Kolkata or erst while Calcutta was one of the places which I never preferred staying more than a few days on visit. I had relatives staying here and we had to visit this place every year for holidays. What I hated most about this place during my childhood visits was loadshedding, crowd, pollution, long queues and the inhuman capacity of calcuttans to strike a conversation with anyone they meet about anything in this world. I belonged to a small city so I used to find it strange that any place we visited was crowded. I wondered how come hundereds of people also decided to visit the same place at the same time as us. I hated the long distance that needed to be travelled to reach places and for all these reasons I used to be more than glad when holidays were over and I could be back to my less crowded small town. But as luck would have it, after my MBA I landed into Kolkata with my first job and I had no other option but to stay in this city.
The first few days of my life in Kolkata was just of fear and apprehension. How would I manage? I dont even know places? Would my colleagues be good? Would me, a small town girl be able to adjust in such a big city? My mind was filled with self doubts. I remember, the first day in office after the initial joining formalities in the corporate office, the HR manager told me to go and join the New Alipore Branch which was the branch assigned to me. I used to be a shy girl then and though in my heart I knew that all places in Kolkata were the same to me as I didnt know any , yet I ate up my words and couldnt ask the HR manager the way to New Alipore. I was sweating in fear standing outside the corporate office, watching the mad rush of vehicles passing by in the peak office hours.
Never in my life had I seen so many vehicles pass by together and I wondered how on earth I would make it to the New Alipore Branch. Then some kind colleague of mine told me that I could travell by the Metro rail to a particular stop from where I would get an auto to New Alipore. This was another challenge which lay ahead. I didnt have clear idea about theprocess of travell in metro rail and the very fact that I would be travelling feets beneath the surface made me feel suffocated. I entered the metro rail station and stood for few minutes, observing people hurriedly taking tickets and boarding the train. Observing them for sometime gave me a fair idea of what the process was and then very hesitantly I took slow steps to buy a ticket of my own and thereafter board the train . Once I made it to the New Alipore Branch that day all alone, my confidence took a boost and eversince that day I was never scared to travell in this city. My job then was such that I needed to travell at times for client meets and that posed as the biggest huddle for me . I didnt know most of the client places nor could I recognise them even after the client told me landmarks, for all I knew of landmarks in Kolkata was the Victoria Memorial which even a foreigner would know of. I remember, making a mess on my travell to client places, where either I used to get down well ahead the place or before the place and ended up walking miles, perspiring, and looking like a oily piece of fried brinjal. I well remember, the vulnerable me had also wept on some ocassions when I got lost in some place, was not able to locate the client’s office and by the time i did and reached there, it was well past the appointment time and the client had left. Slowly I made good friends in my workplace who were so kind and cooperative to me that they actually drew maps so that I could make it to places easily.
Time flew and today after years in Kolkata I have become a seasoned player. This city is no longer a strange city to me. Its “my city”, “My home”. I have started loving my life here. This city has given me rock solid friends, a good job which has shaped my identity and also made me have so many sweet crushes. Life in Kolkata has taught me to be street smart, to be a good conversationalist, to strike a joke even while waiting in traffic jams in a hot humid afternoon because people here have an amazing sense of humour. I have started enjoying the long drives to places which i utilise by reading or listening to the FM. I love the street food here and gobble “futchkas” (the kolkata’s answer to paani puri) on the road with friends. I enjoy the festive madness the city goes into while Durga Puja and today I consider myself as a Kolkatan. This city has given me everything. Today, I can boast that I know almost every nook and corner of Kolkata, and if I have an address anywhere here, I will be able to locate it. I know the roads well and I know exactly the ‘ no entry’ timings for almost all major areas of the city just that now with a ride up in the designation levels in office, I mostly travell by my car or by cab.
Few days back me and a friend of mine were travelling to a place in kolkata for a party. My friend is born and brought up in Kolkata, yet I was the navigator and my friend was on the steering wheel. I kept on telling the right turns and U turns and my friend was amazed by my skill.
” You are just few years in this city, yet you know Kolkata better than me, how come?”, asked my friend.
I replied,” Halaat ne mujhe sikha diya.” ( Situation has taught me.)
and my friend replied, ” Who is halaat? your ex- boy friend? you never told me about him? Is he an ex colleague? Come on, tell me all.”
I burst out laughing at such an innocently dumb comment and looked out of the car window to the Fhutchka wala standing on the footpath. Its been 3 days that I havent had Futchkas.