Subir Mukherjee has crossed half a century.
Yes, he is now over 50 years of age.
He belongs to a generation that witnessed the best of the last century and the overwhelming social change of the 21st century.
On the last Sunday afternoon, sitting on his balcony and enjoying the winter afternoon sun, he went back to his childhood days. Those were such magical times, he thought.
Usually, Mr. Mukherjee does not get time to reminisce about the old times as he is a busy executive in an MNC.
But as he grows older, sometimes the times gone by haunt him.
Year-End Holiday 25 Years Ago
In his school days, Mr. Mukherjee remembered, there was no pressure of examinations during this time. They were already over by November and new academic sessions used to start from January.
December was a month of a long holiday with lots of fun and enjoyment.
Playing Cricket All Day
In Subirbabu’s childhood, there were quite a few playgrounds in every locality in Kolkata. They were also the venues of cultural functions during the winter season.
Subirbabu used to play cricket, mostly with tennis balls, all day in his local playground. Hours passed, but he only remembered it was time to go home once the streetlights lit up.
The Para Picnic
In those days, an annual picnic was a big rage. Mr. Mukherjee used to stay in a North Kolkata locality and every year he used to go to the picnic. It used to be in a garden or open space at about a couple of hours’ drive.
Everyone packed in a bus and went to have fun. He still remembers the singing match and funny stories inside the bus.
Even the picnic was a lot of fun with playing badminton, chatting endlessly, playing antakshari, and eating fries to heart’s content.
Visiting the Zoo or Nicco Park
Those days, winter holidays meant going for a day’s outing nearby.
The Alipore Zoo was a big draw. But Birla Planetarium, Indian Museum, Nicco Park, and Science City were not far behind in attracting merrymaking crowds.
This tradition continues and more destinations such as Eco Park have joined the list.
Subirbabu’s father took their small family consisting of his mother and his younger brother for a day outing on Sundays.
Mr. Mukherjee looked forward to these days as his brother and mother as it usually meant dinner at a Park Street restaurant.
Christmas and Paus Sankranti
The lazy winter afternoons passed by slowly.
Mr. Mukherjee still remembers the smell of oranges, nolen gur, and gurer sandesh.
And of course, that mouthwatering taste of Jaynagarer moa. It was available at this time only. (It still is).
Christmas Day was celebrated irrespective of religion in Kolkata like the present days. Of course, there was no such decoration in Allen Park in those days.
But the day, Burra Din, was spent eating a hearty meal and cakes. And going out for a movie or to a relative’s home.
The cakes, nolen gurer sandesh, Jaynagarer moa, and the oranges are still there but Subirbabu thought that the quality of those days was much better.
About a week’s holiday (and somewhat reduced work pressure at office, especially for the USA-focused IT sector) is ideal for a short trip.
Popular tourist spots like Digha, Puri, and Darjeeling are chock-a-block during this time. Many tourists gather in Darjeeling hoping to experience snowfall.
Interestingly, hill stations like Shimla or Kathmandu are as much preferred as seaside locations like Goa and Kerala.
Commercialization of Christmas and New Year
Christmas and New Year celebrations are no longer restricted to a minority in India. It is widespread as a social event nowadays.
However, one thing did not change.
The sombre Midnight Mass at St. Paul’s Cathedral in Kolkata. Even non-Christians join the Mass these days.
From a quiet family event, Christmas and New Year celebrations have become huge commercial opportunities now. Consumer companies launch various promotional schemes for the occasion.
Parties, Parties, and More Parties
For the young and the young-at-heart, this is the time to party. Parties are organized in all the clubs of Kolkata, whether it’s Tollygunge Club or Saturday Club. No party is unthinkable in the social circles in Kolkata.
These parties are usually social gatherings with great food and liquor but a lot many theme parties are also organized these days.
Prominent singers and dancers often grace these parties.
Celebrations in Gated Communities
When Subirbabu was a child, there was rarely any gated community. Even if there was one, there was no resident’s club there. At best, there was a community hall.
Nowadays, most gated communities include a resident’s club and they organize various events to celebrate the occasions.
These clubs inside the gated communities provide excellent opportunities to socialize and celebrate various occasions.
Gated communities, especially the large ones, go big on celebrating the arrival of New Year. Decorating the community with lights, cultural programs with DJs and local celebrities, and lighting fireworks are common.
Usually, compared to the rave adult-only parties in the city clubs, these parties are sedate affairs keeping in mind the sensitivity of the families. And the good thing is that even children can join these parties.
These evenings come alive with laughter, songs, and occasional dance performances in these days…
A small voice awakened Mr Mukherjee. He must have dozed off.
“Let’s get ready for the party.” urged his wife. She was standing with a cup of coffee.