All entries for Tuesday 25 January 2005

January 25, 2005

Reasons to Come Back

The Telegraph, 25.01.2005

Rudrangshu Mukherjee correctly identifies his nostalgia for Calcutta belonging to a “vanished era” (“Return of the native”, Jan 9). There are many in the Indian diaspora who originate in Calcutta, and would very much like to be associated with it. But today they shy away from doing so. Because Calcutta today stands not for its beauty, or hospitality, or bourgeois luxuries, or even technological marvels, but for quite the opposite things. From the moment one lands at the Dum Dum airport begins the torment that spoils the joy of coming back to one’s native city. Airport officials are hopelessly unhelpful and impolite, public transport is shoddy and the quality of physical infrastructure is rotten. On top of that, the people on the streets are rude. Calcutta is perhaps the only city where taxi-drivers decide whether they will take on a passenger or not. Garbage heaps line most streets and little is done to remove them.

But we were not alone in our misfortunes. The author mentions blitzed London of 1948, torn apart by German bombing in World War II. Let us take a moment and recall the rape of Nanjing, or the bombing of Hiroshima. Many other cities met with an equally tragic fate as Calcutta did when the 1943 famine hit it, or when migration from East Pakistan began. Today, the glittering skyline of Pudong, Shanghai reminds us of our degradation as a city. Calcutta is no longer the City of Joy, but our age-old arrogance has blinded us to this fact. If only Calcuttans realized this, the city could be saved. On its rubble, the people must take an oath to rebuild and restore their city to its old glory.

January 2005

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