This city is mine. He sometimes smells of me. I know, many consider my city to be a woman, but I think of him as a man – sometimes a child, sometimes ancient, although its just over 300 years old. In random dreams across many seas, over the hilltops and from among the mountains when I travel, I hear my city calling to me, and that is the moment for me to return to it. When I am at peace, I imagine that the large, unfinished city with its wooden windows, old doors, filled up ponds and huge concrete blocks are all that I have, and perhaps all that I need.

My city is also my lover, my shelter, my safe house, my own. I roam about the dusty streets, the fields, lakes, parks and brush across warm human bodies at times. Sometimes, that fills me up with disgust, sometimes it makes me realize I am alive. And every breathing portion of me realizes in the same breath that I probably am more in love than he.

Every time I walk through the day or night, loitering about, running from one part of the town to another over spit-laden roads and sometimes waterlogged streets, or maybe just sitting on a stair and staring at nothing – I fight the muggy heat that tries to suffocate me, pull me down, like a crab, refusing to let me up. But in the end, I realize, that while it might smother others, surprisingly, it opens a door ahead while closing another.

He wraps me in his embrace and I close my eyes and smile, safe in the knowledge that he will keep me alive and safe, and we are one. Our relationship is probably like a Sultan and his favorite concubine – time and again I cheat, time and again, so does he. Sometimes, we fall apart – he looks at me with hatred, I glare back. But in the end, we find each other, soothe each other, and fall asleep – baring our souls to each other.

For you see, we are in love. Kolkata and me.

Written by Poorna Banerjee

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