Dispatches from India – Calcutta once more
So I have not been to Calcutta for 7 years. 7 years away from the city marked as my hometown on my passport. And many more years since I have actually lived there. I moved away when I was maybe 13 or less. I remembered a bright and cheery airport with huge, colorful Pipli lanterns hanging from the roof, but of course, they had changed the decor to a more decorous one. But when I stepped outside – it was like being back many many years in time. The crowd of people, a corwd known to be both benevolent and fierce was still there. So were some Jhalmuri walas near the taxi parking away from the airport. And most of all – a huge number of ambassadors, that sturdy, roomy car that was the vehicle of choice of our childhood. Mind you, in Delhi I had noticed almost no ambassadors. It seemed even the government officials who drove white amby’s by default now prefered mercs. But here, they were still there in full force. In yellow taxis, and white ones.
And then we drove through the night to old Calcutta, very close to new market. The roads we took were not the new ones I had heard about. Not the flyovers or the new Kolkata roads. But the old ones through Ultadanga past the tram lines, through manicktola and phool bagan, past the old Indian airlines building. And the new market area itself, sleeping at night was very much the same. I heard that there are great malls now and no one worth their salt really shops at new market. Maybe thats why it looked the same. There was the same population spilling on to the streets, sleeping under the sky. There were the same rickshaws – hand drawn rickshaws – with the rickshaw wala stealing a nap on his vehicle.
Tomorrow I would see the difference. Tomorrow I would see how the world has moved ahead in’Kolkata’. But now I was back in class 8, feeling as strongly about the little heaps of trash by the roadside, and as familiar and comfortable in the crowd as so many years back.
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