One Living Life: I wish to stay in this 'City of Joy' forever, but I wonder how long?

Thursday 17 March 2016

I wish to stay in this 'City of Joy' forever, but I wonder how long?

Being away from Home and family, I had spent quite a few years. Now, that I am back to the City of Joy, I wonder how long would I be able to hold that peace close to me.

The author below reciprocates my feeling to a large extent.

'Kolkata clipped my wings'

You are a Bengali but never want to settle in Kolkata? But why?" I was asked during my interview with the ISB admission panel. 

I clearly remember what I had told them then - for that is still the exact definition of Kolkata that I to give anyone who questions my firm decision of never going back. "Kolkata, to me, is the most luxurious 'Lazy Boy' chair you can ever afford. It comes fitted with Rabindrasangeet and has an extended arm holder for your cup of tea. There is a groove for the newspaper on the side and a small hook from where you can angle your pen - the same one you use to mark out the important news pieces for the evening 'cha-adda'." 

People here thrive on a life that is slower than the pace of the movie 'Mother India'. It might suit a man who still thinks that at 32 it is perfectly fine to live with his parents. However, it doesn't suit a girl like me who has big dreams in her eyes. 

As much as you may doubt, I did try to embrace Kolkata. However, during my work with a major bank there, all I faced was wrath for being "too ambitious and too zealous". I know why "brain drain" is every para's tale here. 

At work my lady boss didn't understand my zeal to have a challenging career, and instead saw me as a threat. Can't blame her because in Kolkata once you have a job, you are supposed to stop thinking about career altogether. As for growth, the only thing Kolkata offers is horizontal growth with the awesome food at unbelievable prices. 

I also noticed that despite being in the same organization as my friends in Mumbai, the kind of work that came my way in Kolkata made me feel that I was back in the dark ages. 

Leaving Kolkata was almost a natural consequence because either my love for the 'Santiniketani' bag would win or my dream of being a powerful corporate. 

I was all of 20 when I first attended a Unesco meet - the youngest ever in the history of Unesco. However, as I spoke about globalization there, I knew that back in India my roots lie in a city that is far, far away from it. Yes, it has posh restaurant chains, pubs and you can still drive around in the wee hours - but for one looking for boardroom action, sadly there is none. 

To ISB, I was a Mumbai applicant. Why? Because I still feel that Kolkata on the professional map is not worth mentioning. My CV has no reference of the work I did in the Kolkata bank - dropping your boss's lunch box is not my idea of a career pointer. What terrifies me is compromising on my intelligence and reaching out for the block of butter each morning to ensure a stable job. I know that the people in the office I left behind still continue with the tradition because they have come to accept that "ekhane ei chole"! To them I am an Utopist. 

After traveling half the world, publishing 22 international research papers, being quoted by World Bank, having the backing of MBA from an ivy league institution like ISB, being nominated for the Young Indian Author of 2012 (for my debut fiction book) and being one of the very few Indians to receive the coveted Fellowship by the Royal Society of Arts, UK - I am not ashamed to admit that I could do all of that and more because I left Kolkata. 

Coming back to the present, I cannot move back to Kolkata unless I compromise with my career choices. I am a lawyer-turned-author-turned MBA who specializes in risk management and deals with business intelligence/corporate investigations and forensics. Such a diverse profile has no fit in Kolkata. I am not in the genre of arm-chair politics or one who would come home at 6pm and want to rest. I want to grow, I want to spread my wings and fly and unfortunately the moment I land in Kolkata I feel my wings have been clipped. The slow pace suffocates me. 

Sadly, the city that gave me my first taste of freedom in mid-career stands for stagnation - ironical but true. 

I wish I could go back to Kolkata, for it holds a strong whiff of my childhood. However, the moment I dream of curling up in my room in our ancestral house, another image flashes before my eyes - the image of my former boss who threatened to demote me because I smoked. In Kolkata logic doesn't work, professionalism is another excuse to pick on personal traits. In this city, gender dynamics is at play and when a young, ambitious girl decides to dream, she is told "ekhane ei shob chole na". 

I tried, I cried and in the end walked out and never regretted my decision. I miss my family but then knowing the way they raised me, I can look at the city in the eye and say: "Dear Kolkata, it's bitter but the truth is that clinging to your lazy boy chair, you've lost a lot of us who wanted to usher you towards a developed dawn." 

I shall come back but I shall not stay. I have not only left, but checked out. It is no longer "aaj aashi, Ma" but "bhalo theko, chollam". 

(Author is a qualified corporate lawyer from National Law University, Jodhpur and a management graduate from Indian School of Business, Hyderabad. By the day she deals with business intelligence and consults one of the leading firms in the world on corporate risk management.)

 - Sagarika Chakraborty | May 25, 2013, 03.43 AM IST


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