One rarely reflects on the city that one grows up in. People write eloquently and often with flattering platitudes about the their last vacation destination, about the last Euro trip that they undertook solely to beef up their Facebook photo count or about what happens in <insert any random sex-capital> stays in <insert any random sex-capital> intended solely to evoke pangs of jealousy but it is surprising that people rarely talk about the city (more so if it’s not a big metropolis) that they spent a bulk of their formative years and have experienced every hole in the wall restaurant, the quirky culture and its eccentric inhabitants.
I bought my first Hardy Boys book at the old (read pirated) bookstalls outside the Bhubaneswar Railway Station. I spent hours with my dad roving across the city to find the best mutton khasi for the celebratory dinner. I had the tough task of convincing people that my undergraduate institution was as good as, if not better than KIIT (the blue-eyed institution of Oriya families). I woke up to the call of ‘Har Ek Maal 10 tanka’ vendors plying the streets. I grew up with friends who ate chaat 4 times a day outside RD Women’s College hoping to meet the girl of their dreams. The streets had more advertisements for IIT JEE coaching centers than potholes.
You are not a Bhhonsariya (as it is affectionately called by the original inhabitants of the city) unless you crib continuously about the pathetic state of Oriya movie industry and yet clap and cheer when they show Siddhant jumping of a motorcycle seven times in super slo-mo. You are not a Bhhonsariya unless you took your girlfriend to movies at Maharaja talkies for the fear of being spotted by some mausi at the more crowded Sriya-Stutee-Swati talkies. You are not a Bhhonsariya unless you believe that Oriya music industry started and ended with Akhay Mohanty and yet dance on Puchuki Gali Feshion Bali and Rohi Sange Ilisa ra bahaghra at the neighbors wedding. You are not a Bhhonsariya unless your colony’s civic and PWD issues are highlighted in the 7:30PM news on OTV.
Bhubaneswar belongs as much to you as it belongs to me. It belongs to the families of the original inhabitants — the first batch of bureaucrats, government employees and small time traders who moved in to make the city what it is now. It belongs to the Burmese Sikhs who established its first retail and departmental store (Kalamandir). It belongs to the Gujrati Marwaris who run the jewelry empire of Bhubaneswar. It belongs to the Sindhis who virtually control the city’s real estate market. It belongs to the kids from the rest of eastern India who have come to study at the countless academic institutions in the city. It belongs to the young families from across the country that moved in with the rise of Infocity.
You have not experienced Bhubaneswar unless you watched the Kalinga Lancers win under lights at the Kalinga Stadium. You have not experienced Bhubaneswar unless you have taken a morning walk in IG Park. You have not experienced Bhubaneswar unless you parked your vehicle near Ram Mandir walked a mile to avoid the traffic to watch Rabana Podi in Sahid Nagar. You have not experienced Bhubaneswar unless you visited Lingaraj Lassi on a hot afternoon, had Dahi bara aloodum for breakfast, ate at the Tara Tarini Dhaba in Rasulgarh or the millions of fast food outlets spread across Bapuji Nagar and Saheed Nagar, and participated in a khatti over chaha at the local Omfed parlor.
Unfortunately you are also not a Bhhonsariya unless you profess your love and scribble your names and random nothings on the Khandagiri and Udaygiri caves. Unfortunately you are also not a Bhhonsariya unless you organize a picnic at Sikharchandi and never bother to clean it up after you left. Unfortunately you are also not a Bhhonsariya unless you wake up at 4 AM to float paper boats on Bindu Sagar on Kartika Purnima and yet know nothing about the almost titanic maritime prowess of Kalinga. Unfortunately you are also not a Bhhonsariya unless you identify yourself with Calcutta or the city you went to do your undergrad on being asked ‘Where are you from?’ for the fear of the city not being recognized.
A lot has changed. CCDs are the new Omfed parlors for people to hangout. The single screen theaters have been replaced by PVRs. Anubhav has replaced Siddhant. Pubs and corner couches have replaced IG Park & Ekamra Kanan and bushes for couples to share intimate moments away from the prying eyes of the society. More and more people prefer to shop at Pal Heights & Pantaloons than at Market Building. The airport resembles a real airport now. It has become cool to speak in Hindi even with fellow Oriya’s.
A lot has changed indeed. The city has but its people haven’t.
Disclaimer: This is a guest post authored by Kartik Mishra. It’s been originally published on his Facebook notes.