Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Cabled City of Kolkata

British arrived first in Sutanati village and with Kalikota and other 5 villages,  they founded the trading port of Calcutta for the EIC through a trading license in 1690. They understood the culture and temperament of the local people, used the unrest against the Nawabs and made the outsourced EIC, the ruler of India. 

Kolkata became the port of transporting wealth of India to London. It was the seat of power of the British Governor General and Viceroy for many years, till it was shifted to Delhi in 1911. It's famous Howrah Bridge (cantilever bridge), standing with pride and attracting tourists. It hasn't caught the rust till date.

Year after year, population of Kolkata is increasing. The city of 150,000 population in 1901, has recorded 14.1 million population with its suburbs in 2011 census.

If you wish to see more Bengalis, come on Holi or Chhath day when the Biharis go on leave to their native places, Dinesh, the taxi driver was telling. Migrants have turned the locals into a minority. Bihari muslims along with Bangladesi muslims are in majority here. Bengali Hindus may feel oneness with Bangladesi, due to Bangla language. At the end, the minority Hindus from Bihar, Jharkhand, UP, etc, become critics of Didi, when she attends a namaj. If CPM and Congress align together, the ruling may find it tough to win the coming assembly elections, Dinesh was explaining. Bihari (Madhubani) drivers talk politics a lot.

Bengali people in general are soft and sweet, prefer happy life of soft skills, business and light work/jobs. Many bengalis have settled abroad. They are the biggest tourists groups of India.

The owners may be Bengali, Gujarati, Marvadi; but all the units, shops, factories handling iron, metal, rolling works, pulling & pushing activities, etc, have Bihari and Jharkhandi labourers. Bengalis don't like black colour of work on their clothes. Some bangali labourers can be seen in vegetables and fish markets. The bangladesi run paidal rickshaw, start and close the day any time. Bihari drivers work in odd hours and earn more. The locals have initially allowed the labourers inflow from other states to work for them, but now oppose them because, as they share jobs and power. In country side, the Bengali have continued with their occupation of Agriculture. A house, pady farm, fish pond, some goats, etc, are sufficient for them to live a happy life.

As the city absorbs the new comers, inflow of workers hasn't stopped. A worker can "start up" with Rs.220/day wage income. The mason and his worker earn Rs. 520/day and Rs.320/day respectively. The carpenter charges Rs.650/day. Auto rickshaw driver may earn Rs. 5000/month and a taxi driver Rs. 15000/month. It may be a dream for the labourer to own a house as it became very costly, but he can find a rental space as per his paying capacity.

Kolkata can be considered a well managed city by the administration, dealing with the affairs of such a huge population. People get uninterrupted electricity supply 24x7. They receive total 5 hrs drinking water supply daily, thrice in a day: 6.30am to 9.00am, 12 pm to 1pm, 5pm to 6.30pm. Public transport is cheap and its frequency is good.

People may look divided amongst the groups: Bengali, Bangladesi, Bihari, Jharkhandi, Odiya, Gujarati, Marvadi, Hindu, Muslim, Communist, Trinmul (Maa, Mati, Manush), Congressi, BJP, etc, but are well connected through the TV Cables. One can see 50-60 cables in rows, hanging over the poles throughout the city. In absence of Tata Sky or GTPL, the city is watching TV only through cable connections only. It became a Cabled City. 

Clothes are cheap here, provided you know the art of bargaining. You may visit the Gariahat market and can do shopping in hurry. Food is in plenty and economical. Chicken roll and Muglai Paratha (made in eggs) are popular amongst non vegetarian youths and veg chop is liked by vegetarian youths. Biharis haven't departed from their taste of Bihar, the litti-chuda.

In few hours, you can't catch all the flavours of the city, but surely visit the "Mithai" shop and taste the sweets of Bengal: Rasgulla, Sandesh, kachagola, amriti, chamcham, langcha, gauja, bodey, mini dana, sonpapadi, ras malai, mishti dahin etc, with Samosa and khasta puri.

Fish is considered a vegetarian dish in Bengal. Brahmin Pujari may add fish in the list of prayer articles. He can eat fish and perform pooja. Other than fish, all marine species are considered non-vegetarian. 

"Machher jhol" (fish kari) and rice, is a staple food of Bengal. I thought the dish has more water and little fish therefore called, "machher jhol".  But after a cruise (Paramhansa of Vividha) trip to Sundarban, my interpretation changed. The water of river Hooghly and high tide water of the Bay of Bengal are making a "Jhol". The brackish water of the jhol is suitable for the production of many fish varieties, without which a Bengali meal is incomplete. The fish cultivated from this jhol may be called the "machher jhol", I have extended my logic.

You may find shops in village site, counting seeds of shrimps (like thread worms) 1-2-3.. and selling at the rate of Rs.1 per seed. The price may vary from 10 Paise to Rs.1.5 per seed as per season. Farmers buy and cultivate them in paddy farm or grow separately in fish ponds. An investment of Rs. 25 turns into Rs. 80 (the value of tiger/bagda prawn of 100 gms) in 90 days. The consumer in hotel may be paying double. Aquaculture is feeding many people. 

Jains considers the fish as the head of Rahu. If this logic is propagated more, the religious community of Bengal may leave fish. But Bengali without fish is no Bengali. They can't give up their skills of segregating bones and flesh of Ilish (Hilsa) in mouth!

People are vocal and like mike the most. Newspapers are read by all. They keep track of even Obama.

Salute Kolkata, Salute Bengal.

27 February 2016


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