Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Delhi to Calcutta to Bombay

I guess that’s not politically correct - it should be Dilli (??) to Kolkata to Mumbai but who cares! I asked this question to myself once - does my personality change with the cities I stay in? The answer it seems is YES.

The Delhi Me
I was kind of young to be a true Delhi-ite but the school I studied in made sure that I caught on very fast. My new 3 tier pencil box from Germany made me the most popular girl in school for a day, short lived glory! My popularity meter rose with each trip to Disneyland or any country in Europe or North America. My status in the society was determined by how many political connections my family had, whether I lived in South Delhi, how many relatives I had abroad, the size of my house, gadgets and the size of my Dad's car. It became rather stressful to compete with the 'in' crowd so I veered towards the 'behenjis' who wore skirts beyond their mid thigh and put oil in their hair. I was a misfit in both the groups so I was used as a bridge between the two worlds. The men (boys then) were dishy who chased the 'in' girls; I stared after them wistfully through my thick specs. One day I revolted and wore contact lenses and voila, 10 dishy boys came and spoke to me that day - that day was also the last day at school - I almost wept at the lost opportunities! In Delhi appearances count and somehow it becomes a part of our lives.

The Calcutta Me
I felt I had landed in another planet far removed from the Delhi sophistication. I suppose any city looks far shabbier than the capital and Calcutta was well... shabby. The people did not seem to be as conscious of appearances as in Delhi. The college I attended was a girls college in Park Circus, the professors were strict looking ladies and half of the Economics class was full of married girls who discussed their in laws and husbands. The North South divide is present in Calcutta as well and it was near impossible to carry out a 10 sentence conversation with girls from North Calcutta - I have no clue why though - they are just different! After a few days I did manage to find a few like minded girls who were interested in music, movies, men and bunking classes - thank God! In Calcutta I learnt to be intellectual, I read Simone Bouvoir (tried to), Katherine Mansfield, George Bernard Shaw (I love him) and so on. I watched plays, I acted in them, I sang, went to book fairs and international movie festivals and I happily continued to wear my specs. My friend's boy friends were good friends of mine so I didn't feel the need to dazzle men without my glasses and get into a gooey relationship. Work life threw me into an all male environment with loads of attention - felt good. The specs had been replaced by lenses - I guess that explains it! Work was lazy and laid back, there was lots of time to do everything, at times heated discussions about politics, current affairs, food and literature took up most of the day. The men went out often for leisurely smokes and tea at the roadside tea shop. The pace was mostly easygoing and life was good. However there was this rather unsettling element of the hidden, people seemed to keep a lot of their most important opinions or thoughts hidden while over expressing the more irrelevant ones leading to many awkward and unpleasant situations. Calcutta was more about substance rather than possessions and appearances.

The Bombay Me
The transition from Calcutta to Bombay was relatively smooth. One is better equipped to deal with changes after having undergone the upheavals of marriage and childbirth. After a while I got used to the beatific face of 'Sarkar' waving out of the posters (he never seemed to smile) and the saffron flags. The obsession and creativity with potato and bread in various forms was commendable but not at all appealing after being used to street food in Calcutta. I have probably walked down every street in my locality trying to hunt for a fish fry or an egg role but found bhaji toast and the soggy drippy frankie instead. Work was a revelation, I discovered the efficient me who did everything on or before time and was taught to read minds of international customers and deliver as per expectations - stated or unstated. I casually mentioned to the electrician that I needed to change my lamp shades and he was at my door step promptly on the next weekend ready to do the work. The cable man appeared a couple of hours after we moved in so that we could get a connection. The neighbors were not interested if I could afford fish every day, they didn't care how many beer bottles were kept out for the garbage but helped when required - bliss! Gone are my lazy weekends, I am busy planning the next weeks grocery list, menu, shopping, cleaning, laundry, PTA meetings, socializing, gymming, movies and so on. Bombay is about always being on the edge, about activity and movement and about being a step ahead.


Naina said...

Hey Even I change with the city I live in. Weird but true na??

Seriously, nice thought. :-)

The Comic Project said...

On my bloghop you shall be soon

abhijit said...

Mumbai totally rocks IMHO. Of course I have lived in Mumbai all my life.