While my parents love the overpopulated chaotic mess that the old city of Kolkata is, all I ever do is hyperventilate.
Of course it’s a lovely city in its own right. The colonial architecture, the immense intellectualism that exists within majority of the common men and of course, the endless choices of mouth-watering food. It’s a place where everybody is always swarmed with cultural activities, whether you like it or not. All this is very well but as a person from a relatively super peaceful place like Bangalore, the city of Kolkata honestly frightens me.
As a Bengali, I think I’m allowed to be slightly judgmental about my own kind. So in the following lines, I’ll point out a couple of “typical” traits that most Bongs usually possess.
1. OBNOXIOUS AND PUTS-A-MIC-TO-SHAME KIND OF LOUD
Simply walk down a street in this city, you will immediately know who had Luchi and Aloo-r Dum for breakfast, whose stomach has failed to produce sufficient amounts of poop or the reverse of that (in this case, my advice to you is to run away as far as possible and don’t look back) or what someone’s views about Plato are. Don’t be surprised, this city never fails to be informative.
Perhaps in the process you’ll even witness a mother grossly scolding her son for not having done well enough in a math exam. (We’ve all been there. Ears have turned red, waterfalls have been shed but not doing well in a math exam is a downright crime. You might as well have gone without Machh for a week.) I used to think that this exceptional loudness was limited only to my mother and the rest of the family but boy, was I wrong. It’s a hereditary communal thing. There’s no changing it.
2. NOSES THAT HAVE AN IMPULSIVE DESIRE TO BE INVOLVED IN ALL KINDS OF BUSINESS
So my mother, maternal grandmother and I decided to get into a taxi while going to the bank. The taxi driver constantly muttered under his breath and I was the only one who noticed. (Grandmother’s tone deaf and mother’s not far behind. If only they lowered their voices, God.) I had no idea what he was going on about until at some signal, he jumped out of the car holding a jack, threatening a bus driver that he would break all the windows. While he continued yelling out various kinds of obscenities, a completely random man on the footpath had approached the taxi. He stood there, judged the situation and finally, advised the driver about anger management along with an assortment of philosophies and walked away. I don’t know who that man was, I don’t know what he wanted and I have no idea why he was suddenly involved. Perhaps he was a sad poet who no one paid any attention to (happens too often) but the situation was strange nonetheless.
In another situation, my paternal grandmother and I were walking to the market (for more food, of course) and she ran into an elderly gentleman who was also out for groceries. They mutually complained about old-age aches, spoke about the weather and how the price of cauliflowers have increased. After we had all parted ways, I asked her who the man was. She had no idea. But that’s not even the point, the point is how normal this entire encounter was. My grandmother soon brushed it off and continued on her quest for the said cauliflowers while I just stood there and gaped at her.
3. EVERYTHING ALWAYS MEANS BUSINESS
Ah, ’twas the night before Christmas and the streets were decked with fairylights and galore with carols in the air. The townfolk were dressed in their very best – sporting their fancy overcoats and stockings to ward off the cold. Couples walked hand in hand, giggling and gushing. Little kids ran in and out of cake shops, demanding the Christmas special cake or pastry. And groups of friends walked around together, laughing loudly and clapping each other on the back. All was well, even for the delicate woman in a dress who had been waiting for her date for at least forty minutes now. Taking large strides and huddling together, the busy townfolk walked with purpose, a look of determination adorning their faces.
All until a huge poster of a smiling Mamta Bannerjee wishes you a very happy Christmas. Yes, you’re still in Kolkata. Park Street, to be precise. And no, nobody knows what the hell these thousands of people are doing. Where do they come from, where are they going, why are they going, are they Christian, do they even care about Christmas, absolutely nobody knows. Of course, I’m being very hypocritical here. I was there too. But what fascinated me the most was how serious the entire affair was. Let’s forget just how hot that night really was, it’s a rule that one must wear the jacket they bought months ago, looking absolutely prepped to be airdropped into Alaska at any given time.
Soon after, my Dad and I decided to catch the metro home. I’ll spare you my rant of the chaos and the number of people everywhere but even with all the possible death encounters, there’s a huge flat screen TV playing the goddamn opera. Very soon, that changes to a bunch of Baul singers.
After that day, I was convinced. I do not understand these people. I give up. I mean, I could be dying right there in a stampede or in one of those trains that successfully induce the Nazi Germany environment but I must stand there and watch the opera. What is wrong with these people.
To all the Bongs out there who probably hate me now, please don’t hunt me down and kill me. Someday, I promise, someday I will learn to understand this city and perhaps get used to all the chaos. Until then, Bangalore is lovely and thank God for mother and her lovely Macch curries.
No, I haven’t moved over to the dark side yet. (If you know what I mean)
Luchi and Aloo-r Dum – Typical Bengali breakfast
Macch – Bengali word for fish
Baul – A group of mystic singers