Sampurna Majumder narrates her sojourn to the City of Joy for a year. Although born and brought up in Kolkata, her perspective of the city changed when she returned to Kolkata after a Sabbatical of five years.
Kolkata, popularly known as the City of Joy, is considered to be the cultural and intellectual capital of the country. Locales, such as the College Street Boi Para and the Coffee House will stand witness to this statement. These are the hubs within the city that beam with intellectuals and budding artists. This the city’s nucleus where one will find some of the best minds flocking.
Bookshops or rather kiosks strategically positioned all along the footpath is an unique attribute of the street. Apart from these, the street definitely boasts of an array of premier institutions, right from the University of Calcutta to Presidency College. This is where the youth of Kolkata comes to life. Comes to live life.
However, I belong to the category of the not-so-lucky ones to have lived the experience. Though this city happens to be my birth place, I never really got to experience or live my youth in this city, because as a young adult, I moved to a different city, probably in pursuit of something ‘bigger and better’. Nonetheless, my destiny took a different turn when I returned to the city after a hiatus of six years.
My hands were empty just as my mind was. I had completely lost control of myself. Could not figure out what to do with my ‘doomed’ future, as my Mom said. After sitting idle at home for five months I enrolled for a Diploma at the prestigious Calcutta University. I thought probably this would give some meaning to my meaningless life, a direction to follow in my seemingly directionless life.
Classes were held in the evening from 4pm to 7pm. Thus began my year long association with the age old renowned university and more importantly the College Street.
I still remember my first day at the university. Despite my mother’s explaining the bus route and the stop, I lost my way to the university the very first day. Nonetheless, I managed to reach the esteemed institution after a long walk from MG Road. While walking down the street I could not help but stare at the kiosks and the booksellers in awe. The amount of knowledge these people had regarding books! Books from almost every field from literature to science to engineering, law, competitive exams. The list moves on.
A week into classes, I had made a few friends with whom I started hanging around after classes. It was then that I began my tryst with the intellectual hub of this age old city. I shared a good rapport with K and S. However, what was interesting was, the variation in the age group of the students. Since the course specified that there is no age limit, the eldest student was a retired college principal of sixty-five and the youngest being a fresh graduate of twenty-one. This distinction made it unique and all the more interesting to know and associate with people with myriad personalities. Somehow, I could feel a certain flamboyancy raging through, whenever I interacted with the group.
We first met at the College Street campus of Calcutta University. Little did I know that the year long association would leave behind such indelible impressions, which would force me to pen down a memoir, after much time has lapsed and I have again moved away from Kolkata, probably in pursuit of my dreams.
- Calcutta: Two Years in the City by Amit Chaudhuri – review (ryantendoeschate.wordpress.com)
- Kolkata erupts in protests at Presidency Varsity vandalism (Roundup) (vancouverdesi.com)
- Portraits of Calcutta (janetnewenham.wordpress.com)
- Things to Do in Calcutta (livestrong.com)