As Vir Sanghvi rightly put it, ‘Kolkata is not a city, it’s an emotion’. It’s the city where “lyadh” and “modh” are taken equally seriously. The only place you’ll eat the most fingerlicking phuchka you’ve ever tasted, and the only city with the iconic tram that makes for a surreal traffic jam.
Kolkata has always been the city where you will inevitably get stuck at Lords, and the place where you’ll silently shed a tear when you find the aloo in your biryani. Despite its magic, my visits back home have condensed to a four-day hiatus every six months. You learn the value of small things only when you live away from home. Like how people in Delhi don’t speak in that familiar Bengali tone, or the fact that “ma er banano ilish mach” will never compare to the BS they sell here disguised as Bangla food. That’s when the nostalgia hits.
If I could pick the nine things I wholeheartedly miss about the city, these would be it:
1. The weather
Yup, it sounds bizarre but the weather in Cal is weirdly comforting. Sure the summer gets too hot and the winters are barely chilly, but once that kalboishakhi hits, you’re instantly reminded of the enigma that Kolkata weather is. These untimely storms coupled with the no-chill winter is Kolkata’s soul out on public display. To get that kind of variation is tough at best.
2. The “maach”
No, CR Park and othe Bengali-domination pockets across India can’t come close to the quality of maach you get in West Bengal. Be it ilish or pabda, tangra or rui–it’s the taste that takes the hit once you cook it. Everyone can try and come close, but it’s quite tough to match up to Cal standards. So basically, don’t try.
3. All of the food
We needed a separate mention for the fish because you don’t mess with a Bengali and her maach bhaat. Besides that though, there’ll be that random craving for Nizam’s boti kebab roll or Peter Cat’s devilled crab. These are feelings that never really go away. Even if you try your level best.
4. The hand-pulled rickshaws
Hand-pulled rickshaws can arguably be called a part of Kolkata’s charm. Operating only for short distances, these rickshaws make life easier when you don’t feel like walking the 1.5 km stretch home after the gym. It’s a lifesaver because it barely costs more than 20 bucks.
5. The cheap everything
Once you move out of home, everything is 10x more expensive. That can be taken as a universal outcome, but trust us when we say Cal is dirt cheap. You can still eat a full meal for 20 bucks and get to places five kilometres away in 50. There are so many restaurants that make eating out a literal joy. Much like the city’s default tag line.
6. The comfort of home
You move away, you miss your parents, you get stronger. It’s all a part of growing up, but that comfort of home, where everything is taken care of—from your dirty laundry to that random 2 am meal—is right on top of the miss list. Sure it can be for any place you call home, but with Kolkata–it’s a mixed feeling. You hate that your parents didn’t settle somewhere cooler, but you miss the local adda for cha and biscuit anyway.
7. Durga Pujo
The tears are coming… help! Every Bengali knows that if you’ve done Kolkata pujo, you’ve ticked off something bucket-list worthy. Now imagine doing that for 18 years, every year. It’s madness, mayhem, and chaos wrapped into seven days. Even if all the pandals of the world tried to compete in the race, they’d fail miserably. Not that Pujo is not special anywhere else, but Cal turns it up a notch each time. Actually more than 15 notches, and brings its A-game. You’ll spot the shiniest saris ( sunglasses might be required to prevent the glare), the most finger-licking street food, and the best Ma Durga.
8. All the other festivals
Durga Pujo might be the mightiest thing on every Calcuttan’s social calendar, but the city is such that every festival is celebrated with equal aplomb. Be it the winter carnival at Allen Park and the street full of sparkling lights, or the tooni bulbs around Diwali—Kolkata is home to every single one of them. It’s one of the cities where any reason to celebrate is celebrated, and that’s where that immense love we all have comes from.
9. The mightiest river
Although it is unusual to see the Hooghly everyday—unless you live on that side of town—but having a water body in our proximity really changes everything. Sunday evenings are spent on kick boat rides followed by French fries at Kwality. It’s a routine you cannot follow anywhere else and simply for that reason, I miss it so much.