Monday, April 14, 2008

Shubho Nabo Barsho

Kolkata is a city that grows on you.

It would be now close to two years here. It is due to the amazing warmth that Bengalis are capable of, I have come to love being here- more than I had ever, ever imagined I could. Warmth is everywhere in the city. Also simplicity. And that hard to miss 'value for money' streak.

I started off hating the city with all my guts. The gloomiest part was sunset around five in the evening. Yes, the street lights are on around five thirty in winter! Back in Ahmedabad, on some days light persisted even till eight in the evening...

So every evening it felt extremely gloomy when the sun set unceremoniously. Mummy would fidget around, looking at me from the corner of her eye. Always around, offering this, that or the other thing to eat or do, her sole mission was to make me comfortable. But come evening and for an hour or two I would feel miserable no matter what. And then she would be at her sweet, confused loss of remedies and settle down in the corner of the room praying. She must have been flirting with bouts of asthama, as her preoccupation to keep the 'notun bau' comfortable just didn't leave her for a second.

Mummy smothered me with a constant presence, unrestrained affection, a stream of compliments coupled with a 'amaar bau khoob mishti' annoncement even to the people she met randomly on the street that left me red faced. I know how little it takes to make her happy. A short call, a dinner, a few chapatis is all it takes for her to go on the 'amaar bau...mishti' routine. I was initially psyched off with all the fuss, but if I love Kolkata today, she has a lot to do with it.

If you have just come to Kolkata and are not a Bengali, you might be grumbling and swearing and making faces about the lazy Bangali babu and the Cholche Cholbe attitude. I would advise you swear, shout, grumble and malign Kolkata to your heart's content. This would only be your initiation in a saga of undefinable love. Kolkata knows her mysterious ways to get loved and remembered.

You love Kolkata for the same reasons you hate it. The traffic jams left me fuming and cursing. I wondered why the hell should I have fallen for a guy from the opposite end of the map and consequentially spend lengthy hours of my newly-wed life in a traffic jam. Today, the same jams come and go and I am amazed at how the city has mellowed me down, made me patient.

I still have not been able to pinpoint what is that one thing that makes Kolkata so lovable.

It may be the passion that flows freely in the city. The passion to dress, to eat, to travel, opine, to lead or follow rallies, attend the Brigade, side with Mohun Bagan (or East Bengal!), to be lazy, to be laidback, pay respect to the thakur, discuss the stock and price of ilish, celebrate the puja, to do the puja shopping, walk miles to go pandal hopping to see the almost identical idols in different decors, to slog in the sun, pull the rickshaw and earn a petty sum, be grateful, to be honest to the point of being naive...

Bengalis come with their eccentricities, but in no time you start loving those. Yes, Kolkata grows on you.