Friday, December 16, 2005

City of overused literary shorthands

They make fun yet I'm the one

Attempting to do some good

Or do you really want a neighborhood

Where people piss on your stoop every night?

Bohemia, Bohemia's

A fallacy in your head

This is Calcutta

Bohemia is dead

-- 'La vie Boheme'

Turn right off East Village, and instead of reaching the Czech republic you'll arrive, via a literary shortcut, at Calcutta --  or more accurately the version best understood as Dominique Lapierre's mordant sarcastic jibe about it being a City of Joy. Or as a City that is simply reaching out to be helped, and clothed and fed. As India's Babel that needs the ministry of the pious and that needs atonement to undo it's Bosch-like swirl of sin and iniquity.  

I actually heard the lyrics from Rent clearly this time round -- the Broadway theatre I saw the musical last summer had terrible acoustics. And I nearly gasped at this line. It's one thing to declare historical former central European nations dead, factual even. But why drag Calcutta in when Jersey City is there to compare. Or the largest waste-dump in the world? Neither was it urgent to rhyme with butter, flutter (wrongly), feta(closer) or any such intractable word. You wanna hear my opinion -- it's not wordly-wise or geography-savvy. Merely unimaginative.