Life in The Netherlands

Life in The Netherlands


Back to Presidency

I started teaching as Guest Faculty in the English Department of Presidency University a day after I relocated back to Kolkata last summer. In the initial weeks I was racked with nostalgia on the one hand, remembering my student life 25 years back; and on the other, trying to absorb all the changes that the institution has undergone in its new avatar as an autonomous university (from an erstwhile undergraduate college affiliated under Calcutta University) . There is much that is new in the main building (where the English Department is housed): the 'stairway to heaven' is now wrought in marble, heaven itself can be alternately accessed by an elevator, the classrooms have shrunk in size, the students have doubled in number, the Seminar Library is now the HOD's office, the PCR virtually unrecognizable, a disproportionate installation gobbles up the quadrangle, the steps on the portico have vanished, as have the 'khops' in the corridors [...]

February 4th, 2018|Categories: Life in the Netherlands|

A Grief Observed

August 2016 marks a watershed in my life. My primordial bond was snapped that month. For as long as I live, I know, I’ll divide my life into two phases - with and without Ma, before and after August 2016.   15 August 2016: the last conversation It is India’s Independence Day - the 69th. But it’s also the day India got partitioned. As a partition scholar, it’s the latter that I remember more. I invariably feel sad every year on this day, but today it is mixed with a selfish happiness: two of my articles have been published - one on Ritwik Ghatak in, and another on Holocaust Memorials in Berlin in the I am particularly thrilled about the latter, as it is based on a recent research trip of mine to Berlin to study something close to my heart, and marks the beginning of something more [...]

March 2nd, 2017|Categories: Life in the Netherlands|

Safe at 11 pm

A late return home I was at Leiden University yesterday evening. A friend of mine had organized a 3-day Film Festival this week, focussing on Neo-Realist Classics from India, and had invited me to speak in the Expert’s Panel with which the festival ended. I was only too happy to oblige - not as an expert, but as a film enthusiast. And all the more so because I got to speak about favourite films and filmmakers of mine on a topic close to my heart. Our Panel discussion went well; what went even better was the free-flowing conversation we had with the audience at the end for more than an hour, way past our designated time, which continued unabated in the dinner afterwards in a nearby Indonesian restaurant. Since one delay led to another, I got home pretty late. I was supposed to return by 10 pm, but I returned [...]

February 26th, 2017|Categories: Life in the Netherlands|

Srishti’s first encounter with snow

Today was Srishti’s first encounter with snow, on her way to school. She didn’t like it! We had been warned of the snow in weather reports earlier in the week. The Dutch welcome it, of course, fond as they are of winter sports and disappointed that they have been for the last few years for not being able to ski enough or at all. Skiing comes as naturally to them as cycling and they love to do it on natural ice. Expensive ice-skating rinks don’t suit them, though that is how the present generation are mostly learning it. New words Today it was dark and cold and windy. The dark and cold part Srishti has got used to from end-November. She now knows this is how winters are like. That THIS is winter. It has added new words to her vocabulary, which she tries out with me: “It is donker, Mamma”; “It [...]

January 13th, 2017|Categories: Life in the Netherlands|

To the ‘bahus’ of the world

TO THE ‘BAHUS’ OF THE WORLD Please don’t believe what they show on the ‘saas-bahu’ serials in India – the relationship between the ‘bahus’ (sisters-in-laws) of a joint household need not be all jealousy, hatred, intrigue and back-stabbing. There can be love, friendship and solidarity, too – not despite the circumstances, but because of it; as the common experience of being ‘bahus’ of a joint-family, and all that it entails, can be a great bond. Though the mythical harmony that such a household is supposed to have in our culture may never exist, or may be a perpetual effort-in-progress by well-meaning members of the family, the redeeming factor often comes in the female bonding – nurtured in kitchens and bedrooms and the occasional day out. I know this from experience. I already had the best sister in the world in my didi – so had no need for another. But [...]

June 9th, 2016|Categories: Contemporary Indian Culture, Life in the Netherlands|

My Srishti, My Sunshine

My bond with Srishti predates the womb. She had been a spectral presence in my life long before she was born – through all my years of waiting to be a mother. I’d always wanted a daughter and that’s how she came to me, in myriad visions: at nights, I would mostly imagine a baby, snuggling against me; but during the day, I would invariably see a small girl – playing, singing, swinging, reading… hovering just beyond the pale of touch. When Srishti actually happened, it took me a while to believe it: that I was finally, incredibly, impossibly, a mother. But then it seemed a simple transition from the surreal to the real! Only, it was a different kind of reality - she had filled a whole in my heart and given me a joy I had never known before. All my life, I’ve heard about the joys and [...]

May 1st, 2016|Categories: Life in the Netherlands|

My Loving Baba

Distance, they say, lends enchantment to the view. It – the distance of both space and time - also gives fresh perspectives to relationships. Having lived almost a decade away from India and my loved ones, I am now able to see my relationships in a new light, in a way I would never have otherwise. And this applies most potently to the closest of all my relationships – with my parents. All through my childhood and adolescence, I had an acute sense of being deprived of my father’s love and presence and had a long list of complaints against him: “Baba doesn’t give us (my sister and me) time”; “Baba is always away”; “Baba comes home late”; “Baba doesn’t take us on holidays”… He was a lecturer, spent 35 years of his life teaching Physics in an undergraduate college in Kolkata – but he also spent as much time [...]

March 2nd, 2016|Categories: Life in the Netherlands|

When the world is white & the tress are bare

When the world is white outside your window, you will have to stand and stare. Especially if you are a creature from the tropics. You may curse the weather in whichever part of the white world you are (pun intended) - curse it when for months morning can’t be distinguished from evening; when everybody insists on wearing black, making the bleak landscape even more depressing; when the flu is a recurrent companion and the overcoat becomes an extension of yourself. Curse such a weather with all your might; but if on a winter’s morning, the world suddenly turns white outside your window, you will have to sit up and take notice, or stand and stare for at least a few seconds before you rush off to catch your train. And when you are out, of course it is a different matter. But let’s hold it there…. I’m tired of the [...]

February 23rd, 2016|Categories: Life in the Netherlands|

Saraswati Puja in Holland

KALLOL’s founding President, the late Pallab Bagchi, performing the Saraswati Puja in January 2009. Bengalis are notorious for their associations. Whichever part of the world you may live, you are sure to find the Bengali diaspora creating their little Bengal – where incorrigible foodies (read men) frequently get together to have machh-misti (fish-sweets) and more; self-conscious beauties are forever desperate to show off their latest sarees and jewellery; and their reluctant children are constantly (and unsuccessfully) coaxed into appreciating and propagating ‘Bengali culture’: with nach, gaan, abritti, natok (dance, song, recitation, drama) – mostly ‘Rabindrik’. So is it with us Bengalis in Holland: our association, KALLOL, was founded in 2008 by a bunch of enthusiasts, headed by a man with mythical energy and phenomenal PR skills - who loved good food, well-dressed women, and well-staged plays with equal passion. He gathered together a great team, ran the organization [...]

February 17th, 2016|Categories: Life in the Netherlands|