In the end, this is all that remains : a sweet memory and longing to go for more. Its like a amazing date that ended rather abruptly. As unusual as it is, on my third visit to this city in India, when I stayed only for a day, I fell in love with Kolkata!
Kolkata is very similar to Dhaka (Bangladesh), the city where I am from and yet they couldn’t be more apart from one another. As you walk through the city, during the busy morning hours, the resemblance will be gaping back at you: the rush everyone is in, the insane speed people drive their cars through narrow alleyways, the incessant use of car horns, the general rough and uncouth demeanor of passersby, the filthy streets and abominable smell coming from that corner. If you close your eyes and stand there for a few seconds, its almost like you never left home; but then the subtle nuances begin to appear when you open your eyes wide and see.
Its probably because I am a women, this comes to my notice first. The women there seem to enjoy a freedom that I can’t imagine in Dhaka. Don’t get me wrong I am not saying, women are not cat-called or stared at in Kolkata. Much to my regret, they probably are; but overall, men seem to have better tolerance to women wearing anything other than traditional outfits. In my city, you get ogled at simply for wearing something (a tops or a kurti) without a dupatta. That’s not how it felt over there. It felt liberating and safe. Even when I was walking through the narrow alleyways all by myself sometime close to nine in the evening, I did not fear for my safety.
This time around, I lived in the same area as I did five years ago, somewhere between New Market and Park Street where you can find a halal restaurant nearby. Will you believe me if I tell you, almost nothing changed!?! I had no problem locating shops that I visited years ago. Its like I took off from where I last left the city! There is comfort in the familiarity and I like how the Kolkata residents try to hold it near to themselves.
It probably doesn’t speak very well of my eating habits but it is what it is : I LOVE STREET FOOD! The spicy and the crunchy, the hot and sour! Bring it all on! No wonder Kolkata tops my list of favorite cities because of its versatile street food scene. I just love the buzz around New Market during lunch time. From pani puri, bhel puri, different types of chaats, dosa with variety of fillings to lemonades made with sugar and salt, fruit juices, brightly colored popsicles – the possibilities are endless! Its a complete food heaven!
I have fallen in love with Kolkata for all that it is and all that it isn’t. As the tempo slows down at the end of the day, you will see its people for what they truly are- simple human beings trying to stretch and make the best out of what they have. They seem to be satisfied with so less and are so careful about how they spend (some may say, a little too careful!) their earnings. I did not notice this the first two times I was there but really what is so bad about buying only the amount you need? What is so wrong in spending whenever only necessary?! I now see nothing wrong it that. I can now relate to them, more than I ever could. For a budding minimalist like me, their lifestyle hit me home.
Thank you for reading <3!