Finding the Joy in Kolkata

‘Why… the city of joy?’ I asked myself over and over again. Never before had I ever reflected over this. That night I wanted an answer from within but there was none.

The question was as simple as ‘what is the capital city of India?’ Our capital city! I have always found Delhi an extremely fascinating city. Rakesh Om Prakash Mehra’s Rang de Basanti and his recent Delhi 6 shows Delhi as ‘Dilli’ and has always drawn me closer to the city. Delhi, the city of extremes… Its winter, its summer, the universities, the night life, the history… the city from where India began its independent journey! Many a times have I thought of migrating to the city, finding a job, and to start an independent life humming, ‘Yeh Delhi hai mere yaar..’ but the recent ties, the existing responsibilities has always tied me to boundaries of my own city. ‘The city of joy’… I was staring at the monitor again and the dark blue letters were glaring at me…

“‘Ulysses: I was doing a bit of a research on Kolkata and it says ‘the city of joy’?’
‘Me: umm.. yeah that’s my city’
‘Ulysses: and what is it ‘the city of joy’?’
‘Me: I donno… brb”

This is a French friend of mine who has a great deal of interest in Indian culture, aesthetics, and history and now my city. ‘He is so curious about every damn thing!’ and I signed out of yahoo. But I realised that I was not getting annoyed with him but with myself for not being able to find an answer. The real fact is I had never found anything joyous about Kolkata, nothing fascinating and had always dreamt of moving away. What has the city ever given me? Polluted streets, yellowed newspapers flying across the road, the drains blocked by rotten plastic bags, glares of dirty men trying to see through my clothes and the river Ganges with the tinge of sewage water flowing beneath the flyover that my car crosses everyday to take me home. I knew almost every part of the city and there was no new discovery to be made, nothing that would make me feel butterflies inside, nothing at all. It is the same way that I took to work every day, and same way back home for the last four years and there was not a single moment of ‘joy’ that the city has offered in these four years. I took refuge to music instead of glaring back at those dirty looking men who stared (sometimes even pass a remark) at every women that they passed by. It is always a pleasure to plug into the soothing beats of Plain white T’s or James Blunt or even the loud ‘Delhi 6’and I can feel only my feet in a furious active motion and the mind is shut tight enough to avoid the bitter facts of the city. I was scared to think that I perhaps I loathed every corner of my own city. Kolkata has witnessed tremendous developments in the last decade. New bridges have come up where shabbily stood some scattered slums a few years ago, the IT sector got built in no time, shopping malls suddenly got erected out of nowhere and I had found myself in the first multiplex of our city six years ago! The big trees that swayed across the roadside have been replaced by large buildings and small tufts of green can be seen peeping out of somewhere. Kolkata is enjoying its share of developments and suffering from its share of pollution and the results of climate change that the entire world is talking about. I do read the newspapers thoroughly enough to come across such news which talks about rape cases, environmental issues and terrorist attacks in Delhi. So what is so alluring and warm about the city which draws me away from my own city? Is it just Rakesh Om Prakash Mehra’s movies?
I shut down the computer and headed home with just one thought which ravaged my mind… ‘The city of joy… And it cannot offer me my share of joy!’