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Life in a metro

Whenever people, especially us north Indians and those not from the IT industry, think of moving up in the work ladder and look at cities we might have to relocate you can be sure that it would either be Delhi or Mumbai. I could have even forgotten that there was a city named Kolkata. And while we were leading a comfortable life in the country's most planned city, the city of gardens aka Chandigarh, Calcutta made way in to our lives and today after four years I wonder if it would be wrong to say that all hell broke lose.

So it happened and within fifteen days we went from living in the most planned city to probably the most chaotic city.

Relocation is a real bummer. You are more alone than you could have bargained for, for many reasons. Initially when the stuff is in transit and there is no house to clean, co-ordinate and run, you are wowed but the wow soon turns in to a painful aoowwww. The spouse is busy, more busy than usual in getting acquainted with the work place and taking charge. The child wants  to sleep in as she has no school as yet and thus no interesting stories to recount but only a question 'Ab main kya karoon?' If this wasn't enough, you are suddenly faced with a friend-deficiency that does not ebb away even with trips to the malls. These, rather make things worse!

So it is under such circumstances that I found myself in Kolkata- an alien city, with a language I did not comprehend, no friends to turn to, a busy husband and a young, energetic and playful child.
Its been four years now, like I said and the only things that have changed are the stats regarding friends. More importantly in this time span I have come to gradually fall for the city.

The affair started with the Victoria, Hogg's Market, Burra Bazar, Esplanade, Park Street and that is also where the affair somewhat began. Well planned it may be, but Chandigarh has no public transport system to talk of. Kolkata boasts of the first ever metro! An underground one was even better and the fact that it was ancient gave it a regalia which was soon taken over by the trams, the first ride on a tram proving to be an adventure in itself.
Kolkata is where the past, present and future look each other in the eye. It is easy and only probable in this city to breathe in the 19th century and the 21st century together.

Commuting is convenient and I love this fact about Kolkata. Kolkata's metro network though not as vast as it should have been by now is enviable. It is affordable which makes it a preferred choice of many. The trams though have been under radar for being expensive but just after two years of living in the city, I can't imagine the traffic without a tram criss-crossing paths with other vehicles. Then there are the buses and the autos. If your aren't a public-transport-person then the humble ambassador- the yellow cab- will surely take your breath away simply for being pocket friendly. I don't know if anywhere else in the country a taxi runs that cheap.

Kolkata stinks. Ask anyone. The tourist. The visitor. Or a localite. Oh man and when you are away you miss the stench. There is so much personality in this stench. Yes. I treat this as a life form now. The city is alive if nothing else. And it stinks because it is so much alive. There is an amalgamation of the various smells that you might associate with living. The smells of food being cooked, the smells of animal and human excreta, the smells of our household waste, the smells emanating from rotting water bodies, the smell of fish being sold off the TCR bridge. Yeah! the city's liveliness presents itself strongly in all the smells that ride the air here.

To me Kolkata actually gives the word metropolis its exact meaning. The dictionary defines the word as any busy, large city. Take my word for it. Kolkata is large. It is expansive. There are lanes running into lanes which run into more lanes. I don't see boundaries to the city, an end to its limits. And it is busy. People are going and coming from everywhere to somewhere. They are busy living. I haven't much seen this awareness for living now, in the moment, with passion, all my adult life which I largely spent in the most planned city or amongst all the people I have known in my life. To witness this in one colourful burst you have to attend maybe just one day of the Pujo. It is as simple and easy.

Kolkata, as is a well accepted fact is also the chief city- a sort of mother city- for the arts. This is where the metropolis gets another meaning. The arts flourish here because they are nurtured. Young minds are fed to them or vice versa in forms as varied as singing-dancing and drawing. Here art is a way of life and being artsy isn't an additional or even an acquired qualification. It is something that flows in their veins as naturally as blood.

Kolkata gives everyone a chance for being the person that they really are. It is a big city with distances and maybe that gives you the freedom to be in one corner or the other of the city.

There is chaos. Yes. There are long queues. Yes queues. People understand that everyone needs to get where they are headed and not just them. In this sense again, the quality of people in better than many other places.


(This was published with edits in The Indian Trumpet)

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