destination india

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

a dream called kolkata

(I have just returned from a visit to the wonderful city called Kolkata. I have observed that it is surely but certainly shedding its old identity – it wants to get noticed and, no matter how others may interpret this, my personal feeling is that politics has, for once, taken a back seat …)

Buddha is synonymous with sacrifice, with denouncement of the good things of life, with an oneness surrounding all those around you. There have been a number of Buddhas in the life of the Bengalis – Buddhadeb Bose and Buddhadeb Guha are writers, Buddhadeb Dasgupta is a famous film director who loves sailing in uncharted waters and now we have Buddhadeb Bhattacharji, the Chief Minister who is sparing no efforts to turn Kolkata into a dream destination for intellectuals, for business tycoons, and for software giants. In a very short time, he has sent out a clear message that turning over a new leaf is one of his primary objectives. In the initial stages, his mentors might have had reservations but, as time passed, he proved that his selection to the hot seat was not such a bad decision after all.
Yes, Kolkata is gradually easing itself into the high speed lifestyle; the flyovers complemented by one-way streets are proof enough. These add-ons have reduced traffic congestion considerably. Buses in the ‘S’ and ‘C’ category (of the State Transport and the Tramways respectively) offer a reasonably comfortable journey to those who do not mind shelling out a few extra rupees. When compared to the fares one pays in Maharastra, this is very much on the lower side: one option to increase revenue from the public transport system is to increase fares on such routes. This should be explored!
The environments of the Netaji Subhas International airport, however, need to be spruced up. The airport is the entry point for foreigners into the dreamland called Kolkata – the administration should ensure a certain minimum standard of vehicles is available to the outsider. A fleet of taxis in need of repairs with drivers sporting unshaven stubbles and munching paan in between puffing at beedis does not present a good picture. The drivers who intend to ply from the airport should preferably be in uniforms, be clean shaven and be more presentable. These minor things impress the visitor.
Of course, roads that do not fall in areas that require red carpet treatments continue to be hell holes. Any Kolkattan will agree that improvements in the roads were primarily forced upon the authorities due to the underground metro rail system. Obviously, all arterial roads connecting to the route of the metro rail reaped benefits. The prices of land soared; opportunists descended on the scene and brought to the forefront the culture of shopping malls like the City Centers.
One thing that has yet to catch up on Kolkattans is ‘blogs’! Yes, English language newspapers that are available on the net do not have this popular corner!
(to be continued…)

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