The story begins a little more than twenty-four years ago, from an infant mewling in the crib.
Time: 4.30 PM, Place: Kolkata, Events: A lady lying on the hospital bed, straining to see the infant. A perspiring doctor holding up the baby, secretly glad to be able to go home at last! A young intern nurse hovering in the background, slightly green. And most importantly, the kicking baby in the doctor’s hands, looking around and trying to gobble everything in.
Now lets fast-forward it to present day,
Time: 11:00 PM, Place: Pune, Events: A lone girl in the house, sitting in front of her laptop and typing away. 🙂
This is the lone girl’s story on two of the many places she has lived in and learnt to love, hate and miss, all at the same time. Every place has something beautiful to make you remember it by and it also has the annoying little things that irritate you at first but only lead to, you warming up to it and remembering it every time with a smile and a slight shake of your head.
Lets start with Kolkata, my birthplace, the city I say I belong to. This is where I was born and visited unfailingly every summer, with visits to the zoo, museums, botanical gardens, observatories and what not. It is an old, old city that still holds on to its old world charm with the desperation of a young hatchling that tries to hold on to its nest, scared of taking flight and exploring new possibilities. The old trams running through the city and the crisscross steel lines glinting in the sunlight, crowded cobbled streets amidst tall, old houses where you can take a walk and be transported back to 1932, scary looking red-bricked buildings with arches and domes, the huge intimidating pillars in Dalhousie and of course, Howrah Bridge; All these, old remnants of a struggling city, huffing and puffing to shed its old skin and arise anew like a phoenix. The railway station being next to the Ganges, I always feel a pang in my heart when I say goodbye to the brown waters snaking away from me.
Kolkata reminds me of an old grandfather, taking the hand of its young grandson and teaching it to walk and later along the way when the grandson has learnt to run, the grandfather is happy to stop and sit down and watch his grandson’s progress with a smile, never trying to catch up in any way. That is what the city does, teaches you to live on your own, allowing you to take your own sweet time, always patient, always waiting. And once you do and you take your own path, you realize you have left it far behind and the city is not enough for you. Pune is more like a guardian, a patient one but wary too. He won’t push you away but won’t hold your hand either, a good companion to walk with, stumble and learn, while he waits patiently by your side while you get a footing. Very unlike Delhi, which seems like a tall, mean man in ripped jeans and a silk black shirt who might push you while crossing you by and might as well snatch your dupatta away :/. Jammu is a rebel, when you think you have tamed it, it springs a surprise; Cold winds that chill you to the bone in winters and dry summers that leave you parched, flash waterways that can wash away trucks, living on the edge is what she wants. Chandigarh seems like a young married lady, ordered and clean on one hand but with flashy habits, hidden from the eyes of her in-laws, and that is the twinkle in her eyes. Ranchi is a simple, hardworking man who doesn’t acknowledge thievery, yet he keeps yielding to exploitation.
I could go on, because I imagine every city I have lived in, personified with myriad qualities, eclectic habits and an erratic nature, that is found in every human. But this is my tale of two cities that brings me back to Pune. I love Pune, like I love my birthplace. Its gentle, its helpful and its pretty. I love old cities that have centuries of history behind them. It defines the city more and helps you to understand it.During the day its rushing and overflowing with more than it can handle. Evenings bring tears to your eyes when you cannot figure out where and how. But in the wee hours of the morning when the city sleeps, nothing seems more peaceful, the slight breeze, the twinkling lights and the calmness touches your heart or just watch the sun setting behind the rolling hills, you don’t have to stay awake for Pune to calm you down. You work and you party. Pune is the idiotic cosmopolitan, trying to be more modern than it can handle, managing by a hair’s breadth and at the same time, not cutting off its roots too.
The lone girl learns to live and fight from the old grandfather, meets so many different kinds of people along the way, the rebel, the ms. prim and proper, the mean pervert, the simple exploited man and so many others. She then takes the hand of the simple and trying hard to be dashing, cosmopolitan to embark on a new journey and yet, she wonders, who will she cross paths with next.