Tuesday, December 30, 2008


Been planning to write this post down for so long, finally did. The title is courtesy Kaushik da, which so aptly describes in a word what i'll take an entire post to.

Somehow or the other, I just couldn’t manage to take a vacation back home to Calcutta in more than 2 years. I finally went there this pujas. Once there, I realized it was a bad idea to be in Calcutta during pujas as the entire city is out on the street. It’s one big carnival, a big orgy of people on the streets, all dolled up with particularly nowhere to go but from this end of the town to the other visiting pandals. Which needless to say is not exactly my idea of fun in Calcutta. So there I was, in the middle of it all, and hoping for it to pass. Which it did after the four days of pujas and I got my city back. Just the way I like it, or should I say the way I liked it. Call me a little hung-up or whatever but I have forever been a fan of the Calcutta of yore, of the old Victorian charm, which already was in it’s way out while we were growing up.

I had planned to write my next post on the old Bungalows or ‘Baadis’ of my locality in particular and of Calcutta in general. I have grown up in Elgin Road, which they now insist on calling Lala Lajpat Rai Sarani. Elgin Road, sourrounded by Bishop Lefroy Road, Lee Road is now one of the most so called ‘happening’ part of Calcutta what with ‘this’ mall and ‘that’ shopping complex sprouting all around. The only old baadi left on Elgin Road is house no. 38/2. The house of Subhash Chandra Bose, now known as Netaji Bhawan. And the only reason it’s standing intact and preserved is because it is now a museum and a tourist spot. It’s the house from where Netaji escaped to his freedom, with the dream of India’s armed struggle. A dream which was lost. Much like the world which Elgin Road was. Other than Netaji’s House, this locality was dotted with old bungalows, each one grand and beautiful in it’s architecture. Baadis like Rajabadi, Lal Kuthi, Phoolbadi with their Buicks(mostly left as a showpiece only) or Fiats parked were such a delight to the eyes. Reminiscent of a world gone by. A world I am so romantic about. I wanted to take pictures, but there remains nothing to click, but ugly vertical buildings in their place, all bought over by land-sharks and converted into ugly multiplexes and Shopping Complexes, or ‘flats’(The word itself is so uninspiring, isn’t it?!). The families who lived in these buildings have lost their sheen much like the buildings they owned, so they were forced to sell them and move into the oblivion of Calcutta by-lanes, making room for the neo rich of the city.

Calcutta is going through a weird time, a weird phase, one which is torn between the old and new. At one side, it is as dirty and as unorganized at it could be, and on the other side, the malls are mushrooming, the misery and grandeur lives side by side, rather uncomfortably. The city doen’t have the flamboyance of Delhi, or recklessness of Bombay, which ends up making it a nowhere land at the moment. That certain something, which is so Calcutta, which is hard to put down in words, in phrases, is getting lost. In its reckless quest to become a global city its losing its charm, its identity, its character. And what is a city without a character!

I had planned to photograph the old ‘Baadis’ of Elgin Road, along with this post, but then, none are left to be.


Genius said...

Hey u sure took me back to calcutta. Though was there only for 2 days it did manage to steal my heart. As 4 Durga pooja & the pandals oh! i love them. Hope some day can visit calcutta during those festive days. I think its a photograph's delight :)

ManchuChanchu said...

cudn't agree with u more on this one bhimola. Cal is loosing 'it'—maybe thats the reason i come back even more detached every time i visit it.

u worded it really well.

vimsical said...

@Genius: Well, i've never been fanatical fan of Durga Pujas. I wish you'd stayed there longer, there's more to calcutta than durga puja.

@ManchuChanchu: Seriously, the feeling of detachment just keeps on growing everytime i'm there. And the moment i'm back, i start to miss calcutta sorely again. such a sad situation.

d.h.roark said...

vimal..i know what you're saying! i loved my solo trip to cal because i just walked around the streets and the city is so surreal.. it's like you're watching some things in slow mo and the rest is whizzing by. one street i walked into had a shakespeare society. another had a board up saying, "forward bloc meeting tuesday". old records and really dusty book shops. I loved it.