Beyond the Jhalla

I grew up in what, in those days, could be called an almost perfectly middle-class Bengali family, one that abided by a set of even more perfected middle-class Bengali values. Long after it was available, we did not have television in our house – my father had almost no doubt in his mind about the power of the 'idiot box' to sway his sons' minds away from their studies. Likewise, the telephone remained an item of considerable luxury. Even amidst these typically frugal settings, however, Bengali families of that era did not stint on spending on a few indulgences. For some, this niche was travel; for others, the performing arts. In our case, it was the cherished family gramophone.

In my mind's eye, I can still clearly see that wondrous contraption. As you opened the wooden box, a white stylus would rise up to greet you, shining in majestic glory. This was a Garrard, which had been a pukkah Londoner till, sometime during the 1960s, it had found its way across the sinful seas to a small corner of our house. There was only one technician in all of Calcutta whom my father ever trusted for repairs, on the few occasions when the need arose. Whenever the possibility of feuds would crop up between us siblings (mostly over watching films), I could never help but wonder to whom amongst us my father would eventually entrust this priceless piece of property.

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Himal Southasian