How did you end up in Kolkata?
My love affair with Kolkata is a strange one. I pursed a degree from Jadavpur University in comparative literature. I can’t say I liked the city that much then as I hardly got to explore it. It seemed too conservative to me. Then I ended up travelling: I went to Hyderabad and then the US (where I pursued a PhD from Berkeley). I started living in Jaipur and taught English in Manipal University. Soon after, there was an opening at the Centre for Social Sciences here and I applied for the job. I moved here in 2013.
Is this stint with Kolkata any better?
I have explored it more, I now understand it better. It’s a difficult city to like, particularly if you are impatient about things. If you want life to be dizzyingly fast and don’t have the time to spare, Kolkata can be a bit exasperating.
How is it different from your hometown Jaipur?
Though Kolkata is a much bigger city than Jaipur, or for that matter most other cities in India, it feels very small. It’s a very compact city. It’s probably because it has such a vibrant public transport system. Getting around the city is convenient and cheap. I feel much safer in Kolkata than in other cities of India. There are people on the road all the time, and that makes me feel secure.
Do you feel like an outsider in the city?
When I first came to the city, I did feel like an outsider. But now I speak the language of the city, somewhat, so I feel more accepted. Though people in Kolkata speak both Hindi and English, Kolkata is essentially a Bengali city. You are not part of an adda if you don’t speak the language, you do not get the inside jokes.
Is there something you want to change about the city?
The work culture here leaves a lot to be desired. People are so laid-back that hardly any administrative work get done anywhere.
City Seekers: A series on migrants in urban India.