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Since 1st March, 1999
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Wishlist 2005

Rue that important meeting you missed because you were stuck in a roadblock' Remember that long weekend when you were dying to get away from the din but ended up in front of the TV at home' Still raging over the days spent in vain at a government office waiting, pleading, begging for the babu to do his day's work'

If wishes were horses, Calcutta would have a smooth ride. But with optimism being the buzzword of the first weekend of 2005, Metro on Sunday takes a look at a few things we citizens crave and conjure, desire and deserve this New Year'

No bandh, no roadblocks

When Calcutta starts going to work on a bandh day, it's time to take the hint. The city spoke in 2004, loud and crystal clear, with bandhs that just didn't succeed in keeping shutters down at work or footfalls low at play.

If Bengal means business, the best way to show it is by saying no to coercive forces that compel the Calcuttan to stay off work.

As for traffic-stopper rallies, court and media pressure notwithstanding, hitting the streets to clog the streets remains the most convenient form of political protest.

So, all we want is for Buddha (the poet) and Mamata (the painter) to bury their political differences for a brief moment and sign an MoU to end roadblock and bandh raj. If they don't want to be seen together at either Writers' Buildings or the Trinamul office, may we suggest the historic ' and harried ' KC Das as venue for the bittersweet meeting (minus the michhil), with rasogollas keeping them company.

Impossible it may be, but let's get greedy with our first wish for 2005: for the sake of the people, can the politicians please unite to promise: 'Bandh, cholchhe na, cholbe na'.

A little concern for clean air

Leaving your cigarette-smoke filled party for a bit of fresh air' You'll have to head out of the city.

With the rise in levels of vehicular pollution being proportionate to government apathy, this is a city of burning eyes, coughing throats and choking lungs.

We wheezing, asthmatic mummies are desperately seeking an inhaler, but there is not one in sight.

Yet, all that is needed is a little honest effort. If other cities are doing it, what stops the Bengal government from cleaning up its act and the air we breathe' Sloth (cholchhe, cholbe) at one level, selfishness (transport lobbies, vote bank etc etc) at another.

Without ripping pages out of Ripley's, let's put down our basic environmental demands:

Put in place 100 tailpipe emission testing centres with proper machine and manpower

Introduce tamper-proof auto-emission hologram on windscreen

Ensure LPG switchover for all autorickshaws

Roll out attractive exchange offer for old commercial vehicles

Don't take the Calcutta commuter for a ride

Work culture makes a debut

A wag at the College Street coffee-house had once famously commented that a Calcuttan's upward mobility can only be measured by how much he can move up in the queue ' for roti, kapda, makaan and all else. The fact that Calcuttans seem to live in 'line' ' waiting for everything from basic utilities to fancy facilities ' has more to do with a faulty service supply chain than anything else. The curious part is that the work culture (or rather its lack) is not just restricted to slowcoach babudom. Corporate pockets, too, have fallen prey to the Calcutta chromosome.

So, from Writers' Buildings to new-age business corridors, from electricity supply to driving licence' all we demand is more work than words, more files being finished with than cups of tea being gulped down, and just a little bit of conscientiousness from the workforce, public and private. Time for a dream debut'

Plug potholes, plan traffic

Ouch! The most-used monosyllable for Calcuttans on the move in 2004. We said it every time the vehicle hit a pothole ' and that was anything between every second and every 300 seconds, depending on location. Some escaped with a teeth chatter or a bone jar; several others went down with bad back or pain in the neck.

What we ask of those who pave (or maybe don't) our pathways this year is, stop bickering about whose pothole it is, anyway. It's not for the commuter to be told whether it's the responsibility of the CMC or the CTC, ABC or XYZ to make the roads of this modern metro motorable.

Also, flyovers are fine, but can we have a few city planners sitting in on the projects, please' With the approach and exit of each flyover turning into jam junctions, the need for a minimum amount of foresight couldn't be more glaring.

A weekend getaway that rocks

Santiniketan is house full, Sunderbans is a washout, Digha is dead. So where does the weary Calcuttan drive down to for a bit break'

Our coast may not have the magic of Goa, but it doesn't have to be the unimaginative blob of nothingness it is now. Since we don't want to tamper with the delicate ecosystem of our mangrove forests, we would like to point our tourism department to boring old Digha.

Gambling may sound like an evil word to most, but nothing will draw the tourists like a casino. And like Goa, they can keep it strictly above board, restricting the roulette and slot machines to a liner on the water, so as not to sully our soil. Also wanted: proper hospitality addresses, proper food stops, non-stop music' Essentially, a cool place to go to.

City as a music stage

That brings us to the need for music, here there and everywhere. If music on the streets be the flavour of the new year, play on.

Consider this: there's still only one pub in the city where bands perform on a regular basis, and barring the odd-Bangla band concert from time to time at Nazrul Mancha or Science City, there's hardly enough music going around. Big and small acts ' from Rolling Stones to Elton John to Bryan Adams ' giving Calcutta the miss has become the rule but while we wait for those distant stars, why not create some stars of our own, by giving them regular platforms to rock'

Midnight munch & movies

With Calcutta's night owls making themselves heard and seen at discs and lounges around town in '04, it is a wonder that most of the city shuts down well before Cinderella hour. Big boys, a certain Mr Imran Khan had pronounced (on his T-shirt) decades ago, play at night. And for a city in growing-up mode, we can surely urge private enterprise to have a heart for the hungry (and broke) stuck in the twilight zone between midnight and morn. Also, with super-screens sprouting, how about a midnight movie to beat a hard day's night'

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