Offside at Park-Circus Maidaan, Calcutta

Football matches at the Park Circus maidan are a common sight. The ground has six pitches, most of them occupied during summer evenings by local teams made up of college-going players. Passers-by tend to linger a while, expressing support for one team or another. Those keen to follow a full game squat on the grass around the periphery of the pitch, inching into the playing area as the game progresses. They are so close to the action that they are almost a part of it. It’s like watching a play where your seat is adjacent to and on the same level as the stage. However, unlike a theatre, you have to be alert at all times, lest a ball hit you.

That evening was no different. The Anglo Indian Park Union team was playing in red jerseys and the Desh Bandhoos in blue. All attention seemed to be riveted on them. Other teams, playing without proper uniforms, came across as ragged outfits in comparison. Most of the spectators being Bengali-speaking, were Desh Bandhoo supporters. This cheered the team no end. An unusual sight that evening was the presence of a sizeable number of enthusiastic Anglo-Indian girls among the spectators.

Desh Bandhoo were being ably led by Dilip dada (elder brother), as he was called. Eighteen-year old Dilip was a big brother indeed. A hooligan and a bully, everyone feared him. As the whistle blew, he took control of the ball. Playing centre-forward with nimble footwork, he dribbled well. Moving skillfully through his opponents, he was in possession of the ball for almost a minute before passing it to his left-in, who managed to take control after some hic-ups. The left-in was a fast runner; he took charge and move towards the D. The opponents offered good resistance as they seemed to be a better team. Dilip was desperately waiting for a pass but it was almost a lost cause by the time he got one. It took a huge effort from him to dive to a header to score that goal. The crowd erupted into cries of ‘dada, dada.’

An Anglo-Indian lady gave Dilip a beaming smile. ‘What a beauty!’ thought Dilip, as their eyes met before a youngish-looking girl whispered something in her ears. He recalled the youngish-looking girl standing near their goal post with her friends, while the Desh Bandhoo players were changing for the match. Being a make-shift football pitch, there were no changing rooms on the ground. The players hadn’t taken kindly to this intrusion and Dilip, who was being scrutinised by the girls, had done something drastic. As if by accident, he had pulled down his football shorts to reveal something that had them scandalised. They had shot off immediately, much to the amusement of Dilip’s team mates who had had a hearty laugh, ‘dada, ki chomotkaar.’

The tables turned on Desh Bandhoo as the game progressed. Park Union were now able to penetrate their defense and score without much effort. The Anglo-Indian girls were proving to be a great distraction in their miniskirts, playing cheer leaders every time Park Union scored a goal. The leg show and the lusty cries of the spectators ensured that Dilip and his mates could hardly concentrate on their game. It appeared to be a losing cause.

What happened next was not in the spirit of the game. A major dispute broke out as the referee wrongly called an offside. Supporters from either side invaded the pitch and beat up the referee before attacking the players. The game had degenerated into a fight between the two sides and their supporters. Given the sheer number of supporters, Desh Bandhoos held the upper hand. The situation was indeed grave for the Anglo-Indian women; their safety was in question. Sensing the danger, Dilip headed in the direction of the Anglo-Indian lady who had smiled at him, placed her on his broad shoulders and ran to the safety of a building across the road. The wail of police sirens drowned out her screams.

Dilip rushed to a balcony on the first floor of the building. He put the lady down, but held on to her hand in a firm grip, only to be stung by a tight slap across his left cheek. This shook him up. He was about to retaliate when the lady screamed, ‘you want to rape me, you scoundrel.’ ‘Why have you brought me here?’ she screamed again. Dilip did not know what to say, he just tried to calm her down but she wriggled out of his grip. He was mesmerised by her looks and started to move towards her. ‘Stay away from me,’ she screamed and he stopped dead. She is a strong woman, he thought. ‘I am sorry’ he said. Composing herself, she looked down at the scene below and exclaimed, ‘oh my God!’

