Monday, August 21, 2006

The other side of the world: Part 1

As requested by Simah:

These entry is a glimpse into Benggali culture living in Calcutta based on my own personal experience and not a thorough research.

I think I shall start with the people themselves, we in Malaysia used to call people with turban as Benggali, but actually they are Punjabi(Singh / Kaur) and their origin are from Punjab, a different part of India. Benggali are from Kolkata or Calcutta, situated next to Bangladesh and Nepal.Their language is of course Benggali not Hindi,Tamil or Urdu, different part of India have different unique culture and so does the people, their skin, the language, their food, economic almost everything.

Some of them looks like Nepalese and Malaysian with brown skin tone and women still wearing sari and men in loongy (pelikat).Even though they wear white shirt or sarung it looks pale and greyish due to dusty condition and the water quality.

The place that we stayed was in a village near Bartala (a trading area with port)and I referred it as Chota Masjid Village (chota means small). Calcutta used to be British administration centre and then under Communist, so there are still evidence especially graffiti at shop lots. Bartala is so crowded and far from imagination. You could hardly see this in a movie except for Discovery/ N.Geographic documentary, if there is any. There are people everywhere and the ration is almost 40 people per one car on the street!!The road is in bad condition with no proper drainage and garbage collection point and people pee almost everywhere.

My FIL brother's house (Bhod Babu, Bhod means Big -> so big uncle) is only few minutes from this street and the car need to pass by a narrow road, at first it wasn't a great ride coz I was afraid that it could dive into a pool, there are pool (puker) everywhere in this village. This village is different from what we see in Tamil movie with buffalo walking slowly in a green field, houses with big lawn, but one similarity is one house is filled with 2 or 3 family.

It used to be a green field with puker but when the population increased houses were built closed to each other with 2 floor to accommodate extended family, besides most of the villagers are related.There are houses that separated only by 1 meter gap with no perimeter drain, no gutter and no toilet! Some who could afford might invest on this otherwise go naturel..But we were very lucky, Bhod Babu's house has been extended and upgraded to Malaysian requirement by my FIL, he don't want his menantu too feel kekok and face any difficulty.

Most of the houses are flat roof, the reason is when the son got married he will have to stay in that house and since land is scarce he need to go vertical. These flat roof is also a dry yard with 6 meters colourful sari hung from the rope down the first floor and a playground for kids especially for kite season. I don't know whether you could imagine this but it was surreal and beyond expectation..too far.

They are poor people but with warm heart and good hospitality, only men are allowed to work especially as tailor,helper at dhorji while women have to take care of the house chore. There are many dhorji inside the village but it wasn't a proper shop some are just 3 wall with a curtain to hide their design. Every month they will sell their product at a bigger market where traders from all over India will come. Some women do involves in this trade but they work from home with small amount of wages. Their bedroom is their storage, some even worse, one small room with 3 people from 3 generation living in a dark room which is their only bedroom,living,dining, and work space..there is no mattress only thin matt, I saw this with my own eyes the day I went to say goodbye.


simah said...

thank u for this one entry..thanks for sharing ur experience..

laaa kesiannya orang kat sana..i mean i cannot imagine living a life like room 3 generations n all..

my question is..
1.orang benggali n orang sikh tu ..what is the difference?i always terconfuse diaorang..

2.r they all totally depending on agriculture for a livelihood..that is la selain bekerja for the shops (kalau i tak tersalah paham la)

3. if they r so poor...what about education? do they go to school at all?

4. what r the girls' status in the society selain dari bila kawin jaga rumahtangga?

heheh sorry for asking too much questions..just curious..ada lagi soalan tapi tak terkeluar dari otak ni..

i bet ur FIL punya brother must have been soo happy for u both to go diaorang tido atas lantai tanpa tilam..korang pun sama ka tido atas lantai?

sue said...

simah, amboi panjangnye, tapi takpe since this is dedicated to u.
nanti i sambung pasal food pulak.

ada org senang, tapi mostly kat kampung yg i pi tu miskin,

1.sikh tu yg pakai turban dan yg kita panggil singh, mcm karpal singh or karam singh walia tv3, agama dia sikh(kalau tak silap), benggali ni mcm bangla, same language, rupa pun sama dan ramai muslim.

2. kat calcutta mostly depends on business not agriculture, satu kampung satu produk.

3& memang limited, girls ada yg sampai umur 12thn je sekolah, after that tunggu org pinang. kesian sebab depa still value their son rather than daughter, sebab bila anak pompuan kawin nak kena bagi hantaran kat family lelaki, ada yg minta skuter..betul tau.kalau belajar tinggi pun mostly tak dpt keja, atau ada yg family hantar keluar dr sini, so that they can have better opportunity.

FIL's brother was so happy, actually the whole village knew about our visit, about 30people congreggate at the house the day we arrived, and we had visitors almost everyday.

upper floor yg we all stay actually tak byk perabot, but since we went there together with his parents and brother's family, we occupied the whole floor and they bring their mattres, almari, sofa so that we feel comfortable, i knew about this the night that we were leaving, rasa terharu dan sedih sgt masa tu, they even bought 2 new mattress.kami tidur kat lantai tapi dgn kelambu.

simah, sedih sgt kat sana, sebelum i sampai i thought mcm dlm filem tamil, rupanya beyond that.i don't know how to explain.

thewailer said...

insightful! really opens up my eyes on a diversed culture :)

Queen Of The House said...

Dok imagine macam those National Geographic documentaries. But I guess you have to be there to really 'feel' it and experience the real thing. Sue ada ambik gambar?

Agaknya what would they think and feel if they were to come here?

sue said...

indeed, when i was there i notice that we are so lucky to have everything so comfortable compared to them.

gambar ada, tapi ada error bila nak attach, i'll try again later. Calcutta ni tak ramai tourist, MAS pun dah stop operation kat sana. memang kena ke sana and feel it for urself,it was a harsh journey, dusty,bumpy...but meaningful.

few of them has came here, that's why kalau kita perasan kenapa bangla2 kat klcc park suka ambil gambar siap posing tukar baju, sebab nak tunjuk kat family back home how different it is, they work hard to send enough money. We are so lucky :-)