and clay glass for water (ভাঁড়)…the helpful neighbors boy running to and fro with buckets of luchi, curry (aloor dum mainly), rice, dal prepared with smashed fishes heads, fish curry, chicken or mutton, chutney…everyone at their best attire…sometimes it feels so perfumed because clothes are sprayed with dollops of perfume to subdued the smell of naphthalene…

The 90s and its memories…so many moments, hazed and obscure, crowd my mind…as I sit down to write the years it seems it is like a parallel universe and the people are doppelgangers of the present ones–the two thinks that were absent in the 90s…I can go on writing on this time…

The 90s…I may have missed some now…because the wave of memories taking me away, making my mind clouded–the clouds that encroach the sky but do not rain…

আবার আসিব ফিরে…I’ll will return…


The time frame captured is the transient period from 20th Century to 21st Century i.e. the late 90s and early 21st Century, extending from 1995-1996 to 2003-2005.

Written in Historical Present


Daily Prompt: Local

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