'Herzlich Wilkommen!'

'Memorie Dolcie' is all about my cherished memories. It also contains reviews of movies I really liked and articles on various scenarios. Writing, for me, has been an important aspect of my life, so me without a blog, is like a fish out of water. So, this is what I give you. At times, my articles are extremely naive, but then, it's just me. A warm thank you is extended to Ms. Arundhati Chatterjee, my second cousin (yes, my Niece, brightsparks!) and help when it comes to reviewing my articles. Hope you like my blog. Any queries can be directly addressed to me at rrivubanerjee@yahoo.in Auf Weidersehen!
Thank you,
Rrivu Banerjee

Friday, May 3, 2013

From the Most Beautiful to the Most Celebrated

Calcutta, IndiaLondon, United Kingdom3rd May, 2013-
It's easily one of the world's most celebrated cities. The location for many a Bollywood song and dance sequence and even of Mr Bean's countless shenanigans. At the end of it though, you realise just how similar Great Britain's capital is to it's once Indian counterpart Calcutta. That is, however, a different tale altogether. 
Having had an orthodox Catholic upbringing for fourteen good years, I was almost prepared for a week's stay at the Salesian House in Chertsey, Surrey; or so I thought. Through the heart of Chertsey runs Runnymede where King John had been compelled to sign the historic Magna Carta. Much like most of Britain's countryside locales of repute, one does not see thousands of people flocking to Runnymede to look at the fields. In fact, neither did we (nor our host) know of the place's historic significance until rather late into our stay here. 
I've known Fr Andrew since 2009. Every February, he comes down to visit Calcutta (which is coincidentally, where he originates from) and Don Bosco Park Circus with students of The Salesian School and Sixth Form Centre, essentially run by Priests of the Order of Salesians of Don Bosco. And so, as luck would have it, it was now time for us to tell Great Britain that their Danny Boyle had got India all wrong in Slumdog Millionaire. Post an uncountable number of correspondences and questions by the visa authorities and immigration departments at both NSCBI and at Heathrow (the validity or usefulness of which has still failed to dawn on me), we finally were in the United Kingdom.
To be very honest, the UK is strikingly different from what social media has portrayed it to be for us Indians. Firstly, each and every Indian student does not get attacked or heckled for the colour of his or her skin. The idea, on it's own, is rather absurd especially in a country where their national dish is the Indian Chicken Tikka Masala. Having spent each awake hour with them, I can safely conclude that if you create an issue, an issue persists. That, to be honest, is the situation anywhere in the world including India. I think we've all lost count of the number of jokes we've cracked about ourselves as 'whites' and 'browns' (even going on to deduce that the attention we received is simply because we are of a colour as desirable as chocolate) and I'm pretty certain we all host an adequate amount of respect for each other and appreciate the impact the others have had on our lives. 
Secondly, the English need English lessons, but more on that when I engage in personal rendezvous with the readers of this essay. 
Whilst in Chertsey, we had the opportunity of speaking to a total of twelve classes - each an hour. I might have now begun reconsidering academia as a backup career option, but the joys, the laughter and the sheer pride of informing (and in the process, even building better relationships) a group of young, enthusiastic British students about India and how we aren't simply the land of the Great Indian Rope Trick or where everyone pets elephants. In addition, the sadistic pleasure of scaring them by letting them know of the strict rules and norms we follow in India when it comes to scholastic education is unparalleled. 
London, on the other hand, is far more chaotic. A city so small it would cover ground area of just about South Calcutta, London just needs a reason to celebrate. In fact, I now know why so many Bengalis flock to London and live there all their lives - the Queen's Birthday, the Prince's birthday, the Duchess's baby-shower - London just needs a reason to celebrate and much like the average Calcuttan who doesn't mind celebration to be the norm of life, the Londoner isn't complaining. Give them a top hat, a trench coat and a rare week of bright sunshine and everyone between the ages of nine and ninety will queue outside Buckingham Palace and around Victoria Memorial just to watch the Red Coats change guard. Poor Lizzie can't seem to be even able to soak in the fresh air in her nightgown without having more than twenty times four score eyes fixed on her. As much as royalty irks my interest, it does not dwindle in causing annoyance either. 
If nothing else, go walk down Her Majesty's Jubilee South Bank, catch a glimpse of Her Majesty's Tower Bridge or even Her Majesty's River Thames. I trick you not, you'll enjoy every moment albeit the freezing cold winds which the British so happily 'bask' themselves in. Post sunset, all you need to do is go up on the London Eye to find out exactly why this city is so very popular. In a sense, you begin to fall in love with the city despite it going off to sleep after a long day at a quarter to ten. The Tube too, as much as you may draw comparisons and secretly feel happy on deducing how much better the Calcutta Metro is, does not fail to draw your mind to the intricately themed stations - Baker Street Station has Sherlock Holmes silhouettes all over and Victoria Station presents tiles embossed with the face of the former Empress of India (or so, each of her statues all over England still proclaim). You may even decide to visit Clapham Junction, Britain's busiest station where you can hope to meet drunks from places even outside of Ireland or in a rather matter-of-fact manner walk into Harrod's and pretend to be too rich to buy anything that someone else might also have a chance of owning. 
At the end of it all, however, once you land back in Calcutta, you will realise what you've missed for all these days - the very endearing reference of every stranger as 'Dada' or 'Didi.' In London, you can bump into people and they won't even stop to offer an apology. Everyone there is too busy listening to what I assume is therapeutic chants. Neither Calcutta nor London are squeaky clean; and strangely enough, I've even managed to come across beggars on Oxford Street in London, but the soul (and the rather warm temperatures of Calcutta) will always attract you back even if you've been an infidel and accommodated place in your heart for London. 
To sum it up, the experience guarantees to be the celebration of love because of the love for celebration - from London to Calcutta. Perhaps, they're the same after all.
And if you're still not convinced, I suggest you stop scrubbing your dishes, put them in dishwashers (the idea of which still eludes me) and pick up a bag of Her Majesty's Peanuts. And yes, remember to check if it mentions 'Contains Nuts' on the backside of the pack.