Kolkata. The name says it all. The city of dreams, the city of love, the city where everyone feels at home, and where “kêmon achhen?” is the best “how are you” I have ever heard. The pen is mightier than the sword here, and what better place can one find to write than in this rustic, mystical place that is so ruminantly stimulating?
Waking up to a breakfast in under Rs.20, complete with stuffed loochi and aaloo (hot fried amazing stuff with amazing potato curry on the side), the buttery soft potato-stuffed shingada (the best-tasting Samosa in the world) finished with a mattka (earthen pot) of garam chai (hot tea) can make one rediscover paradise. From a sprawling skyline with beautiful gardens and lakes, to the simple enigmatic humdrum of how things work here, my nostalgia gets a makeover with every visit. Having visited Kolkata (the then Calcutta) where my uncle and aunt have lived for over 30 years, I always had a certain belonging with the food which has tied me to the very spirit of the city. I can’t forget all the puchkas and dum aloos that have cheered me up from whatever doldrums that life has to throw at me. I can’t recollect the last time I heard the English All India Radio news in a tea shop serving chaai in a mattka.
Kolkata’s innate fiery feminism is never subtle- it is big, loud and beautiful. The women love to feel pretty being round (a huge compliment!), sharp and are completely at peace with themselves, and this is one of the reasons I’ve always felt welcome and comfortable in my skin. The city tugs at my heart where the hardworking baabus and daadas are courteous, responsible and treat the goddess in you, the way you’re meant to be. The city that accommodates everything and everybody, where everyone has a place to call their own, whether it’s on the platform adjoining the lake or in a multi-storeyed villa is always that special place in this country that has an opinion on everything and has been quick to judge.
I’ve dearly missed Kolkata in the last few hours I’ve been home, and this post was the first thing I wanted to do. Kolkata is the warm petrichor to a starved life and brings out the existential living in one. I need to pen this down as a ritual to preserve my jar of memories. Someday, when life hits me hard, the aroma emanating from this jar would be enough to satiate and provide a blanket-like comfort. A toast is in order to the Shangri-la of India, which will never cease to amaze me. Everyday is Sindhur khela here, a celebration of every part of goodness in everything. Aami shotti bolchi (I’m speaking the truth) that this is the best democracy in communism, best spirit in sportsmanship, and luxury in simplicity, that I’ve seen in any place. EVER.