Now that I have travelled to all the four metros of the country (and lived for 10 years in two of them), I hereby proclaim that Kolkata is the most metropolitan city of all.
You could be surprised but that is what I feel. Of course, like always, you may or may not agree with me.
Let’s go at the beginning. Let’s just ask ourselves, and this is a tricky one, what exactly is a metropolitan city? Is it high rise buildings? Is it the big roads and the transportation that makes a city a metro? Is it the food? Is it the dressing style of the people? Is it People?
I think in the acceptability of various cultures lies the real essence of any metropolitan city. High rise buildings are only a few decades old.
When I went to Kolkata, I had to look at it as a metro. I had expectations but looking at this city, I wanted to go back and check out the meaning of the word “Metropolitan”. I needed to evaluate the city but I was forced to re-evaluate the benchmarks first. Because I feel, over the years, the definition of a Metropolitan city has been messed up with.
In Kolkata, there is a certain openness to everything. Because when a guy from Bangalore walks on chowringhee road, they don’t call him a madrasi like they do in Delhi. Because there they start off their first sentence in Bengali and by noticing your bewildered look, they smile and say it again in Hindi. Because there the UP wallahs and the Biharis are considered partners at work, rather than being treated as outsiders as they put up with the cheap rhetoric of Shiv Sena in Mumbai. In Kolkata, you can have tea for Re.1.50 and then you can have it for Rs.10 as well.
At the same time, I know, Mumbai has a big heart. But Kolkata isn’t that bad too.
The lair of The Maharaja
Coming to another aspect, and an important one, you can almost feel the pain of Ganguly’s 10 month exile in every man’s heart. I was made to feel a sinner when I confessed that I had almost forgotten Chappell’s obscene gesture to the crowd at the Eden Gardens. It’s fresh in the minds here as if it was yesterday. They have not forgiven the coach over that. They never will, I can tell you that.
The cook who prepared the fine meals for me in the mess I stayed in, never looked much of a talkative guy. Until, while he served me a bowl of rosogollas, I asked if he had ever been to the Eden Gardens. He gave me a look, as if I had asked him one of the stupidiest questions. Well, maybe I just had. Kolkata resident not been to Eden! And then a sudden smile, a glitter in the eyes and the tone of his voice revealed that I had set him off. Eden Gardens, many times! How can you come up with that? Right, stupid me. A gentle loosener to start up with, so to say. Hit for a six alright.
Then on to Saurav Ganguly. Has he ever seen him play? Oh yes sir, sure, he has played near our guest house. A day before the news was confirmed, about Ganguly’s inclusion in the test team. So what did he had to say about the Maharaja being out of the team for such a long time?
“No, the cry is not because a Bengali player was axed from the team. The problem is with the way it happened. Bengali or not, he deserved better”.
No doubt, he did deserve better and maybe he will get to that. I often heard Pradeep Vijaykar on radio. He always said that the people of Kolkata have an immense knowledge of the game. That is just so true — You can almost feel it here. They live for it. They think about it when they walk. They have cups of tea, discussing what went wrong the other day as if they could have changed the way it all went. An average Kolkata resident will be able to match his wits against the best of commentators on ESPN, that is the level of their matured opinions. To call Cricket “just a game” will be dishonoring their respect, knowledge and above all the love for the game.
I have heard they are more passionate about Football. I didn’t get to that. And trust me, I can’t imagine that.