When the Gods danced the universe into being to the music of time Bengal was their dance floor. Nowadays, in the rest of the world, that music is heard too rarely. You might listen to a seashell or eat brown rice and adopt the lotus position for a week, or smell a new born baby, or do kindly deeds quietly for a lifetime in order to hear a snatch of a few bars of the creation song.
Here in Kolkata that divine melody greets you in the morning as you awake, you move among the people in the streets dancing to that tune, which simply pervades everything; it flavours your food, it echoes in the conch shells and the bells, the trams and the rickshaws, the chai stalls and the markets, the temples and rivers, the ochre coloured crumbling colonial buildings and the shining skyscrapers, in the melting smiles and the lovely eyes of the Kolkatans, in their dignity and charm, their grace and their beauty, it lulls you to sleep at night and suffuses your dreams with sweetness.
In order to try and explain it we really truly have to crave your indulgence and continue the purplish prose. Ridiculous though it may sound to we spiritually hardened children of the enlightenment we are convinced that Kolkata is the belly-button of the Earth. This is the place where we were connected to whatever or whoever created us.
How else to explain the spiritual feeling of this city of contrasts, confluences, dichotomies and surprises. Each day dawns with the vibrancy of life, with colours so bright you squint, with smells so pungent you stagger, delicious food, herbs and flowers in profusion, tea…TEA ! (Excuse us while we do a little dance of joy….ahhh that’s better). Tea SO very delicious it feels as if the leaves must have been picked in Darjeeling that very morning and rushed straight to your tea pot.
You take a taxi ride through the highly ordered chaos that is Kolkata’s traffic and whilst swaying about in the back of a magnificent old Ambassador, (the sort of car Noddy would have driven had he been fortunate enough to be a Bengali), you reach for your seatbelt to find none. “Hare Krishna, Hare Ram”, you mutter, (along with a Hail Mary or two).
Endless footpaths bursting with stalls and shoppers nudge up against fancy high-falutin’ hotels. Backpackers, hawkers, diplomats and movie stars, housewives and chowkidars, badmashes and nuns, holy men and business wallahs, a great, fascinating, churning sea of wonderful humanity.
It’s an assault on the senses….and a caress.
The Bengalis of Kolkata are…where to begin ?
Poets, writers, publishers, film makers, musicians, dancers, intellectuals, humanitarians, all of the above but so much more. They are a great people, where the people of Asia and Europe truly meet and mix. They are a kind and a generous people and we are in equal parts thrilled, humbled, awed, tickled pink and honoured to have the chance to live among them for a while.