11 Mar 2008

Where the head is held high...

... and it is still legal to speak on your mobile while driving a car.

In fact Kolkata does not seem like a city like Delhi, Bangalore or Mumbai. It almost looks like it has taken a different trajectory. I have been coming here on and off in the last five years and things are now looking different. It looked cleaner and quieter this time (or is it that my ears are used to the noise in Delhi?) and there is a Barista in town.

When did it happen that this city got left out of the debate of the best cities in India. It is still one of the cheapest to live in, you will always have good neighbours wherever you stay and people still have time. Whenever I go there I end up walking around the city. Somehow the streets invite you, with age old houses lined up and in between them a abandoned haveli. Unlike other cities in India, Kolkata still has to catch up the high rise fever. A little away from Park Street and you can see that most buildings are only three stories high.

Most of the people you meet look well traveled (Bengalis are the most enterprising tourists finding the remotest of places to go to). This is in contrast to Mumbai where most of the folks either travel for work or not at all. In that sense, Kolkatans are curious and interested in you. What do you do? Where are you from? What fish do you get there(!) In Mumbai, they are the centre of the world - everything interesting is happening only in that city.

However with the coming of developers and IT companies - times they are a changing. Many of the older buildings in the town area were being replaced by newer higher ones. Already my driver was complaining that the city was becoming an "urban jungle". Really ? This from a resident of a city that was the largest and most urbanized city of the country just forty years ago. And now they are worried that this will become a jungle of concrete. Again.

I think the British did them a favour by shifting the capital. They still have a lot of building to do before they catch up with Mumbai or Delhi.

No comments: