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Bat-size Mosquitoes In The Winter Smog
IF the Brits have left any lasting legacy for Calcutta, it is the all-pervading winter smog. It creeps like a monster up your nose, it stains white clothes greyand, if you want to make sure your books are safe, you only have to run a finger along the bookshelf and it is coated with black soot. And the black glob youcough up in the morning while brushing your teeth has such an evil look that you wonder if you could possibly have produced it. Not all the flood-lighting of the Victoria Memorial nor the usual cheerful Christmas decorations of New Market can hide it. Then there are the mosquitoes. Delhi's buzzers are like pygmies compared with the bat-size monsters which swoop on you like fighter planes in Tollygunge, within striking distance of the elite Golf Club. This, of course, is in winter when the pleasant weather makes people bring out their woollens and blankets.
But driving along Calcutta's garbage-piled, ill-lit, narrow streets with fancy British names reminiscent of Hong Kong, one can only wonder at the skill of its drivers. Buses still slope dangerously to one side, the overcrowded side near the door. And the chivalrous conductor's "janana uthrega" (women getting off) announcement is still blissfully heard. Eve-teasers would get lynched by male passengers. Calcutta's bus and car drivers always flee after an accident if they wish to remain alive, no matter whose fault it was.