A wedding of a friend(K)’s friend was in two weeks. The couple was going to Kolkata for the wedding, they told us over an evening conversation while socializing our dogs.
Me: Kolkata! Bengali wedding?!! Can I come?
K: Sure, come off!
The summery dreams of a city that seemed exotic with its street food, the shopping, a history of British India, the old buildings, unstructured public spaces I had heard so much about, the loud wedding celebrations, the call of the unknown, seemed enticing. I would be on my feet, seeing the sights never seen before, soon. Yet again.
During my sojourn, what I was most surprised about was the greenery the city has. Having a bad reputation for being a dirty city, I has assumed the roads would be narrow and almost the entire city would be filthy, there would not be many trees. Barring the newer areas of the city like Salt lake or the touristy parts of the city, I had expected the worst. Having been in Kalighat temple and its surroundings the day of ‘pohela boishakh’ (a festival to mark the first day of Hindu calendar) when it was heavily crowded , having witnessed a ‘visarjan'(immersion of goddess kali idol in the river) at Babu ghat, having eaten the street food around Theatre road, Kalighat temple, Park circus and around new market, I saw that the city isn’t dirty at all; even by Indian standard expectations. A collegue told me that I had visited the cleaner parts of Kolkata, but have you been to the likes of crowded city market, the greater majestic area, or gori palya in Bangalore, specially with the non functional BBMP off late? I think it would be the same?
The roads are wide, traffic is lean (I later heard from a collegue that could be becuase of school vacations, but how much could that contribute to!?) and there are so many trees. Atleast I did not witness any road without trees at all! It is hot, sweaty, no doubt; despite the green cover. But there is shade for respite.
In all, I loved Kolkata. Even in the middle of evil summer. The day I came back to Bangalore, it felt like in an oven here. I do not know why Kolkata has a reputation for being dirty or Bangalore for being a garden city. Neither is true, not anymore, sadly for the latter.
Is it really true that Kolkata is too unsanitary even to this day? I would love to hear. Please provide your thoughts in comments below.