While most of us slept through the wee hours of last morning, a tragic tale was unfolding in my city 6823 km’s away. More than 68 patients and countless others were engulfed and killed in a beastly fire that spread through the AMRI hospital in Calcutta. Toxic smoke made its way menacingly upwards, choking and killing convalescing adults and children. Sobbing bystanders and grieved relatives looked on helplessly as the unruly flames wrapped themselves around the building making escape or survival absolutely impossible.
Help arrived almost an hour and a half later. As Usual.
Calcutta is my home and I love the city, but I am infuriated by the fact that for the last couple of decades the city has been stuck in a devilish limbo. Nothing changes in Calcutta. Lessons are not learnt, progress is slow, mindsets are backward and everything seems to be in a state of disarray, inspite of an apparent vibrant and progressive political culture.
Last year and from my last visit home, it seemed that there were signs of significant political change. But a change in government alone can never bring about real change. People need to change. Mindsets need to change. People need to care.
What good did it do that some big wig industrialists and a couple of well known and acclaimed doctors came together to open what would become a leading private hospital in the city? If they really valued people’s lives, Calcutta wouldn’t be mourning the loss of scores of her children.
Recently when the author Amitava Ghosh labeled the city as ‘a city of lost causes’ I was enraged. Now I am tempted to agree. For as long as I can remember, I have been hearing tall tales of Calcutta, its intellectual inhabitants, and its inherent superiority. Culturally superior or not, citizens of the city especially those who have the power to affect change, do specialize in one thing for sure—lots of empty promises and unfulfilled pledges.
Last year it was the Stephen Court catastrophe, so many lives were lost. Then it was the New Market fire but nothing changed, wires still hang precariously overhead, the walls are in a state of decay and it will only take a spark t o bring down an old and loved landmark. Now it’s the AMRI nightmare and I shudder to think ‘what next’?
I love my city and I continue to hold onto the belief that change will come…but right now would be the perfect timing!