Monday, December 8, 2014

Indian Coffee House

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A round tower of red brick emerges from the asphalt near the bus station, a stone's throw from the College Street, a work of the British architect Laurie Becker, inspired by Gandhi who left Europe to build low-cost housing and ecological in India. An old Victorian building, with the high ceiling internal balcony and a gallery similar to a movie theater or the women's gallery of a church. The entrance cramped and dark conceals ample space and noisy inside.


Two cities and two different states, the same combination of food, coffee and animated chatter. A single chain the Indian Coffee House. At Calcutta, you go all with the certainty of finding the same atmosphere, year after year, to be free to enjoy the same coffee for hours, without receiving subliminal invitations to free the place and with the possibility of finding kindred souls with which to start an interesting discussion.

Among the lecture notes in mathematics, a chai and a joke against the Gandhi dynasty to power in Delhi, Sabir and his friends give life to their adda, are divided on Mother Teresa. Especially on his contribution to the Great City of Calcutta. Mother Teresa was European Albanian, but only in India supports could be understood. Her spirituality, the relationship with death, concern for the poor characters are Indians, non-Western, or at least not entirely.

It has become a model for the world and for that we thank her she did know the soul of India. She could have done what she did in a city, even the most wretched, in the western hemisphere. In Africa, in Latin America. I hope not for them. Mother Teresa has become the most powerful symbol of Calcutta in the world, but to say that the Black Hole is spoken of as soon as it is always evokes.

You say Kolkata and nobody thinks about what's really going on here, we have the chance to improve; everyone will think of Mother Teresa, the dead of disease, the desperate on the sidewalks, the religion that lies on the corpses. Maybe it was not his goal, but it has created the image of a city desperate for which there is nothing to do. But you seem desperate Kolkata.

No. Calcutta does not seem a desperate metropolis. The neoclassical mansions built by the British no one has touched more and crumble in the humid tropical. Poor, too: children in puddles of street fighting for number ones than any other Indian metropolis. And also slow the movement toward the global economy that has hit Mumbai, Delhi, Bangalore arrived here muffled and has been rejected by more than thirty years of the communist government of West Bengal.

But despair not. It is the most incredible views of the city a tanker exploding against a wall, a shepherd with his flock among the cars, a dozen people hanging by a tram; a half-naked man who pulls a rickshaw and above four children in school uniform; the brand new Mercedes parked near the Kalighat, the great temple dedicated to Kali, the goddess of the black city, and next to it the sellers of incense and garlands that crowd the entrance of Nirmal Hriday, the House of the needy dying Mother Teresa. But it remains a city of scholars, books, culture, research centers, which now sees thousands flee brain, but it could be, and maybe it will be one of the most innovative megalopolis and fascinating the century.

The issue under discussion in the small adda of Indian Coffee House is this: Mother Teresa helped to freeze the image of the city by the scary night, as Rudyard Kipling said, and City of Joy, the essence of which is the lives of the slum and the rickshaw man told by Lapierre. The image is less of a problem. The real problem is that Mother Teresa has strengthened and glorified a trend that was already present in Calcutta.

The idea that the poor there is nothing to do, the only thing that is welcome when they are dying, not to treat them and give them a hope of healing, but to say that the sacrifice brings them closer to holiness. His was the doctrine of suffering, willingly accepted by those who have never wanted to change things. Even the Communists. When they dedication to Christ apart, have always denied that this city could beat poverty and misery, and have prevented.

In 1943, Calcutta until 1911 administrative capital of the British Raj, the British rule over India was devastated by the Great Famine it is estimated that died between three and four million people. In 1947, after independence from Britain and the Partition - the division between India and Pakistan the migration of hundreds of thousands of Hindus fled from Pakistan newborn Eastern, Muslim now Bangladesh, a wave washed over Calcutta of humanity, no house, no food, no medicines.

In some way, you can say that since then the city has not been completely relieved. In 1977, the Left led by the Communist Party of India Marxist took power to keep it up to 2011 and, in many ways, isolated the West Bengal openness and economic growth in the rest of India when, in 2009, finally decided to enable the construction of a large factory of the Tata group to produce the world's cheapest car, the Nano, on a plot not far from Kolkata, developed a strong peasant movement contrary, supported by populist politics Mamata Banerjee the Communists were defeated in the 2011 elections, Mamata became chief minister of the state and Tata went to build the factory in Gujarat, with the red carpet laid out by the governor Narendra Modi the next prime minister of India.

The opposition to the change, the idea that India is a land where development can not take root, the resignation to keep the poor poor are part of an ideology that has deep roots in Calcutta and Bengal in India. Mother Teresa is not a secondary branch of this tree. Geeta, the girl says that even the opposition of the Albanian nun abortion, contraceptives and divorce did not help the desperate city. You can not say he adds that Westerners have stimulated Kolkata to have a positive idea of herself and to project a decent image abroad. In his book Günter Grass sees only the desolation.

The film by Louis Malle on Calcutta forget the city that is around the derelicts in the streets. And Lapierre has a limited view. It is too much to say that Westerners did not understand anything. That Kolkata is not Mother Teresa, who is the city of the dying. Look out here, the thousands of booksellers. And the young and the elderly who browse them.

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