I came to Delhi some three and half years back from Calcutta, leaving my mother, my family, my friends and my city behind. I have spent my formative years there, walked the streets, enjoyed the city, been part of the ‘experience’ that Calcutta is. Little did I know that everything I took for granted there, would soon be gone. I moved on to this city to earn a living and get ‘ahead’ in my life.
As I sit to write this post, innumerable memories of Calcutta flood my heart. It was a pleasure being on the road in Cal. The people, the commotion, the unorderliness, the chaos and the women clad in ‘saree’. There is a method in madness in Cal, and I felt at home in it.
My best friend Rajesh and I watched films after films, paying as less as Rs. 5 at Nandan and Rs. 7 for the ‘boxstall’ at New Empire. I remember the time when Bikash and I on our evening stroll, have egg-chicken roll or mughlai paratha at Mass Snacks near Jadu Babu Bazar for 10-15 bucks, or rice and beef bhuna for an unbelievable Rs.13 at Neezam’s, or mixed Chhow Chhow at stalls in Totti Lane for Rs. 25, which two people could share. Or dirt cheap early morning Chines and Tibetan breakfast at Tiretta Bazaar. In those days we hardly had any money to indulge ourselves, but we had some great fun with whatever little we had. We would get drunk on the cheapest booze, dope up and make our own Thukpa to eat if had no money to buy food. I remember how we would get drunk at Olypub and then head to Someplace Else to listen to some live music. And if at all any one of us orderd a beer there, before you could say ‘Indian beer’, the bartender would uncork an Imported brand of beer and charge some Rs. 150 for it. Needless to say, some 6-7 of us would nurse that beer for an entire evening.
Now I can afford to go to the best cafes and the best bars and have the best food in the best restaurants, but it simply doesn’t feel the same. I call my mother and ask her how’s the weather there in Cal, and insist that it’s raining a lot in Delhi, just like Cal, as if it’s some compensation. I ask her what they ate for dinner, and how was it? I don’t know why but I need to know, maybe to imagine the food and taste in my head, the familiar taste and aroma I have grown up devouring. I call up my friends during Kali Puja and Saraswati Puja, and insist on talking to all of them, who’s got drunk?, who is dancing like crazy and who all actually fasted to give anjali?? When in Cal, I would sleep through Pujas, but now I miss it. I think it is the price we pay for taking things for granted.
Now that I am away, I realise what I have left behind. Being away from Calcutta, I now know one thing for sure; I might go to Timbuktu to work and have a career, but Calcutta is where my heart is. It’s home.