Nurgen Lama, 26, a bank employee on shifting from Kurseong to Kolkata.
When did you come to Kolkata?
I shifted to this city about six years ago right after completing school in Kurseong. Since there aren’t many colleges in the hills, most people from the Darjeeling area come down to Kolkata to pursue their higher education. However, I enrolled in a very traditional Muslim college, Maulana Azad. It was a bit of a culture shock for me, but I tried to blend in. Soon after, I joined a government bank and that was a totally different atmosphere again.
It’s not very easy for people from the Northeast and the hills to “blend in”.
Yes, the common perception is that people call us “chinkies” and harass us. But it’s not as if that’s what is happening to us 24×7. For every insensitive person who has called me a “chinky” in Kolkata, there have been hundreds who have accepted me without question. Moreover, people from the Darjeeling district have traditionally been coming to the city for generations, so we have a good support network here.
Was language a problem?
I am used to Bengali — my paternal grandfather is Bengali. Also, in Kurseong, Bengali is the third most spoken language, after Nepali and Hindi. So, language has never been an issue. In fact, over the years I have developed a love for Bengali. I work in a government bank and often, I have to deal with customers who speak only Bengali. I am proud to say that they have no issues communicating with me at all.
Have you accepted the city as your own?
I have friends here, I enjoy watching Bengali films and plays every week. I read the local papers and relate to the problems that they talk about. Does that amount to acceptance? I also feel irritated with the traffic and yearn for the walks down the hill to my home in Kurseong every now and then.
What do you like about Bengali plays and films?
I prefer watching Bengali plays over films. The Bengali theatre scene is very vibrant. It talks about issues that Bengali cinema doesn’t talk about anymore. It is more political. I make it a point to watch at least three Bengali plays a month.
City Seekers: A series on migrants in urban India