Calcutta & me!

Calcutta and me!!
30th May 2012
I always wanted to see Calcutta as I had heard so much about the city.
If you ask me what I heard then to be honest there is nothing in specific that I can take out and say this ‘famous thing’ about it.  But still Calcutta was always in that list of cities which I had to visit.
And my desperation to go there was so evident to everyone around me that my boss happened to make my visit possible to Cal on a Work visit (Thanks indeed!)
Rushed from office and I headed to the airport… found my ticket and joined the line to get my boarding pass. First though that occurred to me was to look for Bengali stereotypes (human nature you see!!). But, there were only a handful of them with those typical looks! I realized that the intermingling of cultures and standardization of clothes i.e. jeans & t shirts is very prominent … dialects still help you distinguish!!
Anyhow, it was a reasonably long queue… the impatient Punjabi in me sidelined a middle aged man (I just stepped ahead and stood next to him). Count 5 in your head & there was a voice ‘ Mam there is only One queue’ He meant – YOU WERE BEHIND ME AND SO PLEASE DON’T TRY TO BREAK THE LINE! Whoof.. My immediate response ‘Of course you are before me!! (How much I meant it, I doubt!!)
But I was reassured of the fact that I am in the right queue! 😉
I collected my boarding pass and ensured that I don’t have the middle seat! (Escaped the pleasure of being placed between two bongs for two hours-No offence to my very dear bong friends!! )
I happened to commence reading ‘Argumentative Indian’ by ‘Amarya Sen’ a few days back and carried the same in flight. A middle aged man sat next to me (I got the window seat).  I did expect to find a bong next to me. He was reading a book on Indian Philosophy… He started a conversation by sharing his review on books by Amartya Sen… I nodded in response. Later we had a small conversation here & there … about economics and cities we belong to and he shared his card.
Next I comprehend that I presumed too much even before a safe landing; as Mr  was just visiting Cal and  sadly was not a Bengali!!
“Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose International Airport welcomes you!!” is the next thing that you hear and you smile!! That smile was not for landing safely but for the name you just heard!!
-Airpot Exit- (Hustle bustle of the sound… Kemo nacho .. bhallo achhi.. aami Tumi jaachhi… ekta.. jal kabo ….and more )   Though language is not a problem there… Firstly I do grasp bengali here & there… and mostly people there speak hindi!! #Goodthing
The first attractive thing that I saw was the yellow taxi(s)!! (Indeed I loved them).
I was really keen to find those typical Bong folks… but again largely the attire now a days is too similar. But, I was pleased to see the most typical image of some middle aged men with specs & moustache wearing Pleated pants with shirt tucked out and carrying umbrella over their head! J
Also, you do find men playing cards on street in other cities. But a game of chess on the pavement is the difference you will notice in Cal!!
Lucky me… got a cloudy weather but humidity was not kind to me! Started the day with my first ever visit to Victoria Memorial (lovely gardens) and headed to Howrah bridge … It was more like a 45 minute city tour in car… but never the less I enjoyed it!
It always amuses me when I ask ‘bhaiya kitna door hain’ & ‘Bahut door h madam kam se kam 8 km’ is the reply. I wonder 8 km ko door kyu bolte h!  (Too habituated to Delhi)
As a part of my job I had to visit households … small houses… with small lanes- one room flats and basic requirements! I came face to face with some ground realities and differences of how people live and how different our wants are from needs!! (Theoretically the difference is known to us… but practically it hits you only at a few occasions!)
To me, it is a small simple city with rich oozing culture. The essence of British Raj is reflected in its streets, buildings, food, attire, talks etc… (Even though all the effort has been made to bring that change in name by making it ‘Kolkatta’ from ‘Calcutta’ ;))
It is perturbing to see one of the four metros… still faced by immense poverty … street side beggars …existence of riksha pullers (to my surprise that was not a rare sight  L !!)
The city is there and yet not there… Known for its intellectuals and abundance of creative knowledge, fight for ‘have nots’ against those ‘haves’ – It seemed to be all loquacious stance more than the action to be taken in time!!
Mixed feelings prevail… City will still charm you with what it has!
P.S. – And finally I visited Calcutta!
I was happy but not too pepped about the visit. I believe my tender attitude and mild expectations gave me the ultimate pleasure to admire the city for what it is in a short span of time!

About ctulika

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