Every city has a sex and an age which have nothing to do with demography. Rome is feminine. So is Odessa. London is a teenager, an urchin, and in this hasn’t changed since the time of Dickens. Paris, I believe, is a man in his twenties in love with an older woman — John Berger
British novelist, painter and art historian John Berger’s comment went viral on social media after Twitter user Izah quoted it. Images of a carefree lover to an old woman standing by the window were used to describe concrete jungles. The descriptions interestingly changed when the gaze shifted from that of an insider to one of a visitor. When an insider saw the city through rose-tinted glasses, the outsider would get critical or vice versa. Together, they painted a composite picture of the metropolis.
Needless to say, Kolkata lent itself beautifully to this exercise. Those who have grown roots here talk about how the city has tried to adapt to change even while remaining constant. Just like a protective parent, their criticism of the city comes from a sense of belonging. Those who have left the city for greener pastures abroad, can be either harsh or indulgent. Their descriptions curiously also reflect the city’s impact on them. Then, there are those who have only come to the city as visitors. Their objective gaze complements the views of the insiders, who, at times, live in denial.
Author Mani Shankar Mukherjee, who has grown roots here, describes it as a city of “ever-changing” images. “Compared to the other cities of the world, Kolkata is relatively very young. Yet, her image in my eyes keeps changing. ‘Chance erected, chance directed’, as described by Rudyard Kipling, this city sometimes seems like a child who has just started out. Then, there are moments when she doesn’t have that childlike exuberance. Then, I feel she is ‘rupashi’ — an epitome of beauty. But that image too isn’t constant. At times, I also find Kolkata taking on the image of goddess Kali,” the author said.
Poet Prabal Kumar Basu, who is based in Delhi and regularly visits Kolkata, imagines the city as a metrosexual man in his 20s. “I imagine Kolkata as someone who has a lot of passion. He is masculine but has a softer side too,” Prabal describes.
‘She is a 21-year-old woman’
Kolkata is a 21-year-old woman from the books of Tagore! She is wise beyond her age and brave beyond her faith. She is adaptable, welcoming and forgiving. Her strength is her knowledge, the age-old wisdom she carries, the power she has to create. She is not competing with
anybody. Her existence is like a full moon. Time stands still when she is around.
— Ushoshi Sengupta, model
‘He is a passionate lover’
Kolkata, for me, is like a passionate, sensitive lover. He is flawed and does let me down sometimes. Despite the flaws, the romance is impassioned.
I have considered living in another city for better work opportunities, but Kolkata is that “difficult, fiery, intense love” that has charmed me in ways that the “quintessential dependable love” just can’t. If I were to give Kolkata an age, it would be 40 — an age where pretense drops and an individual acquires an attractive maturity.
— Ekavali Khanna, actor
‘She is a loner at 60 who is also optimistic’
Kolkata, to me, is beyond her 60s. Ailments are catching up. Her children are away, doing well in foreign lands. She is
living a slow life and her only hope is nostalgia. She has become lonely and reminisces her past glory while reminding us of Tarashankar Bandopadhyay’s protagonist of Jalshaghar. Nonetheless, there remains a flicker of hope, unrequited romance in her distant gaze. You can’t miss it if you spend some time with her.
— Anupam Roy, singer-songwriter-composer
‘He is the 45-year-old intelligent male who has all the answers’
Kolkata is an intelligent male. I would describe him as a 45-year-old man who can answer all kinds of questions and is not boring at all. After silencing the commotion in the playfield, he comes and sits in a coffee shop and lights up a cigarette. Then, he casually adjusts his specs, looks at everyone around and asks: “What do you want to know?”
— Rudranil Ghosh, actor
‘She is the romantic wife’
Kolkata is a romantic and sensitive wife in her late twenties; married to a passionate yet bohemian and prolific husband named “political culture”. She is the one who loves to explore all the secrets entreasured in the hearts of all the house guests she encounters.
— Kamaleswar Mukherjee, director
‘She is a pregnant woman who is polyamorous’
Kolkata is a pregnant woman in her mid 20s walking along with her son. This son’s name is Howrah. The Howrah Bridge is the umbilical cord that connects her to her son. She is polyamorous by choice. Other cities express a fondness for her. She can be very endearing and also indulge in some occasional flings. However, she doesn’t really get too attached to any one of them.
— Upal Sengupta, singer
‘He is the 52-year-old humanist’
Kolkata is a middle-aged man on his feet all through the day with or without purpose. He is a 52-year-old humanist. He terms crisis a part of existence, nostalgia a vibrant recluse, and dreams of radical change as the ultimate fantasy.
— Atanu Ghosh, director
‘She is a dusky woman in her early 30s’
Kolkata is like a childhood friend who awaits you with old-charm and doesn’t let you think of shifting your base anywhere else. No matter where you go and for how long, the friend will keep giving you a reminder of a reunion that you can’t afford to miss. As I knew Kolkata as Kallolini or Tilottama since childhood, I have always imagined her as a young dusky woman with a big red bindi on her forehead. She is in her early 30s.
— Sudiptaa Chakraborty, actor
‘She is a 60-year-old who still has the spunk’
Kolkata is a 60-year-old woman. She has withered with age and the travails of a hard life yet retains a certain grace and dignity. She has luscious grey hair and an upright stance. She has been wronged and her life has been hard but in her large beautiful eyes there is kindness. She is a mother and anyone who visits her can feel her warmth. In her youth, she was a fighter who stood up for values she believed in. She often stood alone in her battles and was defeated but not broken. She has the same spunk even today. Her aura makes her stunning and desirable even today. A queen among lesser women.
— Bickram Ghosh, percussionist
‘She is forever 21’
The City of Joy, Kolkata, wears many faces. To me, she is an elusive chameleon who changes hues with the seasons, a retired vigilante who walks amongst us unidentified, undetectable, omnipresent yet silent. She is an enigma that escapes from the crags of our fists. She is perhaps an adolescent revolutionary poet who is patiently waiting for a second coming, a new dawn or a rising from ashes. Then again, Kolkata confounds me. With her warmth and maternal embraces, she is a mother for whom time goes slow, who clutches her children to her breast and never lets them go. Kolkata roars with a tigress’ defiance, a lioness with a Kalboishakhi mane, an arrogance that heritage warrants. As for her age, in my eyes, Kolkata remains forever 21.
— Ujaan Ganguly, actor
‘Kolkata is a wise old man in his 80s’
Kolkata is much like Bhishma from Mahabharata — a very wise old man, but with a millstone around its neck that forces it to choose the wrong side. This wise old man is in his 80s. He is still capable of making a choice, but in a tremendous crisis of values. As a relatively young city (as far as cities in India go), Kolkata has historically stood on the side of change and progress. But today, it’s confused about change and progress itself. It doesn’t have the energy or the courage to discard the false yardsticks that it is being enticed with.
— Bedabrata Pain, Los Angeles-based scientist-turned-director
‘She is a 70-year-old waiting for her child to return’
Kolkata is the old woman waiting for her son or daughter to come back to her. She is in her 70s. I picturise her as the mother, the epitome of values. Grey-haired, hard of hearing, doesn’t see well, filled with memories — tears cascading down at the drop of a hat. That’s my Kolkata, that’s my mother.
— Bauddhayan Mukherji, Mumbai-based director.
She is an ageless woman’ Kolkata is a woman who is ageless. She is kind, loving and giving as well. For me, she is like the Ganges that washes all the dirt and the sorrow. She is the eternal mother figure who has seen many come and go. But she has remained consistent as the mother who accepts and assimilates everything. — Amaan Ali Bangash, Delhi-based sarod player
Source: Times of India