On occasions such as illumination of Howrah bridge do we recall Kolkata’s glorious past. Ministers and important people who grace such events usually read from written speeches prepared by their subordinates. They take the opportunity to announce plans, which then make screaming headlines in newspapers.
It’s like throwing a small stone in an otherwise calm pond only to create some ripples that vanish shortly. In case of Kolkata, the thin veneer of calmness at the surface cannot hide the ungodly chaotic city that it is, unable to cope with its limited ability, yet unwilling to admire and restore its treasures.
If you ask me I’ll say it’s because of sheer lack of willingness and planning. A city of the size of Kolkata, like similar others, looks good and inviting when 3 factors amalgamate – awareness about its strengths, a perfect understanding of how to put them to good use, and third, availing necessary skills to bring all efforts to fruition. Anything less is just not enough. After all, planning a city with a rich historical past isn’t something to play around.
That calls for expertise to appreciate the issues that matter most and single-mindedness in pursuing them. Unfortunately, the city’s keepers lack that sense, which on the ground translates to piecemeal actions that are completely devoid of cohesive efforts.
Talking about Howrah bridge illumination, I’ve pointed out in an earlier post that there is just no ambience to enjoy the beauty. Efforts like this, however laudable, do not change the reality that Kolkata is. No guessing why Germany’s Nobel-winning author, Günter Grass once famously said, “Why not a poem about a pile of shit that God dropped and named Calcutta..“
To our sensitive souls, Grass’ comments may seem harsh. But can we deny it? More poignantly, can we ignore it? The fact is we’ve ignored it for so long that talks about reinvigorating the BBD Bag, the riverside, Kalighat temple and so on are laughed at by common people.
They cannot be blamed, for indeed those who have made Kolkata their home since about 3 decades or so, have learnt to see the city steadily decaying to what it is today. A reflection of abject failure on part of city’s rulers is evident when many of its citizens just do not know or care to know what a great city Calcutta used to be in grand old days.
It’s a shame on us, the Kolkattans.
City’s roads – an everyday scene [Picture source]