Let me tell you a small story.
This is the story of boy. And the boy is in Kolkata. Kolkata International Book Fair was in the city. He loved to read. He loved to smell. Smell the books.
So he went to the Book Fair. He bought few and smelled few. And he indulged himself in some gastronomic pleasure. It is traditional in Kolkata to munch something while you shop. And he did the same. While returning from ‘Milan Mela’ ground, he and his friends decided to hop into Arsalan for some ‘Biriyani’. Arsalan was full, so they headed to Aliah near ‘Dhormotolla’ and had ‘Biriyani’ and ‘Kebabs’ and ‘Phirni’. He loved calling himself a foodie and was proud of his taste buds. While returning home he took a bus. And the realisation happened there.
The bus was moving at a very slow pace, very typical to the average speed of Kolkata city buses, that too on a holiday. He got himself a window seat, rested his tired but happy body, and started enjoying the ride. He started watching the scenery outside. He felt as if the the city is trying to share her joy and warmth with him by rubbing her nose with his. He rubbed back and smiled. While moving his head slightly out of the window and enjoying the cool breeze, he thought he looked like a dog who is enjoying his flowing hair, to people on the roads.
As soon as the bus stopped near Rabindra Sadan, a bunch of people got into the bus, and his tranquillity was broken by the sudden hustle inside the bus. The conductor of the bus, in a very harsh voice asked everyone to move towards the end of the bus and make space for other passengers.
He was sitting in the front seat and the space in front of him got occupied by a group which he considered to be a part of the lower strata of society. He tried not to look at them as it would hamper his dreamy world, he thought, but a kid from the group, due to the crowd in the bus, was forced to sit in his lap. Her mother looked at him and smiled. He noticed that the group was big. There were 6 kids, a man and a woman, probably the parents, most of them wearing torn but clean clothes. The smallest one was in the lap of his mother, who was struggling to gain balance in the suffocating crowd of the moving bus. Then the next, around 4-5 years old, got hold of the window and was enjoying the scenery outside with his elder sister, the one forced to sit in the lap. The father was instructing everyone to stick together, otherwise they may get lost. The mother was stopping her kids from keeping their body parts outside the bus. It seemed that this as their first day outside, at least for the mother and few of her kids. They looked happy and amazed.
He hated the scene. He hated the way the kids were enjoying the scenery outside. He thought the window and the scenery as seen from it, belongs to him, and cannot be shared with those lower status kids. They talked, laughed and giggled in ‘bhojpuri’. When the conductor asked for ticket from them, the father said that they don’t have money. The conductor mumbled a few expletives to them and said, ‘Why do you people get on the bus when you don’t have money. Why do you come to Kolkata?’
He got amazed when the expletives uttered by the conductor did not steal the happiness from their faces, and when the conductor did not force them to get down from the bus. There was a boy around 14 years old with them. He seemed to be the eldest one and posed as ‘know-it-all’ in front of his other siblings. He explained the brands of cars moving on the road and warned everybody to keep their heads inside the bus. As soon as the bus passed the ‘Victoria memorial’, there was a sudden wave of excitement on the kids’ face. The y all looked at the memorial which was well lit at that moment of time with the moon just visible in the sky. The kid who got hold to the window pane, pulled the fringe of his mother’s sari with his small hands and said, ‘Ma, Look Victoria.’ And the mother who was busy balancing the baby and saving her other kids, leant a bit, and started looking at the ‘Victoria memorial’ with joy, amusement, astonishment and pain in her face.
And, at that specific moment felt ashamed. He realised that the window and the city Kolkata did not belong to him. It is to be shared and enjoyed. He felt that all mothers are same. Same as the city. They are busy protecting their kids and at the same time want to feel the happiness on their kids face. They feel secure with their husbands and are mesmerised by bright lights and monumental structures. The mother bent further and started enjoying the view outside with her kids. The girl sitting in his lap, for a moment, tried to push her hands outside the window and feel the air. He took her hand and forced it inside and said, ‘Don’t do that, it is dangerous’, with an authority like a big brother. He was happy again.
And that’s exactly why.
That’s why I love Kolkata. I love the smell in the air, the warmth in the sunlight. I love the Rabindra Sangeet that is played at the traffic signals. I know people will get pissed at the music during summers in a crowded bus stuck in traffic jam, but they will nevertheless love it. I love the metro trains, the underground subway, park street rolls, biriyani. I love underground, Someplace Else. I love City Center, South city. I love Durga pujo and Saraswati Pujo. I love Yellow taxi and green autos. I love shuttles and ‘dada ektu adjust korun na’. I love the way this city accepts. The way it has place for every person. It takes care of everyone. People from different city, state, country are happy here. I love Academy and Nandan. I love Oh! Calcutta and New market and Shree Ram Arcade. I love the crowd of Goriahat and silence of Rajarhat Highway. I love Metro, Jaya, Adlabs and Inox. I love radio Mirchi, miniskirts and ‘lal-paar-sada-saari’. I love when on a weekend some Bengalis are taking part in Kolkata marathon while some are spending it as a weekend trip at Mondarmoni, while some are reading ‘Anadabazaar Patrika’ with a cup of tea and ‘maarie’ biscuit enjoying the first rays of sunlight. I love St. Paul’s Cathedral, the morning walk in Victoria Memorial Park. I love the KC Paul as well as KC Dass. I love Haldiram’s and I love the parks filled with couples exhibiting love in parking places. I love the ITC House, Chatterjee International and S.D.F. I love Dalhousie and Sector 5. I love Burrabazaar and Saltlake. I love park Circus and College Street. I love Esplanade, Chandni, Chang Wah and Tolly Club. I love BBD Bag and Ultadanga. I love EM Bypass and Khanna Haat. I love Tollywood and fish.
I love hope.
I love Kolkata
~dedicted to 14th February – the day to celebrate love.
P.S. The spellings of the places are not to be used in spell bee. They are intentionally used to keep the feel of the place intact and has been tried to bring close to the colloquial language.