Something or the other is always happening in Calcutta.
Many of these events would be quite outside the scope of my experiences in the US and yet here they seem to fit in so seamlessly with the daily course of things. The events I’m talking about could be as simple as an altercation with an autorickshaw-wallah regarding the lack of change while paying the fare or hearing of a hanuman (big monkey) sighted on my street in the early morning sitting and eating kachori at a popular roadside stall with other customers (even while in many ways city life here is in no way different from anywhere else in the world as people use smartphones and laptops and commute to work on buses and cars and the underground metro).
Here’s a really unexpected event that occurred this week which reinforces my belief that if you’re looking for stories, there’s no better place in the world to come to than our very own Calcutta!
On Monday evening, my parents are about to leave for the market. I am ready to see them off when we open the door to an unexpected sight.
Our very long term domestic help P’s saree is strewn all over the landing between the main doors of the two apartments that face each other. A bunch of black hair, clearly cut with a pair of scissors, is strewn on the floor next to it.
Just a few weeks ago it had been unseasonably cold, dark and dreary in the city. It had drizzled all day. People had huddled under their umbrellas if they could keep those wispy things from being blown away by the tyrannical wind. The wind blew through the streets encouraged by the gigantic guiding walls of the skyscrapers while the rain lashed people’s faces like a thousand cold needles. Continue reading Summer is here in Manhattan→
I wonder why I am drawn to crowded cities– to places where people saturate the streets, to town squares, escalators, stairways, buses, footpaths and every place imaginable in a metropolis. To spaces where unrelated people throng in a crowd, random people sit together, eat beside one another and loiter for little reason. Continue reading Compassion in city spaces→
When we were six or seven, we used to live in an oasis in the heart of Calcutta. Everywhere else the city was teeming with people, concrete, dust, dirt, cars, buses and street hawkers–an overload to the senses.
Yet, in the midst of it all was our oasis of a housing complex and a quiet street of some offices–a collection of buildings owned by the Railways to which change had not come in a long time.There had been few new constructions since the days the Brits were here and so the buildings were solid but not modern and the trees were all old and shady. Continue reading Memory’s oases→
When a city is walkable, there’s always people. And when there are people, they’re always saying something. It’s the din and the noise and the hustle and the bustle that make you remember you’re part of something bigger, something more than yourself.
Being elbowed painfully in a crowd rushing to office or having the end of a high heel ram into your big toe can jolt you out of that reverie and cut you down to size too.
A city can be impersonal. A city can be lonely.
But sometimes, a voice reaches out from the crowd, a sign stands out that’s distinctive in some way. The distinction tells you there’s a person behind the words, a thinking mind somewhere, someone trying to talk, to imagine, to speak in a way that goes just a little bit beyond the utilitarian purpose of what the sign is meant for.