Jose and I have been friends for about 3 years now. Jose, a Mexican by birth, Jamaican by brood and Canadian by place of living ( yes it’s complicated!) – is my online friend. He’s now interested in knowing more about Kolkata – which he pronounces as KOOL-KATTA! So, I endeavoured to take Jose by my hand – through the pages and stages of the City I love so much.
Jose, welcome to My City of JOY.
“Joy is a 7 letter word. Kolkata is all about the trams cluttering along faithful tracks, the boats sculling down the river Hooghly, the yellow taxis colouring Howrah’s old steel, hilsas swishing down the Ganga, rickshaws powered by muscle, Eden Gardens cheering because Dada hit a 6, puja pandals taking art into pandals of technology, dhaker aowaje dhunuchi nach, Maa Durga’s big beautiful eyes blazing into yours, that soothing Rabindrasangeet at dawn, chingri maach at Tangra, the lush green gardens and the horse drawn carriages at Victoria. Kolkata is a place where roshogolla, rosogolla, rasgulla all mean the same sin, where Intellectuals sit and discuss the local politics and the future of India over a bhar of cha. A place where crafty feet refuse to stop dribbling. Kolkata defines all of the above and more.”
“My city is of many faces. Innumerable emotions and many passions. And from this labyrinth emerge several singular expressions which take you through a journey of overwhelming experience. No wonder that when these singularities start mingling together we end up having the chaos that is Kolkata."
“You’re bound to fall in love with Kolkata. I say so, Jose, not because this is my city…but there is SOMETHING MAGICAL about this city that gets to you! Everytime!”
“How do I define it ..this verve.. vibe and vivacity. This melting pot of oh so many cultures, lives and stories!
Kolkata, dear Jose, is a culmination of 3 meta-themes that run through the heart of the city and set it a class apart from others in India..these are mainly about the CULTURE, PASSION AND A CERTAIN RICHNESS – which manifests in all its citizens and places alike!”
Let’s take you ..one by one.. through the building blocks of my city.
“Dada r choy ta dekhle?” ”Tendulkar ekhono ki khele..” “Messi ke dekhe shei Maradona r din gulor kotha mone pore jay..” “Brazil e Neymar ache, dada. Arki chai..”
Here, sports is beyond just an activity – it’s a passion that finds itself embedded in every Bengali. All of us know about our Dada..love him alike as our own son..
You might find rowdy conversations comparing Tendulkar or Dada..or a heartfelt sadness in all homes when India loses.. or that massive eruption of elation when Dada hits a six.
Football too is loved..all games between Mohun Bagan and Eden Garden..the adrenaline coursing through all Bengali blood lines..
Jose..our food is the best in the world! Ranging from street food to all posh restaurants Bengali food melts all hearts alike!
You get all the cuisines you want here. From Continental to Mexican. Everything. But to a Kolkatan, nothing is better than shera bangaliyana. The bhaat, shukto, dal, mach, mangsho and mishit doi to end with. During festive season, breakfast means kochuri-torkari and groom groom jilibi. Lunch means a variety of fishes. And dinner is kosha mangsho. Let me tell you about some of my favourites..the ilish maacher bhapa and the chingri maacher malaikari or the bhetki maacher paturi and the chitol maacher muittha. They’re all just so good. And sweets..or rather mishti. What’s Kolkata without mishti? The roshogolas. The sandesh. The pantua. The roshmalai. The chomchom. And lastly, the winter favourite- pithe. No wonder all bengali’s have a tummy that they are so proud of.
Let me draw you a picture of my favourite time of the year here!
When the leaves are shedding and the skies are blue and the sun is giving you his Colgate smile, you know its time for Durga Pujo…. It’s the time when the poor and the rich, the old and the young, the good and the evil, all come together to celebrate the visit of Maa Durga to her ancestral home. It’s the time of the year when there’s kashphul on every field and a happy vibe in the air. There are pandals on every street and colourful lights lighting up even the darkest of alleys. It is that time of the year when Kolkata becomes the city that never sleeps. Other than Durga Pujo, there are lots of other festivals that are celebrated here. There is Kali Puja and Diwali, holi, rathyatra, Saraswati Puja, Eid and Christmas. All of them are celebrated in the same grand manner.
