Millennium Post

Whose city is it anyway?

I was born in Calcutta in the summer of 1966. It was a time when Bengal was almost into famine but I heard my father had to wade through water to visit his son the day he was born. I never got a chance to stay in Kolkata as the best part of my childhood, adolescence and youth was spent in Dehradun, Pune and rest of the country. What I remember of Calcutta were those freak moments one spent during school and institute vacations.

In 2001, Calcutta suddenly became Kolkata though Telegraph continues to remain in Calcutta, perhaps for sake of good time. Of the 47 years to one’s credit, I actually started living in the city since 2009 post premature-retirement from the Indian army. I remember during the Naxalite period what the state went through and its relative aftermath. The youth went into hiding and the unlucky ones many of whom have faded with time and a few still bear the testimony of that period per se. What one never forgets are the roads, traffic and construction works that seems unending in the city. A city of joy for Dominique Lappiere and for conceivably many visiting foreigners is a matter to reckon with. A city that I sometimes call, a city of convenience, everything has a pace of its own. The dawn, afternoon, dusk and the night has its own kind of time bound pace which is unique. So are the living beings that have a typical behaviour seen only in Calcutta, I mean ‘Kolkata’. Being political for a moment one may even go by the fact that even the socio-politico background of the state and Calcutta in particular is unique in its parlance. Everything seems unique. In this scenario what hurts, is the embedded politics that have almost ruined the psyche and mind of the youth in the state. Those lucky ones have left the city of joy and those without much choice are there to follow the bandmaster. The brain drain that has occurred has its reasons. To point a finger at others is pointing four towards oneself, but it’s a fact that a city that was the erstwhile capital of British Raj is today not even enjoying an iota of legacy of British raj, except may be a few structures of mortar and lime and the Howrah bridge, which too has a threat from tobacco chewers and onsite spatters.
One often hear walking past a group of young men discussing politics and the parivartan they wanted to see with change of guard in writers. A comment that came flying, ‘they were worse, but these are worst’. I smile while completing the morning walk, at a pace, which is faster than the unique pace this city otherwise enjoys. I had been apolitical all through but the wisdom that I enjoy has the capability to analyse a lot of facts and figures on a comparative note. In a personal opinion, a lot that was desired has changed. The roads have improved manifold, the potholes have almost vanished and even if they arise here and there the same are covered up overnight. The traffic situation has improved considerably. The erstwhile Scotland Yard is seen at every nook and corner though the reckless Bangalibabu as they have been groomed through the years try their luck at jumping a light here and there and land in the platter of the smartly dressed traffic sergeant. These days one can see the two star traffic officers with their riding boots, on enfields sporting a rayban standing where one least expects. This does ensure better traffic discipline, though a lot is still desired.

A popular motto has evolved of now, Didi ki korche? Kothaye Didi? Didi amader jonye ki korlen? Kothaye sei parivartan? (What is Didi doing? Where is Didi? What has Didi done for us? Where is that change we are looking for?) Now my dear bhadrolok and bhadromohila, does Didi have a magic wand like the Mandrake or P C Sorcar? Is Didi as an individual, the only selected representative of the entire community that reside here in Bengal? The answer is no. Try asking a few questions to oneself. Has Didi asked you spit on the road? Has Didi asked the men folks to throw acid on women? Has Didi asked the men to outrage modesty of women?  We as the inmates of this state have to improve the state.

Didis and dadas can only assist in framing policies and governance. Much to dismay, the media too very surprisingly joined the candle march of hawabadal and hyped everything beyond proportion. Make one of those new-readers the chief minister and watch what unfolds. What we all fail to notice is what Bengal or Calcutta endured in last 35 years, it will take time for the so called parivartan to happen. The state today requires land reforms, industry, investors, employment and cash inflow towards path of growth. We have none of the above. What we have is the pool of human resource that can be groomed through self drive, motivation and urge to develop oneself. Strengthen the hand than reduce it to holding a bowl; we all deserve a chance to prove the mettle. More so, we don’t have to prove anything in a state that enjoys the most of natural resources and intelligent manpower. What we need is to channelise the energy in the right direction and see Calcutta or Kolkata prosperous as erstwhile poets had always visualised it as. What’s in a name or colour anyway?

The author is a retired Colonel

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