A cityscape that is replacing colonial architectural abodes with anonymous high-rise buildings, has very little to do when her people are stripping her of her old-world grandeur. People working towards retaining the city’s heritage are few. But, are we only striving to conserve the dilapidating houses with red-oxide floors and green-shuttered windows? Maybe, that’s the only ‘visible’ right thing to do. Having embraced avant-garde, Calcuttans take pride in ‘paribartan’ and are easily succumbing to the visible changes the city of joy is undergoing. Amidst all, the only bleak but proudly flickering touch of silver on the skyline of ‘modern’ Calcutta is nostalgia. As two contemporary women whose heart goes out to the city’s past (that has never been ‘visibly’ celebrated, yet has only served us in lieu of lesser than 10 rupees), we bring to you the ageless companionship of unnamed streets and stories on wheels.
Route 45 is integral, if not in every but most, middle-class Calcuttan’s life. It has witnessed cacophonies in multitude, which narrates episodes of footfalls and first love, heartbreaks and reconciliation, daily chores and hawking, studies and scorns, and so much more. Today, against the backdrop of aping cosmopolitan modernity, and choosing Volvos and cabs over these inexpensive, ‘Non-Air-Conditioned’ modes of transport, we have conveniently given way to a loss of so many stories that could have possibly started on the unattractive tinned seats of these old buses, while munching on nuts and lozenges.
Lately, our staff is being offered lucrative jobs by the government and are being absorbed in numbers to drive government vehicles. You can see so many buses in this depot here, but hardly sufficient resources to run these. It is about time that I sell these buses to the government or get a backup plan on setting up a private business. Scrapping these would be difficult for me. I don’t know about the other routes, but Route 45 might entirely come to a standstill soon. I am trying all means to keep this going, but we can only try,” says Debojit Bhattacharjee, Secretary, Baishnabghata 45 Bus Depot, and a kind man who willingly narrated to us the present condition of the buses running on Route 45.
Paushali’s nostalgia for Route 45 stems from the days she used to avail Bus No. 45A for commuting from her home (Phoolbagan) to college (Jadavpur University), five days a week. Only 8 rupees for a ride and 2 rupees for a packet of salted nuts! Its been 2 years that she has walked out of college, but even today, the slightest glimpse of Bus No. 45 reminds her of a distinct memory of herself that she has very unwillingly left behind. Emoting the same, she chose to keep her style basic and conversational, much alike to the times when she had been a passenger herself. She opted for a handloom, gamcha-cotton saree and paired it with a nude crop-top. She slipped onto her favorite Kolhapuri sandals that were a win-win buy from the Anjuna Flea Market, albeit keeping in mind the comforts of walking in flats while commuting on buses. She used a pair of feathered earrings and a blue bindi to accessorize her look minimally. Quirky combinations are the foremost on her style check. The eccentric splash of color-blocks on this particular look undoubtedly becomes synonymous with her personal style highlight.
Roshni has been a lover of all things vintage. She is the modern contemporary woman who is an old-school storyteller. Shuffling ‘old-school’ and ‘modern’ in an equal spirit, she picked up a black handloom saree with detailed patchwork from Shantiniketan, and paired it with a beautiful peach top from @zaraindiaofficial. The saree, well-pleated and tucked in with precision almost gave out an illusion of a long wrap-around skirt styled with a top and a dupatta. Her hair neatly tied in a bun accentuated the pink kaanbalis that she most confidently carried with her avant-garde outfit. The key takeaway from this one – indeed, a revival of the roots!
Our plea to retain the distinctive middle-class transport is based on an opportunity for reuse and renewal, not an era’s wipe-out. For the sake of all those times, we have peaked from the bus-stop to catch a sight of our bus arriving and released a breath of relief, let us not allow the strides of time to kill our gratefulness. As Calcuttans, it is very important to put the creativity and innovation running in our veins, to bring back these overshadowed identities of Calcutta, before their silent deaths haunt us for our thankless-ness and biased protests.
Roshni & Paushali
Photo Credits: Subrata Roy