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Friday, November 11, 2011

Hues of the city of Joy! (Part-1)

Sandes, Naru and Mishti Dahi……a paradise for sweet lovers-Bengal! The name of the place comes from being situated just next to Bay of Bengal. Just the name of the place brings all the sweetness in my mouth…aah!

First thing that stuck me in the capital was the bright yellow cabs! They were all over the place with taxi drivers trying to woo the travelers. Here I noticed a very queer custom. There was this yellow line outside the station; all taxi drivers stood at ‘THE’ line. None of them crossed the line; all followed the unspoken law; unlike the taxi drivers in Delhi! 

It was early morning and the weather a slightly chill. The taxi glided on the road and I got the first few glances of the beautiful city of Joy!

When I was just 11 years old, there was a chapter in my English book called ‘The Living Saint’. I had dreamt of coming to Kolkotta since then. I wanted to see her walk through her home; dressed so pure in white giving her comforting smile to one and all.

My dream came true; I came to her home (Only difference was that it was Kolkotta not Calcutta now!). Just as I stepped into the room where her tomb was there, I felt a reverence which can be felt only in the house of God! Next stop was Shishu Niketan; where children who were ‘not wanted’ by the society were cared for. Even unwed mothers were given shelter; their baby delivered and cared for as they began a new life at Mother’s doorstep. Playing, No worries in the world; as I looked at these children, I wished to hug each and tell them how special they all were! Stood at a corner, I suddenly realized that a sister was watching me keenly. Her name was Amrit Jose. She was from Jharkhand and had come to the ‘Home’ when she was just 19. Today after 25 years she held the same love and care for all (I told her even my age was not 25 yet!). When I asked her how come she fought the society in a time when women were not strong enough for it? “It was a calling for me; felt as if I was born for it”. Just then a small hand held mine. I looked down to see a beautiful face crying! He tugged me to come along. He wanted to ride a swing and none was allowing him to. As I turned after pacifying him, there was another sound of cry. A girl was sitting on ground; all angry and throwing off her shoes! I was about to pick her shoe when a girl almost her age (even younger) ran to get her shoe back. She then tried to fit the shoe back on her friend’s foot. The girl had only three fingers. These children of the ‘Lesser God’ taught me a valuable lesson that day; love is universal and everyone needs it!

On the roads again we headed for the famous Victoria memorial. Women seated on the front seat of an auto was a common sight on roads. (I remember once an auto vala tell me in Patna, “Madam you may not mind sitting in the front but Bihar is not so advanced till now!”; well may be Kokotta is then!) The building stood all white, polished and breathtaking! The statue of a cupid with a …………..  standing proudly on the highest point of Victoria caught my attention. The sculptures were a delight to my eyes. And to top it with chocolate ice-cream, there was a painting exhibition going on. Collection was from painters from Kalighat, a low lying area of Kolkotta near Ganges. The exhibition gave me an insight into minds of men and women. The essence of domination of men in some and women in others was very amusing as well as creative. ‘Lover as a sheep’ tied with a rope held by a woman, sword in hand with a bowed head in front of a woman, giving attention to a courtesan while the wife suffers in a corner and woman imagining her lover in the mirror were some amazing pieces I saw!

Marble Palace was another marvel in itself. In the midst of huge spacious garden (not well maintained though) stands a structure in pure white. The gatekeeper stopped us and asked if we had the permission to go inside; well the entrance costed us a Rs 10 note! It was a private property, Palace of Maharaja…………..with restricted entrance (surely I don’t mean the gatekeeper incident) and absolutely ‘No Photography Allowed’. We had to wait our turn in a small group where the guide would take us around the palace. But the guide was hardly a guide for a collection like that! The palace was full of magnificent sculptures; all in marble. It was like a mini-Rome! Four seasons-Autumn, Spring, Summer and Winter, Dawn and Night, Continents-Asia, America, Africa had amazing expressions all of women. One particular sculpture on the wall held my attention. It was the size of a black board in middle school used to. Placed right in the centre of the platform (where I was told Kali puja happens every year) this sculpture spoke to me about slaying of women, huge pots and cross of the Christ. The episode of witch-hunting in Europe came in front of my eyes; where powerful single women were murdered by accusing them as witches. It is so weird that just in front of the sculpture, we hold our worship of a lady, Goddess Kali! Humans aren’t very clear what they want from themselves!      

Next stop being the International Dance Festival, it was just right to set my mood to blend in cultural beauty of the land; away from our closed mindsets. The venue, Satyajit Ray auditorium was itself a beauty, with marvelous pieces of art all around as you enter. Dancing to the classical Indian we saw dancers from Bangladesh and South Africa. Unmatched beauty of the expressions, dance postures and music caught my heart in a web where I was proud to be an Indian! With much more to come the next day I peacefully went off to sleep!   


  1. Nice to see Kolkatta through your eyes. Look forward to Part 2