I was brought up in Calcutta. I lived for more than two decades in that city and I came to love it for its views, its vices, its pace, its charm, its tea stalls and the addas, its humidity and its rabindra sangeet. There were days I couldn’t stand the lethargy in the air. Then there were days I would choose that as the city I wanted to spend my life in forever.
But life happened and I moved to Bangalore. I still don’t belong to Bangalore though. Over time, I probably stopped thinking about belonging somewhere. It was just the work, the book, the blog, the friends, the outings. But what about the feeling that a city is yours, that you can see it even with your eyes closed, hear it even when you’re miles away from it? Well, I felt that again, after long!
Durga Puja, the biggest festival of the city of joy calls for Calcuttans, Bengalis and non Bengalis to come together in all parts of the world. After office, we travelled across almost half the city to one of the famous puja pandals set up here. Bangalore traffic is omnipresent and it is always a sore sight. But traffic around the pandal was different. It was made up of people decked in glittering jewellery and shiny garb set aside specially for the Puja is Calcutta feels! The red big bindis come out of the vanity boxes, the backless cholis are back, the umbrellas open up even when it is just barely drizzling, the starched kurtas see the night after long and the Jadavpur University jholas which can carry anything from bananas, water bottles, wallets and even a pair of spare shoes, maybe! I was staring at a mini Calcutta in Bangalore. My Calcutta.
Calcutta has makeshift pandals which boast of our creativity, culture, imagination and these days the latest social causes and trends. This one was none of that, with the idol being placed inside the permanent structure of a convention centre and the grounds turned into an exhibition venue with stalls of books, food and clothes lined up. I even caught a stall of German schools you can send your kids to. So Bangalore-ish!
But this was also all of that. The grounds were filled with advertisement banners – Calcutta brands like our beloved Presidency University, P.C. Chandra Jewelers, Aaj Kal and none other than Sourav Ganguly staring out of the posters at you, wishing you a happy Puja! The Daadus were carrying their grandchildren in their arms, showing them the fanfare of the Durga, the siblings twinning, the mothers dressed as festively as their daughters, live band performances to Kishore Da tunes and the Durga herself.
In that moment when I laid my eyes on the idol of the Durga, I could not ask for anything more. My heart was so full of love and happiness, it rushed out rolling down as tears from my eyes. I guess that’s what they call the power of the Divine. It brings out what you didn’t know you had in you, the best of you, the real you.
I am happy here but I also miss my city. And I know I still belong there. No matter where I live, even if I start loving another city, I will always belong to Calcutta. Calcutta feels abound!
P.S. : Thank you A. For dragging me along. You saw in me what I couldn’t.