By- Mrinalini Shinde
After years of having nurtured a romanticised view of the seemingly enigmatic and wildly interesting city of Calcutta, a view undoubtedly developed through the influences of Satyajit Ray, Dominique Lapierre, Sarat Chandra, and the noblest of them all- Gurudev; my recent visit to Calcutta, had great expectations to fulfil. So, were they met? Not really.
They were exceeded. It is safe to assume that one has indeed, fallen in love with the City of Joy. It’s a bit like H.G. Wells’ Magic Shop. Alluring. Varied.
The ancient and relentless power of the Underground trains, the sentinel- like British structures like the Victoria Memorial, High Court, Writer’s Building, St. Paul’s Cathedral that astutely stand guard over the heritage-junkie’s paradise that is Kolkata. The swanky Park Street with its lovely restaurants. The many ‘Saranis’ which are so much fun to just prnounce! eg. “Shakespeare Shoroni” The labyrinth that is College Street, Mecca of all who admire the written word. The velvet of the Hooghly, sequinned with boats. Amidst the noise and traffic of New Market, there will still be a bunch of friends, with time to spare, to stand and stare.
From a Parineeta inspired boat-ride, to attending the Kolkata Book Fair, and watching the Vidyasagar Setu against the backdrop of a setting sun, loving riding in Ambassador taxis and hopping on to caterpillar trams and discovering how seriously the word ‘mishti’ is taken; it was a lovely trip.
A recent Kolkata tourism ad was centred around the phrase, ‘Let Calcutta surprise you’. It did. Wonderfully so. Because, I was surprised at how I felt instantly at home. Thank you for the welcome, you lovely, warm people of Calcutta. As a new song in the movie Kahaani goes, ‘Kolkataaaaaa… You sexy. Ami shotti bolchi.’