Witnessing history and its reflections

Submitted by: Samadrita Jana

Growing up ambiverted, along with a sometimes unhealthy quest for knowing, learning, and delving more, in middle class 00s Kolkata, often, predictably, used to keep me unsatiated. It left me with an yearning to explore, to indulge in like-minded company, to paint for my mind a picture of Kolkata that connects me with the city, of stories that I could happily make a part of myself.

Being aboard for the River Tunes programme was most definitely an  unforgettable affair, and for a multitude of reasons.


From my continual excitement since the moment I received the confirmation email, to spending a half hour in fear and anxiety that my friends would fail to board on time (special mention of their small adventure that involved being stuck late in traffic and running with heels in hand), to being pleasantly surprised and blessed with the moon’s beauty that night; it was a ride of emotions that will, no doubt, stay imprinted.

The day, that was already a near happy one (with a certain almost-hopeful announcement from the Indian government), could only get better as we passed ghaat after ghaat; stories of colonial Kolkata, its impressions and influences on European artists, floating towards us. The ghaats, one after another as we passed by, were lit up beautifully with hundreds of lamps, crowded with people and colours, seeming like the landscape around had almost decided to deck up for our sake.

I stood on the ferry, listening to my friend passionately share a historical tidbit – the tragedy of the Sir Lawrence Ship near Chandpal Ghaat, and I could almost picture the horrors, how layers of history, bigotry, shapes generations of humanity and how often we fail to create awarenes and a connect with it. As I looked across at the Howrah Bridge, all lit up, graced by the perfect moon, with reflections of the city on the river, I could realise and give in to the parts of Kolkata that were familiar yet unknown. Postcards in hand and listening to Whale in the Pond, I could feel myself detach from present responsibilities and harsh realities, feeling fulfilled, with a twinge of sadness at the impermanence of it all.


The three hours of the beautiful wholesome evening might have drawn to an end, but hearts were full and memories made forever.
As I glimpsed back at a present decked up Kolkata, it was my same old city and yet replenished, with faces and tales from time gone by, standing on so many graves who deserved better, whispering songs of everyday wars, transcending barriers no more than creating them, and a burning, living witness and survivor of catastropic history through ages.

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Witnessing history and its reflections