Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Friday, August 19, 2011

Memory Map!

Alipore, Kolkata

A google maps snapshot, to spot the differences

I have been visiting my Nani’s place in Calcutta (I still call it that, sorry) twice a year, ever since I was born. Every summer Cal has been pretty much the same. Its like the house and everything around it is stuck in a time warp, and whatever little change there is, is subconsciously ignored. 

The house, ‘Tara’ is located on Raja Santosh Road, in the posh south Calcutta district of Alipore. Most plots in and around this area are bungalows or high end apartments. It’s a fairly pleasant neighborhood with ample greenery and shaded streets. But what strikes me most is the scale. Coming from Delhi, everything in Calcutta seems so close by! my Nani’s house, my aunt’s flat and my Nana’s office are within 5 minutes of each other, by car. Ah, The convenience! There’s a daily needs store next to a very un-mosque-like mosque, familiarly called ‘Masjid Dukaan’ which suffices for basic things like snacks, toiletries and stationary. All in all, a compact and sustainable neighborhood.

Despite all its advantages, this area has one major drawback, and a persistent one at that. Monsoons in Cal are crazy - it can rain incessantly, often for a full week, without stopping. This leads to severe water-logging. The roads are submerged in any case, but to top that even the lobby of my aunt's apartment building is not spared! Every monsoon, she shifts to my Nani's place for a few days, because it is physically impossible to reach her building, without swimming!

Calcutta has always been considered a very safe city, especially in comparison with Delhi. In Delhi, on the other hand,there is virtually no mutual trust between citizens, because of which we erect boundary walls - everywhere! This particular neighborhood does have some plots with boundary walls, and that is understandable in most cases, however, it also has a pretty active street culture. Especially the apartment buildings,which open onto the road, often cul-de-sacs (like my aunt's building). This not only promotes a feeling of community but also activates the street and makes it safer. The potential is tremendous and Cal should try and preserve this trust.

After all these years, it is today, as a curious student, that I realize that despite the short distances I’ve never really walked in the area. We are so  dependent on  the car that we don't even think about walking. Its a matter of habit which can and should be changed. On the other hand, some areas around the house are also not particularly safe. Every now and then, the Muslim dominated, highly politicized, slum-like development across the road, erupts into mini communal riots, with occasional stone pelting and what not. The development on the east is one I've hardly seen, because I've always heard my family telling me that its full of 'Goondas'. As a result of this, even while going to office from home, we always take the longer west-ward route than the faster east-ward one!

Like I said earlier, the city seems to be in a time warp. Its not that it hasn't progressed, its just something about the people and the trees and the ponds and the streets that is constant. Despite all the good and the bad, Cal will always be special to me.

Critical analysis - why the differences?

- Proportions are warped, the sketch is a little squatter than the map...
This is probably because I tend to use the western side a lot more. My perception of whatever lies to the east is dependent on the few times that I actually venture that side

- Most roads I've made are cul-de-sacs, whereas the have been shown as continuous, on google...
I've rarely visited these streets and also, towards the middle are apartment blocks, which take one's attention away from the street to the skyline.

- The size of the masjid and the shop  are much bigger on my map, than in reality...
This is obvious, as those are the only two significant features on  that stretch of the road as far as I am concerned.

- The crossing on the right is not a 'gol chakkar' like the rest...
The crossing on the right actually has a red light. However there's never much traffic there, because of which it functions as smoothly as a round about!