How To Think About Kolkata
And, this is one of the first things to think about Kolkata - its past! Somehow, it clings to its past everywhere, in everything, but in a meaninglessly selective form. The Babus are wiped clean off the slate, the collaborations with English are all but forgotten as is the final act of Kolkata's originality and intransigence, the revolutionary left movement that took hold of Kolkata's youth in the late 60s and eventually changed the City. The city feels like one filled with almost endless pasts but not coming to terms with it, just like all those dilapidated buildings whose owners would rather talk about when it was built rather than finding a way of repairing them.
One may see this as a great charm, and indeed for those who are doing well. But Kolkata is also one of those great cities whose population has decreased over the last decade. Its past is becoming overbearing, to the point when it drives out its young and the ambitious, and makes it forbidding for all those who come to seek education or fortune. But, also, this is some sort of a great opportunity. The wrap of its great past means that Kolkata is a better place than it is portrayed to be, one brutal fact of life all average sons of greater parents know! It is the past that weighs the present down, and clouds the future. Like other great cities who were in a similar funk - Vienna would come to mind - the great opportunity for Kolkata lies in making a break. And, that is not difficult, when Kolkata embraces its past, its whole past and not the selective bits - and tries to make sense of it! That would mean going beyond nostalgia and getting into history.