It should be noted that the author writes about Calcutta as HE perceives it, from personal experiences. His thoughts & opinions may or may not be historically or socially correct or relevant
Calcutta is a relic of Colonial India. The buildings erected during the Raj stand till today, albeit in a neglected & dilapidated condition. Some reconstruction work is on, which is aimed at recreating that magic of the architecture of yesteryears. Calcutta is the Capital of Bengal, and was an important nerve centre during the struggle for independance. Symbolised by the Victoria memorial, the man-pulled riksha, trams, profusion of Chinese, Moter Teresa, Subhash Chandra Bose, Rabindranath Tagore, more Ambassador Cars than the entire country combined, Tangra, Devdas, rossogullas, the big red Bindis and the Bangali babus.
Some of those symbols live on to this day, while some have become extinct with the passgae of time. Sadly, Calcutta is not all that attractive today. It has lost its charm to quite an extent, and there are many reasons.... it's dirty, extremely hot & humid. Thecity has an extremely lazy air & infuriating traffic jams. But then again, like Bombay, Calcutta too has a certain beauty. Something that, in spite of its shortcomings, draws one to it. I cant describe it. You just have to be there to experience it for yourself - the beauty, the ugliness. The charm, the repulsion. The suave, the downright filthy. The paradoxes are endless....
These paradoxes led me to Calcutta recently for a short trip. And it was a tad too short because I couldnt see much. My plan was to see things that were truly Calcutta, and I dont mean the dirt, filth and traffic jams ! I went to the Indian Museum, a palace which was donated by a Maharaja for this purpose. It was extremely huge with a lot of Venetian influence in its architecture. There were several sections, each dealing with a different aspect of history. Anthropology, vertebrates, invertebrates, Sociology, Sculpture, Painting, Indian & World history, the history of Calcutta - which made for very interesting reading
Victoria memorial was again huge and awe-inspiring. The Architect had blended Colonial & Mughal influences in the building & the beauty is for all to see. Photography inside the memorial was prohibited, which was a pity since it was so photogenic, if you'd pardon the expression. It took many many years to construct this memorial, and ultimately the Queen stayed here for barely a few months. A colossal waste in that era for sure but an amazing monument standing in Calcutta today. I went to the Rabindra Sadan too but unfortunately it was closed that day. I crossed the famed Howrah bridge, and relaxed in the Botanical garden (it was huuuuuge !!!!!!)
I also went for the Fame-X auditions, where at last I atleast got to try in these singing shows. I'd missed the Indian Idol auditions in the earlier years due to exams & graduation. I didnt want to miss it this time, and fortunately I was in Calcutta when the audition happened. I didnt get through, becuase they didnt want a person who could only sing, but also dance and act, and thats where I lost out. After the audtion all the participants stuck around for a few hours due to poor management skills on the part of the organisers. They never told us whether we were in & out, whether we should wait or leave. Rumors were flyin thick and fast, and there was rebellion & ganging up by the participants, and only the appearance of police scuttled the "machomen". Tha main judge was Palash Sen of Euphoria fame, but hardly anyone got till him. There were pre-screening sessions in which other people shunted out the participants who they thought lacked the "X" factor. Most of the people selected were girls and this angered the "men". They called the selected girls "sluts" and bitched that the girls must've offered to sleep with Palash, and that would've got them selected. One guy even shouted aloud, "I'm ready to sleep with Palash Sen if he selects me!!!!" I'd seen all this crazy stuff on TV before, but I had to see it to believe it !!! On the bright side, It was a fun experience
I became closer to Archana and Rikki, sis & cousin of Bikash, one of my best buddies from Mussoorie. There is still a gulf between me & Mini, another cousin of his. Nothing more meetings wont solve. Only regrets in Calcutta??? Didnt travel in the Victoria buggy. Didnt travel in the tram. And didnt make it through the first round of auditions
Calcutta is a mystery. It is inspiring. It is repulsive. How would you rate it? Find out for yourself. Visit Calcutta