Sometime back I traveled to Howrah Station through BBD Bag on a Sunday. The winter was kind that day. The day was brightly sunlit and colder than the usual gentle stuff you find in Kolkata.
Since it was a Sunday, the roads had little traffic, and even less people. As I raced in the car past the GPO, and then taking a left turn onto Strand Road, I wondered how clean the city looks at its busiest place when there is no chaos around.
2 days later I again chanced upon a visit to BBD Bag – I come here very occasionally – and this time I cursed my going there. The early morning wintry air was heavy with smoke and other pollutants that emitted from the ugly buses that raced against one another.
There was no modicum of traffic rule except for stopping at signals, which was all that the police care for. As I went past Tea Board on Brabourne Road, there was the familiar jostling on the sidewalk because there was so little place to accommodate the rushing feet.
The men who manned the roadside stalls appeared completely oblivious to the hardship of the people jockeying around every obstacle to move ahead. Such was the commoner’s plight on the road that it has ceased to be even considered as a problem.
After all, the place is home to the largest wholesale market in the entire eastern India. And who doesn’t know the power of Burrabazar businessmen who literally control the flow of goods into the city?
All of these must be of no surprise to anyone who has spent some years in the city. But perhaps for the first time, the city’s mayor has publicly admitted his helplessness to enforce the corporation’s building rules in the Burrabazar area after yesterday’s devastating fire.
He says thus in today’s ABP – oi elakaye be-aini bari keu bhenge thekhak na! (let me see if anyone can break the illegal houses in that area..!).
Kolkata is a strange city. It is very apparent that the city’s administrators have an overwhelmingly callous attitude to the plight of common people.
Just as in spite of the High Court’s ruling, the footpaths in Burrabazar still continue to be occupied by the vendors, similarly there is no visible action against smoke-belching buses and trucks that ply in the city and the unruly way they ride. There are many such instances.
Is it therefore any wonder that the Book Fair has bulldozed its way to Park Circus maidan despite everyone knowing the dire consequences the people will suffer on the fair days?
First timers to the city find it exasperating to live in. You can’t blame them because perhaps nowhere else you’ll find the common living rules being flouted with such impunity.
Limited means is one thing; to completely overlook others’ problems is uncivilized and speaks of unbelievable audacity.
Welcome to the city of joy, or shall I say beware of the city of sorrow!