Kolkata- An Ode

It was my grandfather who migrated from Jodhpur to Kolkata [Calcutta then] in the 1950s in search of greener pastures. Infact, he had no other option, he was propelled out of his hometown for he had failed his final examination and was thus denied the graduation degree! So began the enthralling saga and 30 years hence, I was born from the womb of the City Of Joy, laying the seeds of the mother of all love stories.

Today sitting in Bangalore, I reminisce about those good old days and my love for Kolkata only increases and the heart grows fonder [I sincerely hope Kolkata feels the same for me!] Drives across Vidyasagar Setu over the river Hooghly, playing cricket in Maidan, drooling over kachauris and lassis from Sharma’s, metro rides to my grandparent’s house, sleepless nights during Durga pujo and many more are intrinsically embedded in the memory of my teenage years. Every place boasts of its idiosyncrasies and most souls are proud of and deeply attached to their birthplace. So am I, and my love for Kolkata was betrothed last month as I stood by the river Hooghly raving at the setting sun juxtaposed alongside the second Hooghly bridge. [Vidyasagar Setu]

Kolkata, the former capital of India may have failed to hop onto the development bandwagon, but not many are complaining as it retains its charm and continues to exude the same old warmth and laidback sprit. Kolkata veritably called the City of Joy is home to as many as 13 communities who have blended and grown with the native Bengalis for years. This fusion of both national and international communities as well as the city’s patronage of arts has earned it the title of the cultural capital of India. Travellers from across India relish the delectable cuisines at offer here and the city’s street food and chaats have engendered many outlets across Indian cities and towns. Glitz malls and technology parks may have given it a miss but Kolkata continues to enthral and captivate culture- connoisseurs.

My need and attachment for my hometown hit me like a jet of water only when I moved out of it. I grew cold as I missed the warmth and love of Kolkatans. I spent hungry evenings over unavailable jhal muri and phuchkas. I walked to college and my mobility was restricted as I rued the absence of metros, trams and ubiquitous buses. I passed holidays talking to new friends about football games at Kolkata’s century old clubs and lush parks. Nights extended longer as thoughts raced from midnight drives by the river to post midnight dinners at street-side dhabas. My showers went quiet as I could no longer hear the bands playing at pubs and restaurants. My heart ached as it longed to return where it lay.

I think Kolkata has shaped me into what I am today in more ways than one. The cosmopolitan culture and education broadened my outlook allowing me to appreciate different people and their ideologies. The laidback atmosphere imbibed in me nonchalance so I can enjoy and relish my time while others partake in the melee and daily hubbub, though it’s worth is always debatable. Sports taught me how to make friends and I would like to think it made me a brighter boy as well. The street food made my immunity system infallible and the crowds and the rush showed me how to blend in, being solicitous of one’s surroundings without ever losing direction. Thus, it is rightly said that a person’s personality is moulded by the place he comes from. Kolkata has not only shaped me but is a part of me from which, I will never be able to detach.
Nilesh Lodha

[Image Source; http://www.planetapes.com/photos/calcutta2-wide.jpg]