Calcutta Thought


A day in Calcutta can range from a number of emotions, from sheer joy, to beauty, charm, or exasperation to simple stupidity. But to the city’s credit, this cannot be devoid of feelings, and when i say feelings, they are intense. Probably no other city can evoke feelings with such intensity. This is maybe what sets Calcutta apart.

That apart, though, driving on Calcutta roads can be an experience by itself. Part of this is because of the attitude of people. Let me explain. Gopal Krishna Gokhale once famously exclaimed:

What Bengal thinks today, India thinks tomorrow.

Thing is, the people of Calcutta think that this quote is timeless, and will be valid for all eternity. Which is why every Calcuttan is convinced that whatever their viewpoint is Gospel Truth, and it is heresy to hold a view divergent from that view, and that this heresy must be addressed as a heresy must be. You can find expressions in everyday Calcutta, whether it be political viewpoints or the Dada fanclub (those are the most intellectually challenging ones) or why one should not debate anything with a Calcuttan. As a gentleman once asked me:

Aapni aamaar shaathe torko korchhen?

Dare you argue with me?

Well, as you can imagine that was an argument quite disarming for someone as intellectually insignificant as me. Another place where you see this ” what Bengal thinks today …” is while driving. Its like this … Everyone on Calcutta roads believes that they have some form of a divinely bestowed right of way, which can be enforced by blasting everyone else by the power of the horn. And this is where i must caution you against mud-wrestling with a pig. Because i got the honking-mania too and this also shows how Calcutta can be contagious.

One thing though that always intrigues me. Watch a Calcuttan at work and you will find manistestation of the thought:

Aaraam hi jivan hai!

Leisure is life!

But this is only until they get behind the wheel. That is when everyone suddenly gets into a mad hurry, being the most busy person ever, always late for a meeting, the worries of the world weighing heavy on their shoulders, so they need to be taken care of as soon as possible. Everyone on Calcutta roads is in a massive hurry. What i find puzzling is that while people in Calcutta are not to be seen in a hurry, how come the moment they come to the road, they get transformed so drastically?

Whats beautiful about the city is that the people of Calcutta manage to smile at and care about fellow-people even when carrying all this worry-of-the-world around. The people of the city can still beat up an autorickshaw driver who slapped a lady passenger for remonstrating with a passing cyclist. They can tell a co-passenger that he may have got onto the wrong bus when they think they hear him asking for a ticket to a place where the bus doesnt go. And this is where the heart of the city, though i am sad to see that at places the warmth of the heart seems to be cooling down. Its important to keep this warmth glowing.

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