Friday, January 25, 2008

Calcutta Chromosome

"Yet repeatedly this uniqueness has been endangered by neglect, and will be swept aside entirely because someone in power will write ‘fire hazard’ on the file and sweep it away for a gigantic retail park to take its place, complete with food court and glittering multiplex. Other cities try to preserve their character and history because these things are simply theirs, but we have always been acutely embarrassed about doing so. Perhaps it’s because Burrabazar is the place of ‘non-Bengalis’, that dreaded uber-species. Perhaps it’s because nearly everything that makes Calcutta Calcutta came originally from somewhere else, to be shaken up in a bizarre mix and given that strange coat of flamboyance and pettiness that has always marked this city. Instead of embracing this bizarreness, our masters have always wanted to pare it down to some essence of ‘Bangalitto’, discarding all the ‘anti-culture’ that keeps blowing in on the four winds. That’s kind of like peeling off all the layers of the onion. The thing that’s left is the least useful part."

Does the piece make you think about something? Hmmmm... I wonder!! Let me guide you, this is about a city called Kolkata, though I really to refer it as Calcutta, it's original name. A few weeks back a massive fire ravaged the Burrabazar area of Kolkata. A major business centre, the loss runs more than just a few crores. The fire had destroyed more than 2000 shops. But more importantly it again drove home a truth about this hallowed commercial hub.

Burrabazar or Bazar Kolkata has been in existence since establishment of the colonial rule or sometime thereafter. The place apart from being the business hub that it always has been, was also the residential locality for some of the more affluent business personalities of Kolkata, a category popularly known as "Babus" who were famous for their pomp, glamour and affluence. A reminder of such an era is the palatial buildings that still line the streets and the by-lanes.

Towards the end of the 19th century, one saw the influx of Marwari businessmen, who proceeded to make this area a stronghold of theirs, setting up businesses which are still being run by the later generations. They too added their architectural touch in the this area.

Should you be searching for something and yet to find it, try Burrabazar, you might get lucky. From being sold in small quantities to huge volumes, the transactions carried out at Burrabazar flummoxes many a financial experts. Synonymous with lanes, by-lanes, open garbage area, pungent air, road blocked by trucks, this place has over time turned out to be part of Kolkata/Calcutta's identity.

Yet, it these very structures which are proving to be bane for this area. Constructed in a manner which perhaps was suitable to the era gone by, it certainly is no more viable. Faulty electrical wiring all over the place, with inflammable products being stocked at about every nook and cranny, this place is always sitting on a virtual fireplace ready to get ignited. And this is what happened!!

And what has been happening since then is best highlighted by Rimi.

When will the authorities wake to protect the heritage of the land, when as an added bonus this place is also a major business hub??


Oh.. tomorrow is Republic Day for India. So here's to you all!!!


Pri said...

have u read the book 'the calcutta chromosome' by amitav ghosh?? :)

this post made me nostalgic about my cal trip...sigh!
ohh and heres wishing u a happy republic day too ...
jai hind!
jai bharat!!

ad libber said...

Happy Republic Day
An entire era was lost when the buildings burnt. A pity.

divya said...

Tomorrow is republic day????? oh shit...we celebrated it today :P :D

Happy republic day sam :)

And nice post as usal..i got to know many things i was unaware of :P

Mel Avila Alarilla said...

Hi Sam,
Happy Republic Day of India to you and to all my Indian friends. That's a very nice dissertation of Calcutta.
Too bad that a large portion of its commercial district was ravaged by fire. I hope that area will be rehabilitated very soon and in its place a modern and better structure will be put in place. Thanks for the wonderful post. God bless you and your family always.

Ashu said...

i have a colleage here who s obsessed about Calcutta and i feel great to pull his leg by belittling Calcutta....(NOM)......

fun apart, Kolkata has got its own history right, much different from other 3 metros....

once a capital state of India (oh city) now it stands at crossroads whether to go with modern era or stick to left views!!!!!!!!

And yes marwari businessmen are everywhere, love their spirit of business. they wud really mean business and wud do everything to win the hearts of their customer.......

Happy republic day to u too man

Bubbles of FireWhisky said...

happy republic day... as for the planning issues... there is a lack of political will... always was and no1 thought to do anything about it... we should do something... remember i asked you for help about something? im gona call you and let you know what that was about...

utopia said...

u been to calcutta ever? there is so much more to cal actually and that city has a charm of tis own. :-)

Sam said...

@pri: oh yes.. a beautiful work!!

@ad-libber: =very true... a complete era lost!!

@divya: u r always welcome divya!!

Sam said...

@mel: a better yes.. but modern no!!! kolkata is now full of the modern structures, but teh charm of teh old bhuildings their splendid architecture takes the breath away... would you a modern day palace, instead of the versailles or the buckingham palace??

@ashu: ah well... kolkata is one city most fall in love with!! you are rarely left with any other choice... so no messing abt with kolkata arnd me!!

@mann: i'll be looking forward to that call girl!!

@utopia: hmmm.... sample this...
"ajob shoherer ami ajob nagrik,
jogote prothom sthan tay royechhe shothik,
job charnock amar purbo pita,
amar shelaame tay chai proper keta,
karu kachhe mai naki paglate lok,
tobu amatei eshe meshe shob shukh-dukh o shok!!"

kolkata'r aar amr shmpork niye ki ekhono dwidha achhe!!

kolkata is my birth-city, educated at birla high school, adda at presidency (not studies), i think i've had my share of kolkata!!

anywyz, kolkata has a charm and history which can never be duplicated by any other city!! never!!

utopia said...


Sam said...

ah.. guessed as much!!! coz have been hearing soem friends out there crib abt teh cold everyday!! so hows the weather today? still hovering below 10?

utopia said...

naaaa was 2 i think at 6 in the morn. 5 at 9 in the morning and me been in office since then.