SHASWATA KUNDU CHAUDHURI, Kolkata: The delicious smell of roasted chicken, steaming momos, dressed salads and brewing coffee salivated the tongue as much as the sight of tiny cupcakes topped with variously hued cream. This is how one might recall the first impression that CalBunka – a flea market with food, shopping stalls, music, wrestling, games and other activities – makes.
The food stalls were on one row while the opposite hosted stalls selling customized perfumes, beard oil, cosmetics, handcrafted earrings, jewellery, shoes and paintings. Held on the twin green lawns of The Stadel, Kolkata over the weekend, CalBunka was an experience that was overwhelming in its totality.
The pungent smell of stage smoke mingled with the sweet perfume of hookah as onlookers puffed and swayed to Sahana Bajpaie’s husky voice. Light hustles on the soundscape transmitted the folk tunes to the bodies of the crowd, busy cheering and recording videos. The beat picked up to make room for applause for the twinkling guitar solo to culminate in the big climactic sonic wave that washed over a joyous ‘Whoooo!’ from the crowd.
On the other lawn, adrenaline was pumping much more furiously! People were staring at the bare-bodied contestants fight it out in the wrestling arena. Punches to the head, kicks to the ribs and various forms of choke-holds and grappling was absorbed with equal parts excitement and revulsion (for the more sensitive onlookers).
A stall that saw continuous footfall was selling various items created on the styles of indigenous art forms including Madhubani paintings from Bihar, Phad scrolls of Rajasthan, Kalamkari and Nirmal prints from Telengana.
“Our main motto is to promote hand-made things in the digital age so that people find renewed interests in this,” said Utsha Nandi, one of the three young women who ran the stall. They are from different professions but do this out of passion. “Madhubani paintings are selling like hot cakes,” she divulged when asked about the most wanted item in their stall.
The corridor between the two lawns was turned into a gallery which displayed paintings and photographs. The art trail led past the glass-enclosed gaming zone beside which a DJ churned out hip-swinging beats. Couples lounged on the porch, sipping drinks and smoking.
Oblivious to all this, a potter sat at her crafting wheel, calmly demonstrating to a small kid how to shape his fingers and gently cup the rotating wet clay which would eventually take the shape of a cup. “People want to take back souvenirs from a single session. How do I explain that it’s not possible?” said Ishwari Basu, adjusting a strand of hair with her wrist, as her hands were clay streaked.
“Not many went for a turn at the wheel, but nearly all my completed products got sold. Two people also joined up for my class,” she smiled, buoyed by the addition to her nascent venture in pottery.
The general humdrum was happy. Elegantly dressed people, mostly young, formed the major section of the crowd. Srijita Kar Chowdhury, a visitor, was quite taken by the gallery. “The experience is really nice. The best thing is the music as it’s not only one kind,” she said.
Indeed, besides Bajpaie, Mumbai based post rock band As We Keep Searching entranced people, as did Qirdaar from central India. The closing act, Kolkata’s rap-rock moguls Underground Authority was phenomenal. Right from the first chest-jarring beat on the bass drum, the ambience was furiously amped up. The crazy swirl of thunderous rhythms, spit words and in-your-face guitar solos called the entertained from all corners of the venue to the stage. To consume the final slice of the night’s thrill.