Last Sunday, 2nd March I went to watch “Vantage point”, a thriller movie, in New Empire. Well, this s been my most frequent pastime since I came back to Calcutta in 2000. And I always follow the same route. A bus to the flea market under 4no Bridge, cross the rail tracks with small shops of fish and beef and Attars on both sides-then take an auto-rickshaw that passes through the most culturally, religiously diverse areas of Calcutta – Park circus, Circus Avenue, Elliott road, Ripon st, Rafi Ahmed Kidwai road to Esplanade. Those streets remained the same as I’ve been seeing then since last 15 years.
The movie was quite interestingly told, analysing a 23min duration event from a different angle. The story started to take a twist when I found the yellow rectangle with “Interval” written on it. The low wattage bulbs were lit…people started to move out of the theatre to grab some chips and coke. As I remained in the seat, the gloomy lights suddenly reminded me of that dreamy scene of “La vita e bella”, the unforgettable red carpet scene. And it suddenly felt like a dream, that it’s not 2008 but 1993- the worn out and broken seats, dimly lit interior, same Mariah Carey tracks-everything was just the same even 15 years ago. maybe people didn’t carry cellphones with them, but they bought the same chips that smell of oil. And it suddenly appeared to me, that the people have not changed at all. perhaps I’m changed somewhat. The shy 15-year-old student who came to watch Batman and Robin and the 30-year-old engineer watching Vantage point are not the same persons, but the crowd, their collective character has not changed.
I was thinking, these small moments, snapshots evoke nostalgia. But then, it also means that it keeps us tied to the past. Setups of a hall remind me of a day 15 years ago; it certainly connotes that no improvement took place in the last 15 years. With the rest of the world moving fast ahead, some part of Calcutta is stuck to their ’70s state. In every building complex, shopping complex, new multiplexes come up. On the other hand, the old halls of Calcutta are being closed because of employee strike or being transformed into another shopping mall.
Well, it certainly means stagnation to some extent, yet I would love as long as the people sustaining it continue to live happily and thrive. I want to continue walking along the muddy streets behind New Market, I would love Nizam to get back it’s older look and older menu (it’s NO BEEF tell me that I can’t eat beef anymore anywhere), I want Society and Chaplin and Jamuna to open again and Society gets its huge porch reconstructed, I want the streets of central Calcutta to remain narrow and cracked along the tram tracks…and yes, the rest of the city can prosper, I don’t mind that! Coz the rest is not my part of the world.