I would have dearly loved to blog from Calcutta (long live Aveek Sarkar for not mind-numbingly changing the city's name - The Telegraph still carries the city's name as Calcutta) but I was shuffling between one grandmothers house to the other and hospital in between, where my one surviving granddad was generally being depressed. Anyway, other than family I got a lot of eating done, which I always do in Cal, and that included a visit to Tangra, aka Chinatown. I also got a lot of alcohol down, and really what bad things can you say about a city where a large peg of RC costs Rs 55.
Well, there is something bad you can say about Cal, and that is driving there. Its fucking insane. I have never missed a driver as much as I did in Calcutta.
First, to make matters really bad I was given the keys to an Indica. Now given that Mr T, the man whose name arorns the car is a Kanjoos hipocrite its not surpring that the car is a lump of metallic shit. It feels like a truck, and when you look inside it looks like a truck. A comfortable truck, but a truck nonetheless. And in Calcutta, given that pedestrians haven't been scared to death by insane Delhi-esque speeds they just stick their hand out and walk in the middle of the road. No, they don't even stick their hands out. They just walk, cycle or whatever else in the middle of the road. You see, if the roads were as big as they are in Delhi, it would be fine, but they aren't. The roads challenge Chennai for daftness of size, and unlike Bombay there are throughfares everywhere. Sit with a driver and he will get you to your detination via an intricate maze that make the pyramids catacombs look easy. And unlike Bombay or Bangalore, drivers in Calcutta have no idea of discipline. Bongs rival Punjabi's on traffic sense. So essntially Calcutta roads are a wild mix of the worst of Delhi and Bombay - that is Delhi traffic discipline and Bombay roads. Which makes it pure hell on wheels. This was the first time I drove in Cal, next time, I'll ask for a driver.
Calcutta, the city where I was born in the middle of a flood. where my mom had to shifted to the first floor an hour after giving birth to me, because the ground floor flooded. Its not that bad anymore, I believe. It doesn't flood that much and they have built flyovers everywhere. Heck, they even finished the Lake Gardens flyover after a zillion years. I've seen it being built ever since my brief three year interlude in La Martniere, Calcutta (KG to Class 2, I was in Section A1 and my batch should have passed out in 2001. La Marts produced such gems as my Dad, Mom, Editor, Suhel Seth need I say more?). You can't fault my educational background y'see.
And then there are Bengalis. Don't get me wrong, I love being Bong, and all aspects of Bong-ness. I mean, who can rival Bongs when it comes to being disgustingly parochial and eating fish. I mean Mallu's come close, but then they don't have our 'Brains' we scream. But, you really have to love the concept of family. I mean you are overwhelmed by family. There is family pouring out of every nook and cranny, and they all want to feed you. Having spent most of my life in a distant family outpost, and that too with half a functional family, my Bongness is brought into sharp relief when it becomes obvious that I abhor too much family. But then again, with my old garnddad, the family has closed ranks tremendously. And, somehow, I have some peace of mind now that I did go to Cal. I couldn't even attend my other gradfathers funeral, and I didn't see him for months before he died, now at least I know I've done some semblance of family duty. Strange for someone like me.
And all the roads in Cal aren't sucky. They've built this new bypass to the airport, that goes via Rajarhat. Brilliant four-lane road. And empty. Great. And I believe the rest of India should adopt the Rs 55/peg (60 ml) price for RC.