Long time ago, in a half-forgotten article, I had read a few lines that remained unforgotten. It said, in India, if one is looking for greenery, Delhi is the city to be in; if one is looking for money, Mumbai is the city to find a job in; but if someone is looking for a city with a soul, Kolkata is the place to live in. As I had spent all my life in Kolkata, I did not realize the true meaning of these words, until, one day Gurgaon beckoned and I had to pack everything in order to settle in a city I had never known before. As the flight hovered over Kolkata before soaring high up in the sky, I knew, without anyone having to tell me that I would return someday, for I was leaving my soul behind. A feeling of emptiness filled every part of me, where my soul should have been.
A year later, when the emptiness could not be borne anymore, a decision was taken – to return to my hometown, Kolkata, the city that had occupied much of my thoughts for most part of the year I had stayed in Gurgaon. As I boarded the train, from New Delhi Station, my heart longed to be reunited with its soul – to feel complete yet once again. That night was spent in restlessness onboard and when at last the all-important new day dawned, I looked out of the window at the bright landscapes. The green countryside looked greener, the white clouds looked whiter, the chirpy birds looked happier. We went past the lakes and streams, the paddies and trees at lightning speed, faster than I had imagined. It seemed the whole world had been secretly planning to take me home and nothing could stop me now from going back to where I truly belonged. When the train gradually entered the station, I was not appalled by the filth on the train tracks or the stench on the platforms teeming with faces of poverty-stricken masses. Neither was I confused by the chaos nor put-off by the noise that filled every corner of the station. I knew I was back to the place I longed to be in – my Kolkata.
Upon my return, I realized that the soul of this city does not lie only in her picturesque skyline with the majestic Victoria presiding over it, the songs of Tagore or the world-renowned ‘Rosogolla’. It also resides in every road and corner of the city, a boat ride on the Hoogly River, the expanse of the evergreen Maidan, the bustle of New Market, the old world charm of colonial Churches, the madness of the maddening crowd, the revelries and festivities year round, the narrow winding lanes of North Kolkata, the calls of “Didibhai” (loving sister) and “Dada” (brother), the countless fast food counters, the unending rivalries between the football clubs: “Mohun Bagan” & “East Bengal” and innumerable other unseen elements. In Kolkata, one finds satisfaction in searching for tranquillity in turmoil, peace in unrest and conviction in confusion. If the hustle ever stops or the noise seizes to exist, if the roads are ever deserted or the hawkers stop screaming, if the tram stops running or the music loses its meaning, if the love for sweets and fast food dwindles, the soul of Kolkata with die with each one of them. The soul of the city lives in every heart living in Kolkata and everything that gives the city its distinct character, embalming them all with an unfathomable sense of everlasting companionship and completeness.
With the past disappearing fast, replacing much of all that is traditional with elements of globalization, many conservatives fear that Kolkata will lose her myriad façades in very little time. However, some hopefuls believe that Kolkata will never lose her soul as it will continue to live through its people, some of whom dare to give up brighter prospects just to return, live on and sometimes pass away in her arms.