Tarun was determined to get married on the 28th. Cheenu, his guru, had strongly recommended this date, after ample consultation of his horoscope, as it was the most auspicious of the available options. Firstly, it was within the bright fortnight and furthermore it would enable he and Abhay, his future wife, to escape the technicolour madness that is Puja and return to Orissa for their wedding. Durga Puja was such a chaotic mess that at the grand old age of 31 he felt that he had completely outgrown it. Long gone was the time where he would prepare for weeks leading up to it, his excitement reaching a fever pitch. Now it was just a four day long, raucous pain in the neck.

However before any marriage would take place, he was first obliged to renew his rickshaw permit ; and to satisfy all the babus in the corporation, it would have to be done in Bengali and in quadruplicate. That is why he found himself in Machuabazar hurrying towards M.G.Road with the intention of seeking out a scribe on this wretchedly humid afternoon early in the autumnal season of Shorot. Past the Armenian church and past the Muslim funeral parlours with corpses on show, he walked; past the yogurt-makers gently stirring their huge copper cauldrons and past the Kali and Ganesha shrines until he entered the seething hive of activity that was great market of Machuabazar – where, it is said, one can buy everything from a pin to an elephant.

As he pushed his way between the stalls, around the bearers and livestock, and through the putrid bog of knee-deep straw, mud and God knows what else, the hubbub-jumble of languages - Bangla, Hindi, Gujarati, Oriya, Marathi, Punjabi, Tamil, Sindhi, Assamese – tumbled out around his ears much like the rivers of fruit surrounding him. After making his way across the vast square, he eventually entered M.G. Road and turned right, heading towards the Howrah Bridge.

Propelling his way through the swarms of hotel touts, clusters of cripples and beggars, vehicles of every description and wave upon wave of people threatening to engulf the whole street and bring all movement to a standstill, he made his way doggedly up the thoroughfare until he was finally in sight of his destination.

As the first peels of thunder ricocheted around the buildings he arrived.
Normally the scribes seemed to be impossibly crowded together into every conceivable nook and cranny beneath the great domed vaults of the crumbling colonnades but today because of the storm, the situation was intolerable. In addition to the hordes seeking shelter, scattered amongst the scribes were the ear cleaners yelling, waving around their spatulae in an attempt to attract business and at the same time proudly displaying the evidence of their excavations on their left arms - from their wrists to their elbows, thick, glistening tiger-stripes of wax in a multitude of shades of brown.

Here on this street, Tarun thought, seeing is indeed believing.


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