Lately, Calcutta has been on my mind. There is so much going on in the city at the moment. There’s a shroud of loss looming of the city and yet the joyful celebration of the winter months peeps through.
In my quiet moments, I wonder how much has changed or remained as it was. While I long for change in attitudes, mindsets and work ethics, there are so many things about the city that I love and wish would remain the same, no matter what. There are so many memories I cling onto and miss dearly.
I’ve been away from home for four years now. Yes, I have made short trips back occasionally, but that isn’t the same as living in a city like Calcutta. Four years is a long time to be away from home. And family.
Four years is long enough to make one homesick. Four years is long enough for the mind to wander. And wonder. I hear there has been a lot of change in Calcutta with the advent of the new government. I wonder how much things could have changed.
I wonder if those changes are going to change my childhood. My growing years and my memories .I wonder.
I wonder if the schoolboys in St. James’ still stare out in amazement at the ominous darkening of the sky with the mad frenzy of a rainshower bringing respite on a sweltering afternoon. The raindrops always created a hazy mist that hung over the field, the rainwashed leaves spraying children as they gleefully walked by the annexe back to class. Bishti. How we loved walking home in the rain and the floods! Oh what a delight it was!
Living in Dubai, it has become habitual for me to plan ahead and make appointments with friends and acquaintances. Back home, I wonder if people still stop by to see you unannounced in the evenings. Without calling to check if it will be a convenient time for you. The steaming tea cups come out of the kitchen within seconds almost…someone is sent on an urgent errand to bring back some kati rolls or some piping hot samosas from the local snack shop. There’s laughter. Secrets divulged. Burdens lifted by faithful friends, politics discussed and cricket crazy babus fight loud and long over Ganguly’s bare bodied outing at Lords. I hope that hasn’t changed…
I remember hanging around my local paan shop to talk to the owner’s son. He would teach me curse words in Urdu and I would teach him silly English tongue twisters to convince him that English was the most difficult language to learn… (Betty bought a bit of butter….he never got that right!) It amused me to watch lungi clad men stroll by nonchalantly to light a cigarette from the burning rope that hangs by the shop and then quickly squish the cigarette-butt into the ground with their shoes to fight their way into the overcrowded minibus headed anywhere from B.B.D. Bag to Dum Dum.
I’d love to see if aunty Jenny still sits outside on her stool every evening, watching the office goers return to their homes and I would love to see if aunty Lorna and Uncle Pat still stand at the gate of my old building with their blind dog …always watchful of any suspicious characters who ever entered our building. They always had the latest news…the burning neighborhood gossip! I miss them.
I love that Mamata Banerjee wants to improve the city. I don’t think it will ever be like London but her intentions are certainly admirable. Change is inevitable. Progress is good and no matter what changes I think Calcutta will retain her old world charm, her elegance and her inherent beauty.
But I still wonder…