I didn’t even realise, I was <g data-gr-id="102">day dreaming</g> as my I-pod hummed,
But I’m sad to say I’m on my way
Won’t be back for many a day My heart is down, my head is
I have to leave this Kolkata town
Down the way where nights are gay <g data-gr-id="167">Boudi</g> ... and the sun... <g data-gr-id="154"><g data-gr-id="168">Boudi</g> <g data-gr-id="169">Boudi</g>,</g> when suddenly Harry Belafonte dozed off me from my small scale <g data-gr-id="170">nap</g> and I realised my maid was giving me a <g data-gr-id="171">wakeup</g> call. As I got back to music less reality, she asked me, “Tomake <g data-gr-id="172">kichu</g> bazaar <g data-gr-id="173">theke</g> <g data-gr-id="174">ene</g> <g data-gr-id="175">debo</g>?” (Do you need anything from the market) and I replied, “Na <g data-gr-id="176">Kichuna</g> <g data-gr-id="177">masi</g>” (No nothing <g data-gr-id="178">mausi</g>), hailing her off to get back to my Harry again. After chasing her off the door, as I was about to plug in my headphones, my eyes fell upon a book staring at me, the book by <g data-gr-id="153">Dominique</g> City of Joy, which my
husband gifted me after I had <g data-gr-id="106">spend</g> some four months in Kolkata.
As he handed me the book, we had a little chat Me: Why did Dominique even bothered to name this book on Kolkata City of Joy (mockingly!), rather he should have named it City of Patience.
Mr Husband: Why so? (amused!)
Me: Why? Don’t you see people out here have a hell lot of patience? They can noiselessly stand in <g data-gr-id="152">queue</g> for hours at an auto stand to catch an auto or bus, even at stations for train and outside restaurants. And of course during Durga puja when the city is teeming with tourists in addition to its own mammoth population, Kolkatans are at the height of their patience amid such chaos, chatting eloquently and happy for their turn to enter those puja pandals, even if they have to wait for entire night to get entry.
Mr Husband: Baby, this chaos is the catalyst that makes Kolkata the city of joy. Just give this city <g data-gr-id="115">some time</g> and I am sure you will fall in love with it.
I frowned and smiled at the same time recalling those lines by my husband. And I remembered the day when I landed in Kolkata and as my flight touched down Kolkata 15 minutes before the schedule, I just could not help but mumble ‘samay pe <g data-gr-id="142">rehna</g> <g data-gr-id="143">jaruri</g> hai <g data-gr-id="144">aur</g> Indigo <g data-gr-id="145">iske</g> <g data-gr-id="146">liye</g> <g data-gr-id="147">pratibadh</g> hai... Damn it maniacs!! ?”. It was not because, I had any reservations against the city but the fact that living in Delhi for four years amid my work and friends got me literally hitched to “Sadi Dilli”. When strings are attached, it’s hard to break up an engagement and I was painfully <g data-gr-id="149">pained</g> bidding farewell to the city more because shopping in Delhi was such a delight... Phew!
But as a matter of fact, Calcutta did grow on me and it grew so well that it <g data-gr-id="105">allured</g> to me create a special bondage with itself. While other Indian cities like Delhi, Bangalore, and Mumbai have marched far ahead in terms of infrastructure, lifestyle or culture, Kolkata is one such city which still moves at a snail’s pace as far as development is concerned. <g data-gr-id="122">Its</g> old rickety buildings, a ride on tram, the Victoria Memorial, Maidan, Esplanade, the Shahid Minar, all are living proof that Calcutta, the erstwhile capital of India still gyrates under colonial influence and proudly wears its cultural heritage on its sleeves.
Though Kolkata is a metro city there is nothing cosmopolitan about it and to be precise it’s a Bengali city. People of the city are the one who provide the city its true <g data-gr-id="116">Bengaliness</g>, living their culture in all forms, proudly conversing in their local language (while we North Indians feel ashamed of even uttering a word in our local dialect), learning ritual of Rabindra’s sangeet, art, dance by kids in every home, active theatre culture etc. It is a city which teaches you why simplicity is <g data-gr-id="307">best</g> virtue? How important <g data-gr-id="135">is</g> friendship and love? What is caring? Why art is <g data-gr-id="133">best</g> form of passion? Why knowledge is more important than money? Why <g data-gr-id="129">durga</g> puja is not just a brazen display of religion but a celebration of joy? Why you need to value culture? And more than that, there is more to life than to show off and being rich. It is <g data-gr-id="132">city</g> which will trickle down to your nerves, will pinch you hard and finally <g data-gr-id="130">sooth</g> your soul and mind with its uncanny revelation.
As the time to leave Kolkata is nearing, I wish I could go back in time and start over again, living the life of Kolkata with full fervour. It would be such fun again taking that ferry ride on Hooghly river, cherishing the boat ride on Princep Ghat and getting irritated with cacophonous city traffic. It would be worth listening to that <g data-gr-id="182">shankha</g> dhoni on <g data-gr-id="183">Mahalya</g>, rhythming beating of dhak and sound of <g data-gr-id="184">dhunuchi</g> doing the rounds on four days of puja, aroma of Shiuli filling the air and being a part of <g data-gr-id="185">anjali</g>, sandhi puja and <g data-gr-id="186">bisorjan</g> with all the fanfare at peak in the city. Then the sight of those dusky beauties of <g data-gr-id="188">bhadralok</g> with their almond shape eyes filled with kohl in crispy sarees paired with sleeveless deep neck blouses and that oomph factor, who says you need makeover specialists or stylists to look good? And how can I not miss that scene of Park Street with shoal of people <g data-gr-id="189">doting</g> every corner of the street on Christmas Eve, air filled with smell of <g data-gr-id="190">fruit cake</g> and wine with lot of festivities and dancing.
It is the city which lives life to the fullest. It constantly holds lessons and practical sessions for people to learn. It teaches that amidst all crowd and chaos in life, we should have all the fun which is the essence of human living. It demonstrates to the world that religious festivals like Durga <g data-gr-id="140">Pujo</g> or Christmas which are celebrated with same gusto here are not just about chanting mantras or establishing superiority of any religion but a beautiful convergence and melange of culture, heritage and celebration of life. It explains that old is gold and it’s needed that we preserve our ancient heritage for our young ones to be proud of their roots. It shows the world two different generations can live in perfect harmony by exchanging and learning life lessons together. Kolkata is not just a city; it is a way of life in itself.
Well, I almost forgot the most important of all lessons, <g data-gr-id="126">mishti</g> doi (punchline of every Bengali meal) is the best solution of all stomach-churning issues (digestion, scrupulous gas, fart... yeah anything). And do have <g data-gr-id="127">sandesh</g>, <g data-gr-id="128">rosogollas</g> to get ‘immune ki shakti’ and glowing skin of Bengali damsels.
Sometimes destiny takes it course and we are left with no options but to move on with it. It was a pleasure living in Bengali heartland and the Bengaliness that city has taught me will stay with me forever. Like Bengali women bid farewell to Goddess Durga feeding her with sweets, with heavy heart, I bid adieu to this <g data-gr-id="290">bhodrolok</g>, feeding my heart with <g data-gr-id="291">rosogolla</g> memories (read as sweet memories), spanning two years of my stay in the city and <g data-gr-id="292">aami</g> <g data-gr-id="293">tomake</g> <g data-gr-id="294">shob</g> <g data-gr-id="295">shomaee</g> <g data-gr-id="296">amoni</g> <g data-gr-id="297">bhalo</g> <g data-gr-id="298">baashbo</g> (And I promise to love you always as you are). #LoveKolkata