Shades of change in Kolkata: City of Joy feels the blues
The City of Joy is now feeling the blues. Kolkata is on a painting spree. Forget the Orange Revolution and the Green Revolution. Now Kolkata gets its state-sponsored Blue Revolution. Apply two coats and you are done.
Change has finally come to Kolkata. And it is blue.
The Trinamool government struggling with the perception that poriborton isn’t coming fast enough (or at least is not visible enough) has discovered that change can actually come out of a can. It can be then applied willy-nilly on everything — parks, bridges, bus stops, tree trunks. Apparently even Kolkata’s trademark rotund yellow Ambassador taxis are next in line.
The blue-and-white binge has left the City of Joy looking a bit strange as if it has suddenly been haunted by the ghost of Mother Teresa. Even Writers Building, the seat of power has been glowing a spooky blue at night.
But why blue? After all Picasso’s Blue Period is regarded as his more melancholy period spurred by the suicide of his friend Carlos Casagemas. And more alarming for investor-hungry West Bengal, “the sadness of his blue period paintings alienated potential buyers of his art work and thus, in turn, contributed to his poverty.”
However Didi’s hands were tied. She could not choose Trinamool green since that would be too blatantly partisan. Red is obviously a taboo colour in post-Communist West Bengal. Saffron has already been claimed politicially. Also blue, particularly this rather bright blue, is non-partisan in West Bengal even though Mayawati has already claimed it in Lucknow and BJP ministers have watched it in Bangalore. One could even argue that it is already well established as a non-elitist shade, a common man’s colour – kathi roll stands, rubber slippers, tarpaulins, the plastic sheet over a hawker’s stand, the rickshaw seats – they are all already blue.
Here’s a quick glimpse of what is already common man’s blue in Kolkata, followed by snapshots of what is turning blue in Kolkata (note that this is such a fast moving change revolution we cannot even hope to keep up-to-date with it.)
The unexpected Blue Revolution has predictably provoked some political sparring. Debasis Kumar, member mayor-in-council, told TOI “it is always a healthy practice that we should paint the parks’ fencing once a year.” Rupa Bagchi, the opposition leader at the Kolkata Municipal Corporation complained about “a wastage of funds” on “meaningless schemes in the name of beautification.” The state government has apparently allocated Rs 800 million for this venture.
This is also provoking some interstate rivalry. Jodhpur is already known as the Blue City and has been for awhile. “Kolkata is no competition for Jodhpur,” CR Prajapaty, an official at Rajasthan Tourism told the Wall Street Journal’s India Real Time. He pointed out Jodhpur residents willingly paint their house blue. The Kolkata Municipal Corporation wants to offer tax cuts for Kolkatans who want to paint their houses blue.
However instead of competing with Jodhpur perhaps Mamata could engender some kind of sister-city arrangement with it so Kolkata could use some of that leftover paint. Perhaps that could be the first assignment for Bengal’s new brand ambassador Shah Rukh Khan.
It is true Kolkata is in need of a facelift. But the yellowness of its rattling old taxis is hardly a must-fix item. Kolkata is upending popular wisdom. Every householder knows you first fix the house, then you give it a paint job. The government seems ready to slap on some paint on top of the crumbling infrastructure and hope it looks like change. Meanwhile those hungry for real substantive change in West Bengal can spend their time watching the paint dry.
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