Piyasree Dasgupta gives a new definition,as it were,to luxury a tonga ride around the Maidan
Luxury,you would say,is probably a sleek Piaget on your wrist,an expensive wine-and-cheese date at an expensive dining address or an hour at a fancy spa. Luxury,I would say,is probably watching time brush past you and not feeling guilty about it. In this century. Now,if you have been thinking that sitting idle and looking out of the window is hardly an imaginative thing to do,think again and step out. The tonga in the Maidan is probably not the snazziest and fastest way of transport,but if whiling away time is on your wishlist,its the best you can get.
Ethnic opulence is probably what keeps them going you think. The ornate seats,mostly with white iron frameworks,remind you of grandmas favourite chair trussed in the attic or the funny wedding furniture that is a staple in most Bengali marriages. If subtlety is your daily bread,forget it. Because velvet-covered seats,often with golden detailing,is as much integral to the experience of the tonga ride as is the pungent smell of horses and their excrements that hit you when you walk down to the Victoria Memorial entrance.
If you are not to be perturbed by buses whooshing past you,the ride down the Red Road with cars flying past you can be quite delicious an experience. The wind in your face and hair is not something that comes to you easily in Kolkata!
Then again,when the cars wheeze past you,there is a delicate sense of joy. Not only because the canter of the horses is not something you are used to,and peanuts never tasted better,but also because,theres an almost sadistic pleasure in seeing the world around you in a rush while you amble around,as if you had all the time in the world. Its almost then that you realise why leisure is the most precious thing in the world.
Pesky drivers in a hurry are treats to watch as all they can do,when they want to rudely wheeze past you,is probably honk and wait until the horse decides to change its mind and make way. And if sadism takes over,you can actually look at the hassled busybody and smirk,inviting no obscenities at yourself. This is luxury. Sans guilt.