Friday, June 6, 2008

Bandh-e-Kolkata

The wicked, wicked ‘Gubbermaint” has increased the price pf petrol by 5 Rupees and that of cooking gas by 50 Rupees ….the increase has happened for all Indians across the country but it has hurt us, the residents of Bengal the most so our political representatives have decided to “protest” through the only means known to them – BANDH. We just missed one important bit here, that the party calling the bandh is also a part of the “wicked gubbermaint” which has increased fuel prices to the detriment of the “common man”.

Fortunately for the bandh supporters even nature seemed to side with them this morning as Kolkata woke to a raging storm and a heavy down pour which deterred many of the radicals who had decided to venture out to work in a mark of protest against the bandhs. For the rest of us who were told that we’d have to make up for the lost working day by reporting for work on Saturday, we just huddled a bit under the covers and groaned at the thought of doing the housework as the help weren’t going to be in. The day passed like a normal off day minus the “going out for a movie bit.” I guess it was the same for all Kolkatans.

That’s the micro picture.

Now on to bigger things (and some ranting). It hurt like anything when I had a colleague call me from Mumbai and tell me “ You guys are always having bandhs, why do you even work ? “ I asked him to clarify points on the rampage against migrant workers that happened in his city recently and the floods and traffic jams and the outrageous cost of living in Mumbai and then as a final parry I asked him to have a nice hard look at the regional business figures for our company – East (as in Kolkata) is doing almost the double the business that West(Mumbai) or for that matter North (Delhi) or South(Bangalore) is doing – so we DO WORK here , serious work but we are the victims of a national perception.

To most outsiders, Kolkata is a city of the Babus and the Bandhs. Red tape, horrific roads, poor infrastructure and a lazy workforce and an indifferent government. The reality is something different. Kolkata is a city on the move and businesses are succeeding here big time and hence many of the brands which had earlier neglected the city are having to eat the humble pie and rush in to set up shop here. Perhaps the biggest compliment to Kolkata is the fact that at least in the financial sector, people from Kolkata are being asked to move to other parts of the country to infuse some life (and brains) into teams there.

Living in Kolkata is reasonable and comfortable. One needn’t burn a hole in one’s pocket (or run up huge loans and credit card bills) to lead a decent life and yes, clichéd as it may sound, the city is much safer too. “Culture and Intelligentsia” are alive and kicking in Kolkata but they now have Ambition and Practicality as companions here.

Change is writ large all over Kolkata and Bengal as a whole except in the minds of it’s politicians …who refuse to look at their counterparts in other states and learn from them and so …

We have our heritage buildings being torn down to make way for “flats” and commercial spaces which stand out like sore thumbs and our old localities vanish under the tidal wave of the moneyed promoters and political henchmen…while in other states heritage buildings are lovingly preserved and used as a tourist attraction so that the owners are able to sustain themselves and their homes.

We have our roads choked and crowded with vehicles that do not meet the pollution standards and are in no way road worthy but some one is being bribed enough to allow these vehicles to cheekily proclaim them as compliant to the pollution norms while they wreck havoc with the atmosphere with their emissions.

We have an over-bridge on the life-line (and supposed pride of Kolkata); the E.M bye-pass which developed a crack in September 2007 and it still has not been repaired.

Our metro extension project has missed several deadlines whilst the Delhi metro has criss-crossed the city in about the same time.

We stand as mute spectators as political rallies are allowed to have processions through the main arteries of Kolkata during peak business hours forcing ordinary people to put their lives on hold.

And I could go on but it is hurting me to write all this and yet the biggest detriments to the image of Kolkata are these bandhs. Reams have been written on the detriment effect of bandhs on Bengal’s image which in turns hampers the employment and opportunities of the ordinary citizen and which finally hampers the success of the state, but none of our leaders have woken up and smelt the coffee and now that the coffee has turned cold, I doubt that they ever will.


Oh...and we have a bandh tomorrow too.

5 comments:

Mystic Margarita said...

I heard about the two-day bandh. It IS getting a little tiresome now, isn't it, with every party worth its salt declaring a bandh at the drop of a hat?

I realize that Calcutta can do with lots of improvements as far as work ethics and overall governmental efficiency go, but like you said, the city is still family-friendly, reasonable to live in, and ranks lower in crime rates compared to other metros. The intelligentsia are still there, but the number of call-center dudes and snazzily-dressed girls are on the rise - the price of globalization, but the spirit of the city, definitely lives on. Lovely post - made me nostalgic - hence the over-long comment. Hope you don't mind :)

The Weekend Blogger said...

This city is like a cantankerous old aunt...you love to haet her and yet she is the one you run when you feel lost.

Mr. brihallangul said...

Feel good to read your article. It's true that Calcutta people lags behind w.r.t work culture. And I feel it's not because there are too many Bandh's around. It's because we don't want to work. If some body works for 8 hrs. a day with concentration, that will be very much appreciated. Of course there are exceptions, but not too many. We all fall in the same category of being lazy.

I feel, if it is a Bandh, utilize one of your casual leave and do masti...spend time with family...what ever!

dipali said...

Given all that's wrong with Kolkata, even though I'm a relative newcomer, I love the place. It is warm and welcoming and has loads of charm, and apart from bands and flooded roads, it is a comfortable city to live in.

The Weekend Blogger said...

Welcome to Cal , Dipali...I agree that Kolkata is a very, very comfortable to city to live in. Believe me , this City has a way of getting hold on to your heart making separation very difficult. Ask me !