The decline and fall of the bhodrolok and Calcutta, Part II of many: field notes from my trip to the city

The dawn breaks. I head out for a morning run to the Lake – a beautiful stretch of water in the southern part of Kolkata

On the way, early in the morning, a car straddles a zebra crossing. The pavements are uneven, dirty. They did not remove the scaffolding on the footpath/sidewalk left since the first week of October. Weeds and grass overgrow on the footpath, strewn with litter.

Even the Lake is not spared: plastic bottles and cola cans float in the green water. A kingfisher dives from a treetop. An orange sun peers through a misty morning. A woman burns coal fire in the sidewalk to prepare food she will cook. Toxic, suffocating smoke hangs in the heavy morning air like a mist

I wonder what’s going on. In Kolkata, as in the rest of India I suppose, we take the outside of our houses, our streets as free open spaces to litter. We disrespect our streets and roads. We feel nothing about littering our roads like nothing mattered, wash rickshaws with water drawn from a tube well on the sidewalk. Defecate on the open, and yet set up countless shops where they serve food for people. People eat in the street and then litter.

On the way back from my run, I was walking past a masala tea shop. A throng of people hung about. A non-resident Indian American brought along his second generation US born son. The dad was a bhodrolok who resided outside India and spoke English with an American accent and smattering of Bengali, explaining street food. Someone threw a plastic cup on the road.

Under the watchful eyes of a large street sign promising India to be Open defecation free soon, the bhodrolok of Kolkata slurps masala tea chai from a plastic cup and throws it into the street.

Then walks away.

Meanwhile, Kolkata gets ready for a day of business.

Associate Professor of Epidemiology and Environmental Health at the University of Canterbury, New Zealand. Also in:

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store