By now the police had assumed control and were busy rounding up the rioters and the girls. Dilip saw her concern. He wanted to calm her down, but equally, he was aching to take her in his arms. ‘Don’t you dare touch me,’ she exploded like a lioness, ‘I am old enough to be your mother.’ He was aghast in disbelief. He noticed her looking at the girls who were handcuffed and being led to the police van. She looked at Dilip sternly and again looked at the scene below in helplessness. ‘I am their teacher and look what I have done,’ she said and broke down. Dilip was shaken up. He was dying to make amends and struggling to think of a way to help her out of this mess. ‘It’s not wise for me to go down now, they will arrest me too. How will that help?’ she said. ‘I will do, whatever you… you… ‘ Dilip started to stammer, his desire to be in her arms grew ten-fold. Dilip saw her look of disgust as she told him ‘you have such a dirty mind, you deliberately undressed me in front of my students.’

‘I am sorry, I didn’t mean to, it was just a reflex action in the heat of the moment. I will do whatever you say now,’ said Dilip. ‘Let’s go the police station to bail them out’ she commanded. Dilip sprang into action. He ran down and she after him. He hailed a rickshaw and they quickly headed towards the police station.

Don Vinny – The Tale of the Sensitive and Elegant Mafia Don

An Introduction to Don Vinny:

Mafioso Extraordinaire

Don Vinny sits before the open balcony to his elegant villa, caressing his favorite cat – Figaro… a fine crystal glass of Montelpucino on the nearby mahogany table. He casts aside the unlit cigar which was anchored between his lips (he never lights his cigars as he considers the aroma ” crude and invasive”). He opens his flip phone and barks out orders to his henchmen, typically men with tough faces but ordered to wear tuxedos while “on the job”. They do however carry small plastic sheets in the unlikely event that blood should spatter on furniture during any planned jobs, whether that project entails knocking off an adversary, robbing an art venue, or simply having his soldiers “politely” change somebody’s disposition on an issue. Don Vinny is eccentric, putting the term mildly.

Don Vinny does not carry a gun, and refused do so, instead he carries, among a sundry things, a lint remover, once having chastising a formidable enemy for not properly maintaining his suit during a gambling game gone bad The distraught foe shuddered as Don Vinny slowly reached into his dark overcoat- pulled the instrument out and gave the guy’s topcoat a thorough brushing while henchmen held him down. The local police force, which secretly tolerates and even applauds his style, maintains appearances in order to preserve the civil order.

Children love the Don, as he often doles out chocolates on the streets, local housewives frequently approach and consult him on decorating tips and trade food recipes, while the local priest and he are chess/playing buddies Don Vinny, although serious, is immensely gracious. His henchman once seriously roughed up a local adversary- only to have the affable Don thereafter immediately invite his nemesis to dinner at his mothers home for Veal Peccada and Gnocchi ala Putanesca.

Always surrounded by beautiful women – Don Vinny is now distracted in the midst of planning his next project. Always the quintessential mafia metrosexual, the heist is being orchestrated, as are all jobs, with sensitivity and an eye toward minimizing violence… Don Vinny would rather rearrange somebody’s furniture, then their face. He eschews violence of any kind, and tries not to rub anybody out, unless totally unavoidable.

His most recent project involves robbing an Italian Art Museum, the proceeds of which are to go to his favorite charity, the local Sisters of Miraculas Mercies, a local group of sweet nuns who raised him as a child, and for which there exists mutual admiration. The sisters are unwittingly frequently drawn into many of Don Vinny’s organized “projects” but in concert with the eccentric Don, they carry out their joint ventures with minimal violence, and always a modicum of style

The Spit-Fire

Even the closed bedroom door could not shield the shrill of the door bell. I woke up and switched on my mobile to check the time. It was very early. We had been new to the place and the visits of the usual newspaper vendor or milkman or maid or the laundry guy had not yet been formalized. Who could it be? I got up and trudged lazily to the door. Felt happy that my wife was still sleeping peacefully. I closed the bedroom door behind me, and as I did so the shrill of the door bell caught me squarely. That someone outside had to be an impatient customer.

