Tuesday, June 1, 2010

My first glimpse of Kolkata

That city talks to you. At least it did to me. It jeered and sneered at me. Barely 10 minutes away from the airport and on the way to the city, a huge, well-lit artefact pierced the darkness and hit me in the eyeball. What was it - you might wonder. Incredible though it sounds, believe me that artefact was a huge Rubik’s cube. Only Kolkata would have a bloody Rubik’s cube for an embellishment.
“Do you have the IQ to enter these exalted gates?” the city asked of me.
“Look I’m only here for a one-day shoot,” I said to no one in particular. I felt it necessary to explain my presence there. Another 10 minutes and another huge Rubik’s cube looked me in the eye.
“You don’t get it, do you?”
I was suitably daunted. Dotted with yellow amby taxis, the street seemed to shrug me off. “What is Bangla for ‘slow down’?, I screamed in my mind.
Slowly, I gathered myself. It’s just a city like any other – I told myself, unconvincingly. Thanks to multi-national banks and telecom communication inundating the streets, every city looks the same. Airtel, Aircel, Indicom collectively made me feel at home.
But after every few blocks, Kolkata in its real avatar would rear its head up. In the dark distance I saw a huge enclosure with a fancy sign board. Colourful and bright, it kind of cheered me up.
“Looks like this city has an amusement park.” I said aloud.
When I was finally able to see the sign at close quarters, to my horror it said – Science City Amusement Park. Through the clouds in my head, words like observatory, space and planetarium hit me in the temporal lobe.
I could instantly picture bespectacled Bong fathers dangling their kids on their knees and saying, “Bollo, A for Agoraphobia, B for Borborygmus, C for Collywobbles.”
The driver mumbled something in Bong. Considering the only Bong word I knew was Boka*&#@*, I kept shut. Better still, I shut my eyes.
Finally, I heard the driver say, “We’re almost there.”
I opened my eyes, curious to see what Park Street looked like. And another sign assaulted me.
Shakespere Sarani street.
“When was the last time you even mentioned Shakespere in a conversation?” the supercilious street asked me.
I forgot all about the shoot.
“When are we flying back?” I asked my colleague.

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