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.

14 comments:

a new philosopher is born said...

indeed...i was in kolkotta for a month, this time last year. and all said and done, i realised that there is vibrancy of life there. i mean not as in hip-hop or crowd. one early morning, i was walking along the road ( i dont remember the road name.....its the one that goes from j university to cgcri to iacs) and i dont know i felt life, in a very strange way, as i have felt nowhere....
at that early hour hour, there was no traffic, no person to interact with, just a strange scent of life....still now coulnt understand it...

dharmabum said...

am sure the mau is khoob mishti - that much i can even make out from the blog, so don't be modest about it my dear friend!

ma sounds like a sweetheart. am sure u know how lcuky you are to have someone like that!

calcutta - i went there on a whim. i was in second year in college. had just finished reading 'city of joy' one evening...was sitting in my usual chai shop and smoking and thinking of the book...when along came this friend of mine. well till then we were acquaintances, but we became friends, coz i randomly shared some thoughts from the book...told him i'd like to visit calcutta sometime. and he said he'd like to too...we figured we had some money, so ran straight to the railway station, made an onward reservation.

like that. on impulse. we'd planned a few days in the city and a few more at sikkim. we never made it to sikkim. i completely fell in love with the city from the very first moment. spent more than a week there, yet never had enough of the city, its oldness, the typical snobbish bong pride, the food....its still fresh in my mind...am gonna come back soon, am sure about that.

happy new year :)

Fictitioustruth said...

khoob mishti post

theantisensestrand said...

Nice post!... unfortunately, i have never been to this amazing city but i so much want to go there! its on my 'places to spend time' list. ...

anyways Shubo Nabo Barsho!

suren said...

u gave me a feel of being there in kolkatta.... but no mention abt sourav ganguly ;) ?

Gauri Gharpure said...

@new philosopher-- glad u liked the city.. and were able to find something tht touched u.. some moments you remember by the mark of a distinct smell... yesss, i know tht feeling!

@bum.. thnks :).. to be able to go someplace on a whim sounds so liberating.. for a thousand times tht i think of doing so, my mind doesn't allow my lazy feet to wander.. 'the snobbish bengali pride' tht u mention makes me picture someone i know :) but wonder of wonders-- In Kolkata pride and warmth can coexist in the same person at the same time...

@fictionous truth-- thnks! :)

@gaurav-- thnks... visit Kolkata. this city is worth the time and effort... definitely..

@suren-- hmmm.. :) Sourav Ganguly? ah.. tht i forgot to mention him perhaps indicates I ve still have a bit of bangla grooming left to accomplish.. lol..

Internation Musing said...

Interesting to read. YOu make me curious about India. My wife has ben there and the co blogger on Internations of the Netherlands, Sandra Singh (obvious the connection..)) travelled all over the country.
Kindest
hans

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bluebutterfly said...

hmm .. nice post...
i have never been to kolkatta .... but after reading this .. it has definitely climbed a few places up into the "top ten places to visit before i die" list
i have tons of bengali friends and their connection to bengal is never lost even though they have been living in delhi for so many years ... "the bong connection" ...i guess ...but then one does come to love the eccentric bengali's they are with their mishti doi and sandesh .....
the way you affectionately write the little details makes it really intresting to read ..
and your mum sounds like a real sweetheart ...

bhumika said...

my trip to Kolkatta has been due since long. Probaby this year i will make it during the pujas. hope to meet the mishti bau then :)

shafeeq sha said...

Interesting blog......

Trailblazer said...

Yes, Ganguly deserves a mention.

dharmabum said...

am surprised u haven't written, gauri. all well i hope?

Apu said...

Tomar shashuri tomake mishti bhabhe.. Shune bhalo laaglo.. Stumbled onto ur blog from Murighonto.. Liked the few posts u hav written.. Absolutely had to comment on this one.. Cos I agree.. I, being one of those bongs who do not like Kolkata at all, always find it fascinating how much a lot of non-bongs like it