Disclaimer: Having lived in Bombay for close to a decade, Ganesh Chaturthi has my heart. But, here’s why I think Calcutta doesn’t need to make a spectacle of it.
What’s with Calcutta? Quit appropriating other people’s festivals yo! Let the people of Maharashtra keep their Ganpati glory, pliss. You’ve turned Pujo into a 9-day affair. Is that not enough? Must you celebrate every festival with such gusto as to put every other community (how I hate this word- I’m only referring to people who speak the same language as one) to shame? (I’m not even touching upon the very-touchy topic of turning festivals of religious significance to *a* particular community into public events, even though it is a pertinent point).
But, if you put a fraction of this effort and enthusiasm into working, this city wouldn’t be the crumbling, sooty mess that it is, living in the shadow of mostly-imagined past glory. We are more than just our past. And, definitely, WAY MORE than all the gazillion Hindu festivals we excel at celebrating and the chop/cutlet/paayesh/jilipi festivals that the government loves to organise every month.
Hate on me all you like, but as a Bengali who’s living and working in Calcutta after 3 decades outside of West Bengal, my observations and opinions are free of bias and rooted in reality. I may not share an emotional connection with Calcutta like a local, perhaps, would. But, I do care about this city, and it has a lot to do with my upbringing being rooted in Bengali culture.
To be very honest, I don’t care a damn about your BS emotional connection because it is the same emotion(s) that is stopping you from realising that you’re killing what you love. I’m sick of listening to local celebrities wax eloquent about the ghee-laden charm of biryani, the winding alleys in North Calcutta with houses that remind us of bygone eras, the sweet breeze that blows across the Ganges every evening. Please stop romanticising the past. Nostalgia is nice on a boozy, rain-soaked weekend. When it becomes an everyday affair, it’s dangerous. Like being trapped in a delirium.
What is it that they say about hurting those we love the most? THAT. So, stop. Stop being selfish. Remove yourself from the equation. Look at Calcutta not as your cosy cocoon but, as a city independent of you. And then, there may be some hope for her yet.
PS: Stop smoking in cabs, and spitting & peeing in the open, to start with! Ugh.
PPS: Even the best vada-pav in the world will not taste as great in Calcutta as it would on Juhu Beach in Bombay.
(Author is a musician and columnist)