I opened the main door and was surprised to find our landlord right in front. His short and thin figure was upright; his longish face with a hairline mustache showed unmistakable signs of agitation and his eyes, still puffy from sleep, were blazing.

“Good morning!… ” I began in the customary way.

He ignored it completely, “This has never ever happened in my house! How is this possible?”

“What happened… ?”

“Just cannot imagine! Preposterous… crazy… !” He paused for effect shaking his head in all possible directions.

“Hello mister, would you please tell me whatever may have happened and, which concerns us!” I could not hide my irritation at this unexpected disturbance at the dawn of the day.

“Okay, see for yourself! Please follow me… ”

I did so moving with him to the concrete passage outside running along the front side of the building. Out through the grilled entrance he stopped at the centre of passage, looked down at the ground on both sides angrily. He motioned me to do the same.

Then only I realised the cause of his agitation. There were two big sprawling red spots both sides of the concrete floor just behind the main gate. Instantly I identified these as paan spit-a rush of reddish saliva caused by chewing a heady mix of betel nut, betel leaf, lime and with or without tobacco. But why was he telling me all this? How on earth could I be held responsible?

“Oh! Someone has made your compound dirty with paan spit. Such sort of people always does it on the corridors, on the lifts… ”

He cut me short, “As I told you this has never happened at my house in my memory! You came in few days back, and since then a lot of people visited this house for the odd jobs and re-dos as you ordered. You see… !”

Yes, I saw it clearly now. As he claimed this had never happened earlier and so it had to be one of those plumbers, electricians and other vendors we called in. He continued, “… Please ask them, quiz them… who must have done this obnoxious thing! Don’t spare them! I’m certain that one of your people did this!” And now, I found this term of ‘your people’ really obnoxious! Temper was slowly rising within me which I controlled… rather I had to, because we were new and this should never turn into a confrontation. As I was searching for the ideal thing to say the caretaker joined us with a bucket of water and a broom, to my escape. He looked up ruefully at me, “Finally I have to do the cleaning up… !” The landlord decided to stay on to supervise.

My wife was up and about when I entered and narrated the episode. She had a hearty laugh and welcomed the landlord’s zeal for cleanliness. I agreed. It had been a national campaign to make your surroundings spick and span. However, I couldn’t agree to the accusing tone in the landlord’s otherwise righteous agitation.

Over the next few days we did ask our normal visitors with the expectation that nobody would confess doing it even if s/he did. We also warned newcomers never to do this type of misdeeds. During this period we also noticed a significant decline in our visitors. Quite a few of them in fact didn’t turn up at all for some much-needed touch-ups in the jobs they had done earlier. I was getting concerned knowing well that the family of the landlord must have been on the job too. One day our temporary maid confirmed my fears. She confided to my wife that she was quizzed by the landlord’s wife if she or any of we two had the chewing habit. I decided to have a talk with the landlord.

The agitation was longer in him that day and I was happy to see that. I came to the point straightaway.

“Look mister. It’s a very good thing that you are so concerned about cleanliness and we wholeheartedly support this. But we’re pained that you’re pointing the finger at us. Even if any of us has this habit why should you be suspicious about us? We’re responsible citizens and we’ll never litter our own surroundings. You see, the lane outside your gate is a public place and any of the passers-by could be doing this, out of habit or for mischief. And, it is not possible for you or us to monitor them throughout the day. So please don’t scare off our visitors. Few of the jobs are still half-done. You see, harassment should never be a part of any good thing you must be doing. Hope you understand!”

If he understood he didn’t show any sign. He only nodded his head several times uttering some monosyllables. I let it rest at that. If you rented a place then the landlord was your true boss, and as the saying goes the boss is always right. And, it was hardly the time to look for a new house.

Chinmay Chakravarty is a professional creatively engaged in writing. He has a special liking to see people happy and smiling always. So he has devoted a sizeable chunk of his writing time to humor pieces based mostly on daily life and observations. He is an officer of Indian Information Service and presently working as a Joint Director. Published his first book on Humor ‘Laugh and Let Laugh’ in 2017.