“Jose…there’s something so soulful, so beautiful and so uniting in our culture. There’s so much purity in this language Bangla that it binds us together. From those hathe khori days with barna porichoy to deciphering the soul touching beauty of Rabindrasangeet.”
“Bangla takes us to this whole new world of beauty. So much passion and compassion in one language, in one land is so, so hard to find. Then we have the annual Book Fair which is so unique about my city. We celebrate our love for literature, our love for books. And I can bet you, there’s no other city with so much passion for literature here in India.”
You know Jose.. Kolkata is like a mini world unto itself. Over 300 years old..yet the city gets younger everyday!
One of the strongest features of us Bengalis is our ADDA sessions. The raison d’etre for living in Kolkata, the City of Joy. Bengalis are known for their uncanny propensity of spending endless hours in adda sessions. Whenever two or more Bengalis meet anywhere, they become engaged in adda. No matter whether they are known to each other, even no matter where the place is. Bengalis are fanatically fond of adda. Be it in the bus or inside a corporate office, if anyone ever tells the latest performance of SouravGanguly or Sachin Tendulkar, the whole group will instantly stop their work and join. Wherever there are Bengalis, there’s adda.
So what’s adda, you might ask me Jose? It’s so much a part of the life of Bengalis that it wouldn’t be wrong to say that a Bengali can hardly stay alive without it. Some people may consider it to be a sign of lyadh as you now call it. But its not just procrastinating, there’s meaningful conversation too. It adds to our richness of thought and spirit – what makes us so purposeful and productive!
One of the city's premier adda zones is the famous Coffee House! With scattered chairs around small square tables, this place has a charm in its antiquity. You can spend hours in this place. This reminds me of coffee house er shei adda ta aj ar nei..
I know Jose..you like sailing a lot. Well I can take you to my cocoon of retreat – Princep Ghats- where you will see the famous Hooghly Bridge and cross over the holy waters of Ganga’s distributary – Hooghly. Sunset time..when the orange hue meets the darkened velvet of water.. is a scene for all memories as there’s something very rustic in the way the majestic sun sets!
Oh.. I must tell you about the films and film-makers of Kolkata , the land of Satyajit Ray, Feluda, Nandan and Uttam Kumar. Their movies and scenes – are reminisced fondly by all alike. Nandan – the hall of fame as I term it – showcases the flourishing of cultural creativity through silver screen excellence! You must visit this Jose..we must and shall!
I know there’s a touch of London in this city! Of course ..it was the first British capital of India and the influence must be there. Quite shaped in the same form of architecture you might find across London… the Trafalgar Square.. Piccadilly Circus..is our very Own Victoria Memorial! Glinting in sunlight..across the lush green lawns.. this is a must visit.. for yes.. what else.. Adda sessions or selfies!
You know Jose..my city is perhaps not as swanky or modern as you find Delhi or Mumbai to be. We’re termed as slow..lazybums.. Bongs..and what not! All true! Most of our young blood leave home for better prospects. And why not - academically no nation can fight us for our brains and prowess!
But Jose..there is a rustic ethnicity that stitches together the very fabric of love and life and swathes us in their glory. We’ve grown to love the worldly and creative pursuits..us is a race united against all odds. No matter where you go..you always find a Bengali.. and you flock together for some of the warmth that only another Bengali can bestow on you!
My city is that of LOVE, LIFE AND LAUGHTER- much against others of LIGHTS, CAMERA & ACTION. This is a city where you live a life..and not run against time like any other rat in a lost race!
No city will embrace you right into her heart..and emblazon you with a power that stays.. long after you’re gone.. so that you keep coming back to it!