forget Paris when you are in Kolkata - GulfToday

Forget Paris when you are in Kolkata

Shaadaab S. Bakht

@ShaadaabSBakht

Shaadaab S. Bakht, who worked for famous Indian dailies The Telegraph, The Pioneer, The Sentinel and wrote political commentaries for Tehelka.com, is Gulf Today’s Executive Editor.

Shaadaab S. Bakht, who worked for famous Indian dailies The Telegraph, The Pioneer, The Sentinel and wrote political commentaries for Tehelka.com, is Gulf Today’s Executive Editor.

KOLKATA

Picture used for illustration.

ON CITY DEVELOPMENT

Madhav Prasad — jettisoned by a world that’s never tired of touting social uplift as its driving force and the cornerstone of a principled universe — sleeps under a clear sky each day of his life. Occasionally he watches the stars, which carry no messages for his types and play no guides. They guide only the important or so we think.

There are thousands like him across Kolkata. It is the capital of the state of West Bengal and formerly the capital of the British empire.

The metropolis, which has been home to four Nobel laureates (poet Rabindranath Tagore, Mother Teresa, economists Amartya Sen and Abhijit Banerjee), has been described as a city of joy. One has always found that description confusing. Is the author in any way romanticising poverty? Or for him is the city nothing more than a powerful motif? Or a fertile playground for creative minds?

She had said so in very emphatic terms after her party ousted the leftists, who had left the city in anarchic health…


If sleeping on pavements for years is a joy then the words make sense. If bathing at roadside taps is a joy then the words make sense. If doing dishes and washing clothes there is a joy then the words make sense. If garbage heaps form a joyful sight then the words make sense. If eateries near poorly covered drains are a matter of joy then the words make sense.

One was very hopeful of progress when a few years ago the current chief minister of the state, considered a champion of the minorities and underprivileged, had promised to transform Kolkata into another London in six months’ time. She had said so in very emphatic terms after her party ousted the leftists, who had left the city in anarchic health following a three-decade rule.

We almost believed her and decided to temporarily freeze our time-tested conviction that politicians live off rhetoric. She had also said she would convert the famous tea district of Darjeeling into another Switzerland. Also in six months. On hearing that we did go high on tea.

Except for some flyovers and some malls nothing much happened. Wasn’t really expected. But for the common man it was a typical case of hope against hope.

There is something terribly wrong about the people who lead the state. I say that because the state’s governor recently said why should people go to Paris when they can be in Kolkata. He is either anti-French or anti-liberty or anti-development.

Well, the next state election could mean serious trouble for the present dispensation. And one big reason for that fear is unfulfilled promises about development. A short visit to Chandigarh or Ahmedabad or Allahabad or Jaipur would make amply clear what the Kolkatans expected from the people they voted to power. All said and done when will largescale change grace Kolkata? When will traffic be fully streamlined? When will garbage get an area and not huge parts of the cultured city? Whether they like it or not the answer lies with those who are voted to rule.

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