Tuesday, May 29, 2007

The Best City

It was several hours after sunset. As I was disembarking from the plane, the flight attendant announced that it was 37 degrees outside. I tried to pretend that it was not all that bad. I always believed that thinking positive could make a huge difference.

But after 10 minutes, I could not ignore the droplets of sweat that had started forming on the back of my neck. Being seated in a moving taxi with the winds blowing against me did not help. The droplets were all over my back like a contagious infection in a few minutes. They joined together to form small streams that started trickling down my back. My scalp was moist and then my hair. I could feel my cotton kurta glued to my wet body.

Welcome to the hot and humid city of Kolkata!

A good friend’s wedding took me to Kolkata in the recent past.
It was in the month of May. The peak of summer.

Staying indoors did not help. Standing under a fan rotating in full speed did not help. Taking a shower thrice a day did not help. The heat was unforgiving. It was not the heat, it was the humidity that took the life out of me.

The wedding went fine. The first Bengali wedding I had ever seen.
I ate rasgullas and phuchkas. I went shopping. I bought 3 Bengal Handloom sarees.

The next day, I stole a few hours to take a tour of the city.

It is a very historical city. I love history. Therefore despite the unbearable heat, despite my friends telling me not to step out of the house, I started out to explore. I saw the magnificent Howrah Bridge, the colossal Victoria memorial, the high court, the Birla Mandir. I traveled by the metro rail.
Occasionally, I saw a tram crossing the road. Unlike in other cities, where trams have been discarded because of their limited utility, this city has rightly chosen to retain the legacy.

But I could not help noticing that the whole city had a very old, broken down, dilapidated look. The buildings looked pale, dirty and deprived of any maintenance. The woodworks were decaying. The window frames were rusty. The buses looked as though they had just been set on fire. The taxis, the autos looked equally bad (as if they did not want to give up the unity of the place). It indeed looked like a communist city; a place inhabited by labour class people and union leaders.

There was nothing refreshing about the city.

I started looking forward to my return to Bangalore. The very thought of “Bangalore” brings a smile on my face.
A very important realization has occurred to me. A realization that climate is the thing that matters most in life. The most important consideration of all, when you compare different places/cities. Because you don’t get a break from climate. You cannot escape it. It is with you all the time. It is like your husband!!

All those people who complain about Bangalore traffic and infrastructure should be parceled to cities like Kolkata, Delhi or Chennai and left there to roast in the heat, sweat and smell like wet dogs and pigs or a truckload of rotten cabbage. Only then they will realize how fortunate, how blessed they are to live in this city.
But once they realize this and start longing to come back to Bangalore, they should not be allowed to!

The day of departure arrived.
“I had a great time here. A lovely city, nice people. I would love to come back to this place” I said as I bade farewell to my friends.

Flying is always an excitement, no matter how many times you do it. I was awake throughout my journey, craning my neck to take pictures of landscapes below from the little window. The scenes below were not interesting. I could see huge chunks of brown earth….probably mountains. There were dried rivers, pale green in colour, surrounded by marshy lands. I could see symmetric buildings, tiny in size but hundreds of them. Occasionally, I saw tar roads and match box like vehicles, moving at a snails’ pace. There were mounds of ashes and stretches of barren lands.

And suddenly there came a transformation. There was a green carpet below, as far as eyes could see. A lake here and a lake there. Amidst them stood the glass finished buildings that served as embellishments. Reflecting the morning sunshine, they added sparkle to the whole picture. There was that smile on my face again. Bangalore had arrived.………………….

It was several hours after sunrise. As I was disembarking from the plane, the flight attendant announced that it was 27 degrees outside. A difference of mere 10 degrees ……..and what a world of difference it was.

The clouds were thick and black, carrying the message of an impending downpour. It started drizzling. It was the month of May, the peak of summer.

Welcome to the garden city of Bangalore!!!