I had to write today. For I’ve been trying to push things into a pattern, for I’ve been trying too hard, for I’ve been trying for too long – few years, to be precise – of me, in this city. Kolkata.
When in the chilled month of November I’d seen the city’s silhouettes of highrises in contrast with the 'purono diner bari', sloping roofs and sacred banyan trees spreading under a purple dusk, I’d wished, desperately hoped, it would be mine.
But the more I tried to make sense of Kolkata, the more it eluded me, leaving me confused and a little scared. So now I’ve let it be. My 'Tilottoma' is so many things…one day it will be mine.
My Kolkata lives in the past, its cosmopolitanism underlined with an aged, quotidian routine, like the restaurant names that are written, in very fine print in Bengali and 'almost' English, at the bottom of the glittering boards.
So while in Town there are lovely edifices – carved and pirouetted, riddled with arches and adorned with turrets – the road between home and Gariahat is congested with heart-repair ‘doctors’ with their mumbo jumbos, shops that sew you the exact new Bollywood or Tollywood style blouses and salwar kameez and nooks that sell coconuts. But at Southern Avenue the road widens, gives in to boulevards and trees, to old Bengali bungalows and old ladies in cotton 'ghore pora' sarees.
My Kolkata is in the by lanes of Bhawanipore and Rash Behari, tea shops under gnarled Banyan trees or those small little pan shops. My Kolkata is the taxi-wallahs outside CCD in Lake Road, their never ending slumber up on the bonnet – fanning their red piece of cloth to drive away the invisible insects ceaselessly while flanked by skyscrapers.
Sometimes my Kolkata is Park Street; many times the desi Manhattan within the city. With purple, green and pink neon lights, with several sinuous curve of the cross roads.The place where Lata Mangeshkar and Metallica earn a different kind of exuberance. My Kolkata is the exhilaration that comes, again and again and again, at looking at Maidan covered with fog.
My Kolkata is the sigh that escapes, looking up at the stars while surrounded by Victorian monuments, all bathed in an orange glow. My Kolkata is savouring this sumptuousness of space in a cramped, crowded city.
My Kolkata is the breathless, merciless torture of a claustrophobic afternoon before rain. My Kolkata is the bobbing psychedelic umbrellas on soaked roads, after rain.
My kolkata is the explainable enthusiasm for those sudden cemetery visits. My Kolkata is the Chinese breakfast at Teriti Bazaar with the desi touch of oriental delicacies. The cheap cigarettes and the cheaper 'bhanrer cha' at the Academy foot hold.
My Kolkata is the shelves of books in my living room, in the shadow of hot pink curtains. My Kolkata is the blue and green orb-lamp that hangs at my window. My Kolkata is the smell of paint that hits me every time I open my creaky almirah. My Kolkata is the best friend I have coffee with. My Kolkata is the home of a deceitful Illusionist, Aarshi Nagar with the heartsick Dreamer, weekend escapade of my Maya. My Kolkata is the sudden boy I found for life, called the Heartless Casanova. My Kolkata is a motley of midnight conversation with the Moon-Man and his 'Hope' tattoo.
My Kolkata is the city where the air is always laden with moisture, so much so that when you breathe, you take in its water and its sweat, hiding some part of it within you, for leaner, meaner times.
My Kolkata is all sepia. Dusty and musty, it’s the colour of milky tea, dusk and deserts.
Looking like faded photographs, Kolkata’s dilapidated houses run by me on the way home. Through tiny windows you can see tube-lit dens, bright blue walls, shabby lobbies; a lungi hanging from a pew in one room, ornate pictures of gods in another. One day, they will not awe me with their sense of easy belonging. One day, I will stop trying so hard to belong. One day, Kolkata will be mine.