living in Calcutta

ImageAmit Chaudhuri at n+1:

What do I mean by “modernity,” in the special sense I discovered through the Calcutta I knew as a child? Not electric lights, telephones, cars, certainly, though it might encompass these—we had plenty of those in Bombay. I’ll keep it brief: by “modernity” I have in mind something that was never new. True modernity was born with the aura of inherited decay and life. My first impressions of Calcutta from the mid-sixties are of a Chowringhee whose advertisements shone through the smog; and of my uncle’s house in Pratapaditya Road in Bhowanipore, which, with its slatted windows, seemed to have stood in that place forever. It was built, in fact, roughly forty years before my first becoming conscious of it. Similarly, the city itself—which is by no means old by the standards of Rome, Patna, Agra, or even London—is, actually, fairly new, its origins traceable to three hundred and twenty years back in time, the groundwork for the Calcutta we now know probably laid no more than two centuries ago. Yet if you look at paintings and photographs, and see old films of the city, you notice that these walls and buildings were never new—that Calcutta was born to look more or less as I saw it as a child.

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