[I dedicate this post to the legendary liberation struggle of Bangladesh and the unsung, victorious freedom fighters.]
I wrote: “Kolkata makes loves to me. Oh God, how can I thank you for bringing me back to her?”
(In case you don’t know, Kolkata is Calcutta — the media-distorted British-raped “City of Joy.” We’ll slowly talk about the violence and abuse.)
Obviously, Calcuttans — of my type — were fascinated with my fascination. Praises poured in. Enchanting…I said to myself…not just the idea of making love to her…but also the idea that other beautiful people like me loved the idea of making love to her…and that too, without ever getting out of your mind…and your dreams!
Inspired by admiration and adulation from fellow-lovers, I went on and wrote:
“Food, music, film, dance, fun, literature, politics, science, arts and what not…in spite of all the problems and stupid politicians and promoters today, it’s just incredible. And I’m not even talking about her GLORIOUS history.”
Again, confetti and claps…a whole bunch of them. This lovemaking is sure catching on…and catching on fire. I knew it would!
And then, a sister, who left Bombay and Delhi to live in this much-maligned city, wrote:
(By the way, this travelogue is not about comparing anything with anything…in case you think I’m being biased against your place. I may be biased for my place, but I’m definitely not biased against yours. Or, for that matter, against my second first city New York.)
“For me, Kolkata is like my mother, whom, despite all her weaknesses and ailments I love and care for….no matter where I stay, live or what I do, the umbilical connect will always be there.”
Now, that’s also very true. She pulled my ear — just like one of the many middle-school teachers who did it to me many times over many years — and put it in perspective. Of course, she is right! And I am right too! Now, how can I resolve this dilemma?
Is Kolkata my mother…or is she “Je t’aime mon amie?”…Like…“ami tomay eto bhalobashi, sakhi…”
(By this time, other Calcuttans — probably a few of my detractors included — started throwing confetti and claps the sister’s way. Hey, I thought, I need to do something to fix it — now — or she’s gonna steal the show. And yet, I cannot ever lie. This is way too delicate and honest to be cunning and dishonest about.)
Then, I came up with this brilliant reflection. I wrote:
“So wonderful, sister.” [Note: while doing an important debate, in front of an eager audience, you always want to compliment the opposition -- that's a little political trick I learned years ago...here in Calcutta; your sentimental (Calcuttan-type) detractors now pay attention to you too. Who knows: you now might get a few flying kisses.]
So, I wrote:
“Bengal is my mother. Bangladesh is my mother. It doesn’t matter where I live now. I’ve written about it in the memoir I’m putting together. My mother is an important part of it. Kolkata, on one hand, I feel more like, was my mother when I was little, and on the other hand, it became like my first girlfriend when I became a teenager. It took on various forms and shapes at different stages of my life.”
[Fantastic! Ain't it? What a brilliant observation...and that too...one hundred and ten percent genuine...like Tagore...cross my heart.]
To draw in accolades from supporters and opposition alike, I explained:
“So, when I say Kolkata makes love to me, I think about the teeanger-time Kolkata when my senses started to bloom like a bunch of tuberose, with its radiating beauty and fragrance. It comes back every time I return here. That’s an incredible feeling: it wraps me around and won’t let me go.”
[By this time, I observed I managed to steal the limelight away from the opposition...and into my direction. I knew I was on a roll.]
Charged and cheered up, I announced:
“…and then I go back to my old mezzanine flat in old North Calcutta where my mother first walked me to school, and where I returned one day in second grade with lit-up eyes to tell Ma I stood first in class, and she was waiting for me standing in that little two-feet wide balcony — I feel like I’ve come back to my mother again. This is indescribable. This is pure spiritual experience.”
End of debate. Humble, sweet victory…and I knew it. My opposition said something good too in her closing remarks:
“Yes…Kolkata, Bengal, Bangladesh – same speak. Just as the love for one’s mother is unconditional, so too, my love for the place…I accept her as she is….she beckons; she attends to you with all the love and care possible, in the humblest of ways…and when it’s time to bid her goodbye, her memories persist and fill the air with a scent that keep your senses going till the very end….I can identify with your feelings – it’s about a strong sense of belonging..indescribable, indeed!”
In a debate, and that too of this sort, you don’t want to show your emotions too much — in front of the audience. So, I didn’t do it. Did I weep and tremble later? Well…that’s a secret I would not divulge here. You can privately call me to find out.
I can only say to you this much: this is the city and this is the joy…for me (as opposed to some junk Kiplingers or later rapists).
Come along with me to know more about the smiles and tears and fights and fears and poetry and prose and jasmine, tuberose…that Kolkata is to offer to the entire world…even today…even after so much violence and hurt!
Kolkata makes love to me. It’s pure bliss. It’s spiritual. It’s like taking a long, relaxing dip in Mother Ganges. You emerge clean.
Take a long, relaxing dip in Kolkata.
(Living in Kolkata now)