Thursday, August 02, 2012

When I was very young, younger than the youngest me you can imagine, I used to live in a tumble-down old house at the heart of a humid and incredible city in Eastern India. My para, as localities are endearingly called in Bengali, used to be, and still is, my favouritest place in the whole city. From the little blue gate, I used to stare at life as it rushed past my house. My school was a stone's throw away. Many of my closest friends lived nearby. And to top it all, Bhagyolokkhi Mishtanno Bhandar around the corner made the BEST kochuri and jilipi in miles. It was, in all respects, the tiniest, most perfect bit of the world that I could call my very own. Even now, when I go home for a few brief days, weighed down with a hundred things to do, I try to take a walk down the familiar streets. Straight past Patha Bhavan, down the wide, tree-lined road past the Telephone office and the the Montessori school, past Tasty Corner and South Point, past P's house, past Cakes with its incredible chocolate ganache pastry, and then back again via the main road, walking past the CESC office, maybe stopping for some phuchka on my way home. Oh my insulated, little bit of South Calcutta. How I love it.

It took me twenty four years to learn this, but today, at long last, I understood that maybe my idea of an ideal isn't everyone's idea of an ideal after all. Because today, in the course of a conversation, someone casually mentioned that that place? That place I call home? That place which is considered one of the better places to stay in my poor city with a hundred, garbage-laden streets? That place might be too dirty for someone from another state. Not too dirty for, say, an American - used to his corn fields and clean highways. Not too dirty for, say, a German - used to his impeccably ordered cities. No. Too filthy for someone from this country. In fact, so dirty, so filthy, so completely devoid of any other attribute is my home, that people from the western part of the country might faint at the filth. Faint. Someone, born and brought up in this blighted third-world country, might faint at the garbage heap that I call home.

It might just be time I went back to my city. My filth calls me, I think. And I guess I can manage without fainting.


Kuntala said...

আরে বিম্ববতী, এত ঘাবড়ালে চলবে? সাউথ ক্যালকাটার মর্ম ওরা বুঝবে কি? তুমি যে জায়গাটার বর্ণনা দিয়েছ, আর এমন বর্ণনা দিয়েছ যে হৃদয় ছুঁয়ে গেছে, সে জায়গাটা আমি প্রায়ই স্বপ্নে দেখি বিশ্বাস কর।

টেলিফোন অফিসের পাশ দিয়ে গাছের সারি ভরা রাস্তাটা দিয়ে কবে আনমনে হেঁটে যেতে পারব কে জানে।

কাজেই যেখানে আছ গ্যাঁট হয়ে বসে থাক। আর তোমার পাড়া নিয়ে যদি কেউ কিছু বলতে আসে, হালকা করে এমন বেঁকা হাসি হাস যাতে লোকটা ভীষণ নার্ভাস হয়ে যায়।

Saptarshi Chakraborty said...

Trust me, it is exactly as beautiful as it used to be. Specially with monsoons and the smell of trampled marsh and fallen leaves. The smells of a city are like that of someone you love. Just a few months ago someone who'd been to Calcutta for work talked about the street his hotel was on. He said it was a narrow dirty street. Turns out he was talking about Free School Street. So there.