Kolkata is a weird concoction of people and places. Yes, you read it right. Of places too. Because Kolkata is not just one city. It is a compilation of cliques of cultures and languages. Each little portion of the city is different. Each little portion has its own aroma that will enchant you. And yet when these different fragrances clash together in the higher layers of air, you do not smell a weird disproportionate stench. Instead you smell the perfume that you associate with home.
I haven’t been lucky enough to explore the nooks and corners of the city. But the little that I have seen has amazed me. What I have witnessed are glimpses taken from larger pictures. Snatches from entire worlds making up the city. For instance, I have walked down some of the narrow alleys of North Calcutta and I have experienced the Old Calcutta vibe that is still alive in those lanes. The vibe still throbs and beats, like the heart of this city. I have been fascinated by the old-fashioned buildings painted in red and green that still stand in those lanes. Those buildings with their wide open balconies always reminds me of the olden days when women still used to wear blouses with frills around the cuffs and necks and men still used to wear dhotis.
I have smelled the fragrances of the food stalls of Tollygaunge Metro Station and noticed how different they are from the North Calcutta smells. I have walked down the lanes near my home and seen how immensely the Calcutta vibe is missing in these wide lanes and new buildings. Their balconies only remind me of cages. The women poking their heads out of these balconies always remind of birds seeking freedom. And yet these lanes are home as well. For they do carry the tantalising fragrance of the city that makes everyone fall in love with it.
I have walked the very confusing lanes of Esplanade and New Market. I have gotten lost in those narrow bifurcations and wandered the alleys for ages before reaching the destination. I have seen flocks of pigeons nesting in the rooftop of a dilapidated house and the road just beneath it littered with pigeon poop; I have been amazed by the sight as well as frightened. I have watched trams go by and regretted never having just enough time to hop on a tram to reach a certain venue.
These have all wheeled me back to the authentic Calcutta feels, as they say. But all I know is, everything smelled different and yet vaguely familiar of that smell I associate with home, of that smell that always lingered in the city’s air, if the smell that invariably makes you fall in love with this city. I have visited quite a few cities in my life and I agree that I may not have explored them even as sketchily as the City of Joy, but I will also tell you that I never felt like it. This city? It pulls you towards it. It pulls you towards the freedom it offers. It pulls you towards its love. It makes you want to explore the city and fall in love with even the yellow lamp lights and the busy traffic. It draws you closer without ever threatening to choke your life out. It dances with the rhythms of your happiness and mourns your silent sobs. This city is home within its variety. This city is peace within its chaos.
(The image used is not clicked by me, but taken from the ever-useful Google)