|Photo courtesy: Siddharth Nair's blog (I will remove this if there is a copyright issue; just do not sue me)|
Long, long ago, in a land far, far away there was a city called Calcutta, the city they called The City of Joy for reasons only known to them.
Unfortunately, she languishes on her deathbed.
There used to be a lion of a man a century back, a man who growth in stature was matched only by his beard. He left the city in a coma from which she is unlikely to recover.
There were others. Calcutta had her share of geniuses, of the most remarkable of minds.
There was that man who had donned orange to win over America years before Trump.
Or that towering ray of light who made sure generations of Bengalis were born with a silver screen.
There have been many, many of them, too many to list in a blog too obligatory and insignificant.
Do read the last few paragraphs. Do note the tense.
The end is nigh. It may take another fifty years, but not much beyond, for she has refused to evolve. In a futile effort to imitate some of the greatest cities in the world she has lost her originality, her magic.
There is no Calcutta anymore. There is not even a Kolkata. The monstrosities of concrete do not make up a city.
And people refused to remain Calcutta. They wanted to stay in Calcutta, but not become the city anymore.
The city is dying, as is the language, for the language has not produced a single icon over decades — an icon who can inspire generations to become proud of Bangla.
Navi Mumbai does not have winters, though the locals put up a woollen façade when the temperature stutters on either side of the 20°C-mark.
Even the Januarys are warm. That suits me perfectly — provided I attempt the heinous act of leaving my apartment on weekends. Air-conditioned offices make weather redundant.
No, I am not the kind of person who cares about weather. The entire concept of summers and winters (and worse, monsoon) may appeal to most, but I choose to remain happily agnostic.
But then, there are those nocturnal walks. I prefer to walk back from work, even after midnight. It helps me feel less guilty about my porcine diet.
I do not miss Kolkata during these walks. I am too preoccupied to. If I am not preoccupied, it is probably because I am too exhausted.
I do not miss the lazy bustle of College Street during these walks; or the first tram across the maidan; or devilled crabs; or the sheer concept of every passerby talking in Bangla — a language fifty years away from extinction, and yet, my language.
Or women who refuse to look anything but the prettiest in yellow sarees on you-know-which-day.
My language. My city. Dying, decaying, rotting away as I wait like an imbecile for the inevitable to happen.
No, I do not think of that city. I do not think of this one, either: smart-phones are way more interesting.
Then it happens, on a warm, windless night. This is my fourth year in this city, and it has never failed to happen.
That prickling feeling on the back. That final tussle of the year between an annoyed, impatient summer and a helpless, vulnerable non-summer that takes part in this part of the world at this time of the year.
That first bead of sweat of the year. Right month, wrong city.
This is that month when all cities are reduced to nothingness and bow down to Kolkata, my city, perhaps not decaying as rapidly after all.
Perhaps she still smiles.
Perhaps she still sighs every time I wish bid her farewell.
No, gigantic slabs of concrete and steel do not make a city. But people do not make her, either.
February makes Kolkata. And Kolkata makes February.
And together, between them, they made me. And this blog.