Kolkata : An Everlasting City
(SUNITI CHANDRA MISHRA)
12 minus 4 is equal to 8 and between you and me even the damn foolish will say it is so but when Baadshah Akbar asked this question, Birbal, the wisest of his ?nine gems?, replied that when 4 is taken out of 12, the result will be zero. Akbar, as stunned as you, asked as to how could it be possible and the explanation was: ?His Highness! From 12 months of a year if 4 months of rainy season are taken out, nothing will grow and all will die. Thus it is zero?. So, chaps! This is the matter of essence. It is really difficult to imagine what India will look like if Kolkata (old name Calcutta) is brought to no account.
India without Kolkata will be India without its National Anthem ? Jan gana mana adhinayak jay he Bharat bhagya vidhata. This beautiful and all-embracing poetry was written by Rabindranath Tagore, India?s first Nobel Prize winner in the field of literature. India without Kolkata will even be India without its National Song ? Vande Mataram by Bankim Chandra. India without Kalkata will be India without Mother Teresa, another Nobel Prize winner of India whose Missionaries of Charity are still promoting the message of love and mercy in the nooks and corners of the world. India without Kolkata will be India without Satyajit Ray and Mrinal Sen and dozens of the glitterati of Indian Cinema whose contributions are immense and unforgettable. India without Kolkata will be India without ?Rosugullas?, the king of Indian sweets. If ?Vande Matram? became the vexing point of the British, ?Rosugullas? always allured them. India without Kolkata will be India without Howrah Bridge ? a marvel of bridge technology for ever and an object of such appeal, not unlike the bridge on Thames in London, that a number of Indian films have been inspired by this. One film was even named after it ? Howrah Bridge. India without Kolkata will be India without Tram and Underground Railway, hand-pulled rickshaws, sophisticated Babu Moshays (a typical Bengali gentleman is often referred to as such), enchanting greeneries, twisting Tista river, charming girls, artistic people, great intellectuals and .. and ? so stop imagining.. India without Kolkata will be a sleep without a sweet dream.
Situated in the far east of India, the metropolitan city of Kolkata has seen the history of this country being written. ?Kolkata?, also pronounced as ?Kalikata? by the native Bengalis, probably derived its name from ?Kali?, the goddess incarnation. Bengal has been one of the leading centers of the devotees of ?Shakti? (female embodiment of Supreme Power) and ?Kali? is the most adored divinity in this part of the world. This name existed even in the Mughal time in India but in early 17th Century it became famous as the East India Company was first established on the banks of the Hooghly. The city became even more famous in 1756 A.D. when Siraj-Ud-Dawlah, the last independent Nawab of Bengal, captured the city and was soon defeated by Robert Clive. Warren Hastings was the first Governor-General of British India and he was charmed by Kolkata (then Calcutta). He decided to make it the administrative headquarter of East India Company. Soon it developed as the capital of British empire and became the political and economical ?nerve-centre? of India.
Calcutta is a city of its own fashion. India is changing; Kolkata, too. However, traditions and culture of Bengal are deep rooted. Kolkata has a number of textile mills and numerous industries and both skilled and unskilled laborers are always in demand. This has made this city the Bangkok of India and - as in Bangkok - ?flesh markets?, too, have developed in Calcutta to quench the thirst of the immigrants. Sonagachhi, near Kolkata, is a notorious center of prostitutes where ?babes? of all ranges are hired for pleasure. Kolkata is also an important cine center of India. In fact, Kolkata?s contribution to entire Indian cinema is unforgettable. Here have born people who were trend-setters and fashhioners of cinema ? Film-makers and Directors like Satyajit Ray and Mrinal Sen, Musicians like S.D. Burman and Salil Chowdhury, Actors like Ashok Kumar and Utpal Dutt, Singers like Kishore Kumar and Hemant Kumar, Actresses like Suchitra Sen and Sharmila Tagore, Comedians like Asit Sen and Keshto Mukherjee ? just to name only few of them.
Seeing Calcutta is seeing life. This is an ocean of humankind, a kaleidoscope of life in varied colors. Bombay is a costly dream, Delhi is too rigid but Kolkata is all-embracing. Rich or poor all enjoy Calcutta ? the former may dine in a luxury hotel and sleep in a cozy compartment, the latter may just go with ?machh-bhaat? (fish and rice) in a stand-by hotel. One can visit many places in India but Kolkata is something one will fall in love with. I salute the spirit of Kolkata, I love its people ? the most tender human beings on the earth (if I forget the Naxalites for a while). I love those beautiful forests, those warbling rivers, those chirping girls in the streets, those love-intoxicated artists in their own world, intellectuals and poets in coffee houses, all human beings of essence! I have great respect for the spirit of harmony reflected in the collective life of the millions of people of different religions and creeds living in this ?ocean of humanity?.