Everybody is aware of the divine nature of Ganga, but it is that same divinity which puts “her” in such place. Ohh……I know it’s just the first line of my first blog and you are already spotting grammatical errors, don’t you? I have deliberately used “her” in sentence referring to Ganga because our beloved Ganga maiyya has got a humane status now.
Recently Uttarakhand High court gave a judgement that Ganga and Yamuna should be treated as human beings and three custodians should be nominated to represent them on their behalf. To be honest, initially I thought it as a weird idea. But I kept thinking over it and felt that why not. Considering them as public property, people ruined them to almost irreparable level. Extending person-hood beyond human beings is certainly a revolutionary decision. And not just them but all rivers should be treated the same way and should be able to express their concerns.
Rivers are going to be categorized as humans, considered to be living things. It’s been long time that I learned to distinguish between living and non-living things. But after such a long time, I think there is a need to revisit our concepts after hearing this decision. Because somewhere I feel that there are somethings which are non-living yet surprisingly lively. Apart from giving basic rights to rivers by giving them humane status, I was thinking about what are the other things which could qualify for a person-hood. And I thought city is definitely one of those things. There are some things about cities which make them lively like people, history, culture, street food, language, cinema and many more. Today I am going to write about two gallant cities in India which have shown spark and they certainly qualifies as living beings.
First of course is Pune, where I have lived most of my life. Being a Punekar, I have a huge respect for the city and I think it certainly has a soul. Punekars and Marathi language form the heart and brain of the city. Punekars can be termed as the most proud souls on earth. It’s may be because Pune was political center of India during the time of Marathas and success of Marathas all over Indian subcontinent had brought honour and respect to the Punekars. May be that is the reason that nobody’s opinion matters for Punekars. Punekars have their ultimate opinions which are written in stone and according to Punekars, they should be accepted as facts. With deterrent self-respect, Pune is also a city of rich cultural heritage. Legendary Bal Tilak transformed Ganesh Jayanti and Shiv Jayanti into grand public events. Since then Punekars accepted Ganapati Bappa and Chhatrapati Shivaji as their biggest Gods. Both events are celebrated in such way that anyone who has been a part of it, would fall in love with Pune.
While these are not the only things that make Pune lively. Pune has experienced huge expansion over the time. Since 1960’s till today, Pune have emerged as a huge Industrial center and country’s 2nd largest Automobile hub. With arrival of IT industry, Pune came out of shadow of blistering city of Mumbai. Since then its existence is so widely accepted that there is barely any sports league which doesn’t have Pune’s team. Pune has also played instrumental role in rise of Marathi cinema, who is giving tough time to Bollywood-Hollywood movies. Presence of C.O.E.P., Fergusson College, Symbiosis, FTII, IISER, IUCAA, NCL and many such colleges had earned Pune the title of ‘Oxford of the east’. I know that’s exaggeration but for people of Maharashtra, it is Oxford by all means.
Now let’s talk about streets. Just like any other Indian city, Pune too have an M.G. Road which is famous for street shopping. There are other places like Tulsibag (named after Holy Basil) and F.C.Road (Fergusson College) for street shopping. I have to admit that these are peculiar names because F.C.Road is way to greener than Tulsibag and Punekars (if they know what I mean) will not have different opinion about it. Along with street shopping, one can enjoy all sorts of street food but Vadapav and Misal Pav are prime attractions.
Second city I want to talk about is Kolkata. Obvious question is WHY…??? I love watching movies and while watching movies like Kahaani and Barfi, I felt that people’s life is shaped by this city. Kolkata has attracted my attention more than any other city. Since then I have been following Kolkata and it was long decided that I will be writing about it.
Howrah Bridge, Kolkata
Nobody can deny the importance of Kolkata as city in India’s history. Kolkata’s story started after British came to India. British developed it into a fortified trading post. Kolkata was also capital of British India till 1911. During this whole time, British administrative and bureaucratic values got assimilated into Kolkata while city’s intellectual and creative output was realized during Bengali Renaissance. Yes, Bengali Renaissance matured Kolkata as city. Right from Raja Ram Mohan Roy till Rabindranath Tagore, Bengali literature, art enriched Kolkata.
For me, Kolkata is a city of differences, city that is living life in past as well as in present. You can see hand-pulled rickshaw and HM Ambassador used as taxis at the same time on roads of Kolkata. It is probably the only Metro city which still has hand-pulled rickshaws. Kolkata is only city in Indian subcontinent which still uses tram network for transportation while it was the first city in subcontinent to have Metro Rail Network. Kolkata is the only Indian city which hosts Chinatown, township of Chinese people. Kolkata is also a culturally rich city. Just like Ganeshotsav in Pune, Durgapuja is highlight of Kolkata’s life and street food like Puchka and Rolls are main attractions.
Since it is continuously ranked as one of the most populated cities in India, Kolkata holds highest spot among all cities in eastern India in terms of GDP. Despite having absolute position as commercial hub in East India, Kolkata has lost most of its Industrial base because of violent trade-unionism under Left Rule. Several businesses shut down and many relocated and Kolkata started to lose its shine. Relocation of Tata Nano’s singur project is the most recent case. Once upon a time, Hollywood made a movie named ‘City of Joy’ on life in Kolkata. I seriously doubt whether the city still holds that status. Some people, who left Kolkata for better opportunities outside, even took it too far to call it a ‘Dying city’. This is the most heart-aching journey for any city. But being a part of economic boom in India, Kolkata is also rejuvenating.
With these lively examples of Pune and Kolkata, I want to reaffirm what I said before that a city certainly has a soul, a spirit. Yes, a city too has a life…….…