Just came back from a trip to the City of Joy....Well, if you're not from India, or if you haven't seen the movie by the same name, based on the book 'City of Joy' by Dominique Lapierre and starring Patrick Swayze and Om Puri, let me tell you that the City of Joy is our very own Kolkata, previously Calcutta, in India.
My association with Kolkata has been a long affair. Born to Bengali parents who are originally from Kolkata, I have been born and brought up outside of this city, with occasional trips for the regular 'weddings' and 'vacations' routine.
Every time I visited the city, I would be engulfed in a deluge of relatives and festivities, and almost all memories I have of this city are about moving from one relative's house to another, and almost always tables piled with all kinds of mouth-watering delicacies, things that I did not value much as a kid, but do understand and long for now. I remember the numerous varieties of fish that were on display in various kinds of curries and pastes, fried crispy golden, or steamed with special marinades, or swimming in tangy spicy curries. There were always multiple kinds of vegetable dishes to choose from, not to mention varieties of daals (lentils) and other delectable fares that I had no idea of. And sweets! I have never been a fan of sweets, even as a kid, but I remember just HOW MANY different kinds of sweets would be procured for me as if by magic. If I refused one, there would be another, if I didn't want that, there would be another....there was no escaping!
For many years, as I was growing up, I have seen Kolkata from the eyes of a girl who has always been an outsider, one who has never had a chance to feel the pulse of the city, to feel its soul and begin to fall in love with it.
This time though, a lot of things did change.
For starters, this was the first time I got to see Kolkata for what it truly stands for - a city of joy, a city that has held on to its roots, to its culture, a city that welcomed me with open arms, a city of people who have their own time standards, the KST (Kolkata Standard Time), but who will make many apologies once they do manage to reach, a city where I have seen some of the most soft-spoken and well-mannered people, where men are helpful towards females who are moving about alone in the city, where cab drivers will show off the city with pride if you are human enough to have a kind word with them, where each and every road and lane is adorned with stalls of food that are truly among the best street-foods in the world, where people are genuinely of a large heart. Of course you need to be prepared to face the scorching sun and the humid weather, the traffic (which is really not more than you would experience in Delhi, Mumbai or Bangalore any given day), the crowds and the pollution. But then, there are so many amazing moments you get to feel here that all these are kind of can-be-done-away-with.
As days go by, I am falling more and more in love with this city...don't know why, but for a strange reason, my intuition tells me that this will be the city where I will finally lie down eternally in peace....maybe...lets see...
And like I always believe in and say:
"Heal the world we live in
Save it for our children" - MJ
Debolina Raja Gupta