Sheer Melody

A mole's eye-view of the Cosmos

Memories of Kolkata

Kolkata stirs up different emotions in different sets of people. For most Bengalis, it signifies homecoming, for some it signifies a lost part of their soul. For a lot of other people, it signifies culture, and for others, it is imperfection personified. All in all, it is a city with so much variety, so much beauty and so much ugliness, all in good measure that, you may leave it, but it’s tough to take it out of the mind…

Over the last few years, Kolkata has changed a lot. Sprawling malls and multiplexes have sprung up in the remotest nooks and corners of the city, and more are in the pipelines. The average income of the common man has increased by leaps and bounds, and things have started becoming expensive. The horrendous traffic seems less disorderly and more controlled. The IT industry has surged in bursts and a very conspicuous yuppie attitude towards life has become commonplace. However, in spite of all this, it’s amazing to find the soul of the city untouched, the charm continues unabated.

Constant separation from the city makes the heart grow fonder of its many abnormalities. Kolkata is unique in many ways, it’s a special place which disgusts at first, but somehow, with years of endurance, endears itself to you in no small way. It’s a city which can boast of discussions on music and art in as dingy a place as Olypub, in a backdrop of frustrated blue-collar professionals nursing a last drink before getting home. It’s a place where you can leisurely stroll in the dark by-lanes of College street, in a maze of booksellers and booklovers, enthralled, the musty smell of old books on your face and a spring in your step. It’s a place where you can enjoy the age-old ambience of the Indian Coffee House, and have a cup of coffee and relive the days of revolution, of unrest, of intellectual and pseudo-intellectual uprising. It’s a place where you can walk by the riverside, with your lady love, hand in hand, gentle breeze rippling through your hair as you watch the boats and the fishermen go by. It’s a place where you can enjoy an evening to remember in one dark corner of Someplace Else, with Amyt Datta playing the blues like never before, and have Long Island Iced Tea, the way it should be without burning a hole through your pocket. It’s the place where you can take stroll in the bright lights of Park Street, and feel comforted in its homeliness. In the days of Lighthouse and New Empire, it was the place where you could enjoy a furtive drink after the end of the movie in the overcrowded Lighthouse bar and restaurant. It’s a place where you can have the ubiquitous double chicken, double egg roll at Kusum’s, the way it should be, greasy and meaty at the same time. It’s a place where you can immerse yourself in Brahms, Mozart and Bach at a weekend recital in the Calcutta School of Music, and at the same time, marvel at the power of music and the talent of people. It’s a place which has Howrah Station, infamous for its crowds, poverty and all the wrong things, and as the train trudges into the incredible sights and sounds of this crumbling monument, you get a glimpse of one of the busiest stations in the country, and at the back of your mind, you see the Kolkata of yore. It’s a place where you can have fantastic breakfast, cakes and coffee at one of the best coffee shops in the country, Flury’s, far removed from the snootiness of Barista and the banality of Café Coffee Day. It’s a place where you have Outram Ghat, right opposite the imposing gates of Fort William, where you can hire a boat for an evening cruise on the gentle waves of the Ganges, and watch lovers, some happy, some embarrassed, on quick trysts away from the noise, the commotion and humanity. And in Kolkata, you have the Maidan, dotted with parks, with playing grounds, a window to a glorious past, a forgotten time, where you see the love of sports for what it is, uncluttered and unadulterated by politics and money.

Kolkata is changing, the people are changing, and the close-knit inquisitive neighbor has been replaced by the keeping-to-itself nuclear family, with the least interest in the outside world. The gentle banter of the people and the untarnished emotion in the common man has been replaced by a worldliness, understanding and control. But the yellow taxis are still there, and the dilapidated steel buses have not raised their rates by any big margin; and the people at some level have remained the same. Food is still the cheapest here than in any other city of the country; and the sweet tooth of the quintessential Bengali has not changed in the least. Kolkata still remains a charming city at heart, and never fails to imbue a warm fuzzy feeling deep down in my heart every time I go back…

1 Responses to “Memories of Kolkata”

  1. # Anonymous little indian

    Will always be my home, my only home,
    regardless of wherever I may be
    for the rest of my life.

    I wish that one day
    I will be able to make that one-way trip back.

    I have had more than a fair share of arguments with bloggers
    who loves to portray Kolkata to the world
    as a 'shit-hole'.

    You have written so well here,
    that one only needs to look beyond
    the dust and dirt to find
    hidden not to deep down
    a true gem.  

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