Ohhhhh Kolkata

Truly and officially Kolkata is just not my city…….. Honestly I went there with an open mind…….. totally OPEN as OPEN as I could get but NAH, the way things work there is truly irrational and beyond the realms of my pea-sized brain!!!

The hospital is a place of worship where doctors are put on pedestal (like tons and tons of swamijis) and once they are found not so up to the mark they are whipped of their god like stature and brought down to the stature of dogs. I think I like it here where doctors rather be questioned and thought of like humans beings who could falter and thought of as people with a different line of education who have the capability to heal people of their sickness and in the process of treatment they explain to mere suffering mortals the reason for their ailment and the subsequent treatment.

I met the sweet tongued sari clad ladies who had soooo sweetly abused me on phone and guess what they didn’t actually look soooooo good to me rather they lived up to their sneaking selves of being unscrupulous thereby pacifying me that my judgment of them was not so wrong also they put me off my guilt trip. What works in the passionate city of Kolkata is sob stories…….. yeah that sells like hot cakes especially if you have somebody sick, somebody cheated you, denied of inheritance or just plain you being sick…….. so much for me putting up my brave facade of being totally well and sneaking pain killers down my throat and hiding my swollen legs.

My pa-in-law is well. Hospital’s patient care was good but can’t say the same of their information section or their billing section. It sucked!!!! They have employed a bunch of female nincompoops totally wet behind their ears…….. fresh out of college, totally unprofessional, who were getting slapped right left and center by one and all and took it all well without complaining…….. to repeat the same mistakes again and again.

Screaming at those people was just so normal that it did not even raise my bp this time……. everyone was screaming at them. It took us five hours to get our patient admitted in spite of making pre-arrangements and the hospital calling us in the morning to confirm every detail. Waiting five hours meant waiting/standing for five hours in the OPD as they did not have a separate waiting area and since OPD was in full force there was no place to wait……. emergency patients also were made to wait. Similarly clearing bill and getting together and clearing up took a long time……. because they had obviously wrongly billed us and after a session of table banging (by hubby) everything worked smoothly and the bill was reduced.

What was very alarming was the rate of bypass surgeries and angioplasties done in a day at the hospital. It seemed like an epidemic of heart diseases there. Very scary!!!

Another thing that I was exposed to this time was the disparities in the city………. the disparities between the haves and the have-nots……. the elite and the not so elite. My side of the family in Kolkata comes from the northern side…… the displaced partition stricken people whereas hubby’s family is the British Raj worshiping elite of Bengal. The difference is so striking that I was actually shaken.

Just 30 km apart from each other but the difference hits you like a punch to your stomach. On one hand you have a whole family living in a 12 by 12 room and on the other hand you have a family of 4 saying that 3000 sq worth of carpet area is not enough…… that is the part of Kolkata that totally still lives in the era of British Raj and the glories then even though the current generation has not seen anything of it…… they live on memories and on imagination of the utopian world fed to them by their parents and grandparents.

Memories of hoodless convertibles, of waltz dancing in the balls given by Horton Sahib, innumerable servants, going on drives whereas the other side talks of the crossover, of poverty, of going without food wearing the same clothes till they were tattered and moving from house to house in search of shelter. Where on one side the elite discussed how Rabindranath was the epitome of all Vedas and Upanishads put together and bramho versus Hindu religion and sociological developments across the coffee table, the other side family is discussing the factory’s closure with the wife who patiently cooks fish on the earthen stove for her family.

I experienced all this in a span of hours…… all in the same day. So much disparity!!!! Also another factor that everybody talks about is inheritance…… The son of Bengal survives on the inheritance left by his father or grandfather. Most discussions usually revolve around who got what and how much…….. kind of disgusting to self made people like me.

With this scenario in mind I am not surprised why the Communists have ruled the state for decades. I always wondered why and how the CPM came to power year after year……. the mystery is finally solved.  The truth is finally evident to me.

On the lighter side whenever I wanted to go from one side to the other I used to get a lot of advice take a rickshaw (hand pulled ones) then take a metro then take 52 no bus, then an auto (auto rickshaw or cycle one)etc etc….. It used to really scare me to even me imagine me on all these modes of transport with my broken leg and my rheumatic arms and legs!!! as scary as JAWS!!! I used to have my eyes like golf balls and my mouth hanging open just thinking of doing all that they had suggested.

They really have a lot of modes of transport. When I was young I used to be totally terrified of the tin buses with wooden floors which moved on the roads and looked slanting to me…… I always thought that it would turn turtle but it never did. All you have to do to stop a bus is to raise your hand……… unlike us who run like the devil is after them to the bus stop to take a bus. The trams were another experience I could easily walk faster than the tram I wonder why people bother sitting in them. I remember not so long ago, dad had told me how the whole city had gone on a strike because the fare had risen by 25 ps. (talking of paises, we had a real tiff with a guy and lot of screaming because we did not have 25 ps change…… it still works there……. I haven’t seen one in a long time.) There is the popular cycle rickshaws and the hand pulled rickshaws. You wont believe it but really fat women even fatter than me…… two of them…… sit on one, which is pulled by a really scrawny thin guy. There is also the jetty, the popular metro and the of course Mamta Banerjee’s Indian Railway. This is one city where the Ambassador totally extinct elsewhere still rules the road and it is amazing to find how good it still is.

Another striking similarity both sides is that they have huge large windows and at least two doors in the bathrooms and since Kolkata is a congested area there is always somebody else’s window on the other side. I don’t understand why anybody would install huge windows and so many doors in the bathroom. For a maniac like me with bathroom phobia this is a total nightmare.

I did visit Dakshineshwar and Ma Kali…….. my second mother!!! It was so peaceful there. It kind of sucks in everything from inside you and keeps you just peaceful inside….. total silence!!! I have no idea but the inner sanctum of the temple is really beautiful and the Ganga flowing by is so beautiful. It always takes away everything that you have inside you to put in just peace in there. That is the only place in Kolkata that feels like Home!!!!

Apart from all that I did have a lot of sweets and bori and saw the city totally buzz with activity for the upcoming Puja. Shopping everywhere……… sadly in my case I did not have the time. Also owing to my grand mother-in-law’s death this year we will not be celebrating the festival.

I came back with a different point of view and appreciated my city my home and my family a lot more.

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