There have been umpteenth attempts to chronicle the life and times of the city on numerous occasions before. I will be humble enough to not compare them with my choice of stories. But as they say..every Calcuttan is born with words they want to share with the world…I am no different. So what stories does this city tell when you first meet her in an unknown landscapes…..the portraits we term as the ‘North Calcutta gullies’.
I feel ashamed to acknowledge the fact that I had never witnessed North Calcutta in her full glory before. The sounds and sights of that part of the city which witnessed the historically accounted ‘Babu culture’ at its crowning glory. I feel ashamed that I discovered the hawkers of Hatibagan Bazaar so late. All my life I had been this pucca well bred South Calcuttan who could never outgrow her posh neighbourhood. My visits to the Northern parts of the city were restricted to admiring its museum like atmosphere. The ‘Mohunbagan Row’ near Shyambazar reminded me that how much of this city is still enamoured by football and the ghoti bangal divide…but it was only recently I discovered the legacy of the fight when I came across a hoarding of ‘Telengabagn sarbojonin’ painted in ‘sobuj maroon’ (green and maroon) colours. It made me realise that Calcutta is not just called a city for everyone by fluke. It has something for everyone. While I could not stop laughing at the rival colours, it made me realise that it is also a walk through a time warp. The city which loves to have its ilish-chingri debates on their iPads. Whoever told that Calcutta is a city of the past should think again. Yes! we love to preserve our privilege, but there is no harm in that….why should there be if we love to talk about our ‘Culture’..since we have one…..then why not flaunt it. And we do it far more subtly than other. But the presumption that goes with it- we cannot accept change….a newer wave, is horribly wrong. We are a city who love to dance on the beats of the dhaak during Durga Pujo at Maddox square…but we also love to listen to the bets of the music at Someplace else. Yes! we are a city who can successfully balance the both. We love food. We love to try everything new…..so in case we try out Italian at the newest and the costliest place in town (and don’t forget to let the world know about it ala FB check in app)…we never fail to appreciate the Kobiraji cutlets and the biriyani from Arsalan. It’s a huge crime if you don’t. Calcuttans are a happy bunch…because we live to tell stories of our joys, dreams, heartbreaks and pining(s). The pining for the city of love when they are away…..you can never get enough of the city when you are our…. so when the page on FB (Kolkata Tips) rationalises a meme saying something to the effect that when you are in here you curse the city…but when you are out…you long to be here…..they are actually true. You miss the city most when you are away. That’s when you realise how much you love the gorgeous greens of the Golf club road, the pestering heat and the newly turned Bonga localised Kolkata metro. Its everywhere. Ask me!
People termed me a fool when I left my big fat pay cheque and whims of a corporate life at Hyderabad last year. They warned me that Calcutta will not provide me enough of opportunities to explore. But did it really matter? What is an opportunity if you cannot share it with your loved ones? May be that is how I look at life and I longed to be back here….the only place in this whole wide world that I call ‘home’.
And I am happy I stood by my decision….even happier because Deep saw my point and supported me throughout. It took time, but Calcutta gave me an opportunity to explore in my career which I would have probably not got if I had decided to stay somewhere else..somewhere I don’t belong. I always had this dream of calling the shots..and I think I am getting there. And I love the fact that it hugely helps my bank balance too. I really want to make this perception clear that myths like money is less in Calcutta is hugely overdone. You really want to be exploited in the corporate world…bingo! they will give it to you anywhere…Calcutta to Colorado. Why blame this city only?
(To be continued)