Incomplete Zero

Completing the Nothingness

Sunday, January 02, 2005

Kolkata Diaries

The first impressions of Kolkata on my second visit here was the very striking resemblance of its physical landscape to my native Kerala.The presence of many small waterbodies and wild greenery (as opposed to the manicured lawns of Delhi) is very similar to places in Kerala. Another similarity, which was a homecoming of sorts for my taste buds, is the easy availability of rice and fish curry, which I continue to relish each time as it were the first, much to the chagrin of my trousers' waistband.

The city has a uniqueness vis-a-vis my previous haunts Mumbai and Delhi.Time is measured in different unit when compared to commercial Mumbai which races at a breakneck pace.The transition to a truely cosmopolitan city in terms of its architectural landscape and attitude was very smooth in Mumbai ,in Delhi it was done while preserving the identity of our architectural heritage,whereas in Kolkata neither has happened.Trees and buildings alike(the travel from railway station would vouch for it) flaunt dirt,dust and decrepitude.One will be wary to sneeze lest the relics come crumbling down.Another inescapable fact is the inexpensiveness of living in this city.Transportation is cheap, though the garish yellow of the cab can be jolting at times and the buses that ply would be better off in a museum.The costs of roti and makaan too are very low when compared to the other metros.

The most unique of all is the Bengali himself.Starting from a penchant for outlandish and loud colours(coupled with a total absence of any sense of style) to a resentment towards bodily hygiene they are a breed in themselves.The thing that all Bengalis would agree without even a hint of an argument is their insatiable appetite.Everybody vending food right from Sourav Ganguly to the fruit-chat wallah on the pavement has people eating out of his hands at all times and all days of the week.Guess the above two observations are the reason why most of the stores seem to be selling either deos and perfumes or food and sweets.The Bengali's propensity to vend gyaan is I feel a result of his/her misplaced feeling of having inherited to some extent the genes of great intellectuals and artists of the yesteryears their land has produced.This combined with an aversion to physical activity of any kind accounts for the huge number of Bengalis ending up as academicians.

What would be interesting is to observe the pace and kind of change in Kolkata's architectural landscape in the years to come.Will the inevitable inhuman malls ,multiplexes and multistoreyed apartments ( a la Gurgaon) redefine the city or will the bastion of communism preserve what seem to be the key words in this city status quo.