Yes it is.
And what a feeling it is, to be writing this from my second home, my Calcutta, my room in the city which is witness to a version of me that only I had the privilege to see. A version that I saw through the 85 years old yet “shiny-as-new” mirror in an equally old, “built during the British times” building that still stands, a little less strongly, but in well-preserved pride and glory.
Such is the Calcutta I know. It stands tall on its heritage, it takes pride in the era gone by. The city breathes its past to sustain its present. It keeps you bound to your roots, while giving you all the chances in the world to fly. We Calcuttans have a saying – “Once a Calcuttan, always a Calcuttan”. I have found it to be very true. Calcutta is love. The essence never goes out. Any walk in any part of the world, reminds me of my Park Street strolls. Any bookstore anywhere, reminds me of College Street. Any boat ride anywhere, reminds me of Dakshineshwar, Belur Math and Princep Ghat.
Any happy conversation anywhere with a friend, reminds me of the conversations I have had with some of my most favorite people in the coffee shops of Calcutta. Some I don’t talk to anymore. Some don’t talk to me anymore. What would I not give to talk to some of them again! … A city is all about the people you have memories of in the streets of the city, don’t you think?
I know, not many people enjoy the slow, laid back Calcutta, the Calcutta that holds on to its roots so strongly, the city that is still neck deep in its past stories. Probably they are right. But I am not concerning myself with Economics (ironical, given my profession). It’s the poetry in the city that makes me fall for it every single time. Speed is thrill. Slow is peace. That’s the kind of poetry I enjoy… With a slow rhythm, a beautiful meaning. Something you can hum along while a tram crosses by with its ‘tan-tan’.
This city sings to you, a tune that only you can understand – while you are walking on the howrah bridge, or sitting on the banks of the mighty Ganges. While you are having a quiet breakfast at Flury’s or while standing at the edge of the local train compartment to feel the wind in your hair (and dust in your eyes!). This city sings to you while you live in it. I think every city has a song. Calcutta has Nobel price winning “Rabindra Sangeet”. Not everyone’s cup of tea, but those who get it never find anything more soothing that could talk to their souls.
I don’t know about the people of Calcutta in general. They are okay I think. My two and a half years of doctoral studies have taught me not to generalize without concrete proof and rigorous validation. But I know about the specifics. And they are brilliant! Calcutta and the people it gave me, have made me who I am.
Like the old British building I live in. It keeps you bound to your roots, but also nurtures you. Like grandparents do. It is not a backward city. It is a city that knows speed is not everyone’s answer. It is a city that loves you like your nani. While giving you history lessons, it teaches you to learn from the past, and grow with the realization – “home is where the heart is”.
Calcutta steals not the easy hearts, but the difficult ones, I guess. It keeps those who know how to rest. Maybe it’s not good for the city. But I don’t think Calcutta has ever cared about opinions. And that’s the kind of people it breeds. Carefree and beautiful. That’s the kind you find in the city of Joy.
Thank you second home for all the love and lovely memories, for the literature and the books, for the losses and the lessons, for your sheer yet subtle beauty. You heal me a little every time I step in. You are love!
(P.S – I have lost count of how many times I have written and deleted this post in my head. Finally, it’s up.)