“You are a teacher, it’s a noble profession. I respect my teachers till today. Teachers impart education, enable people to become self-reliant, so it’s my duty to help you.” I was overwhelmed, as the young officer of Pujali Police station said this, while I was riding pillion on his bike, trying to negotiate non-existent roads along the Ganges towards Budge Budge railway station. These are the perks of being a teacher, it’s invaluable. Flashback to ten minutes before this conversation, the entire Budge budge Trunk Road, the main thoroughfare that connects Achhipur ISB&M campus to the station and beyond, was closed due to a mega election rally. As I exited from the campus in the afternoon, I found public transport was temporarily suspended, the locals advised me to take a different route via ferry as public transport would not be available for the next 4 hours at least. I panicked as I didn’t know the ferry route and decided to seek help from the nearest police station, i.e. Pujali. As I walked up to the police station, I saw clusters of autos, private cars, “magic” (the local name for 8-seater passenger vehicles), all decorated with festoons, flags and logo of the political party, the mood was festive. I went up to the main desk, saw a lady officer on duty, and promptly sought help to reach me to the station. She was reluctant at first, citing reasons of being short staffed, but I persisted. Finally, my perseverance bore fruit and she instructed one of her junior officers to transport me to the station on his motorbike. As we started, the local boys told us to take the lesser used artery road by the Ganga, since the street ahead was completely closed. Then began my journey of exploring a different Budge Budge, via the narrow alley by the river. It was a backstreet that can accommodate one two-wheeler at a time, at most places the track was almost lost, as a result of last year’s devastating cyclone Amphan, at which places I had to get down and walk the stretch. But the journey was worth it and more. The view was breathtakingly beautiful, with the vast Ganga on one side and ruins of grand architecture of closed down mills on the other, it seemed as if I was transported to a different era. I kept asking about the names of the mills and the officer patiently tried to satiate my queries. Budge Budge was once a roaring industrial town and a jute and cotton milling centre during the British raj. It was also an oil depot, as well as famous foot ware manufacturing hub, it also houses a railway bogie engineering unit, and has a thermal power station operated by CESC. All in all, Budge Budge used to be a flourishing business centre. Now as I marveled at the gorgeousness of the river facing art deco guest houses and residence quarters of the mill owners, I couldn’t help but think what a fabulous decadent site this must have been once! We reached the station safely, well within the time to catch the local train. I thanked the officer profusely, he responded with a smile saying police is always there to help and asked me to not think twice before approaching Pujali P.S. for any future need.
This was a wonderful learning experience for me, not only grateful for the assistance received but to find unexpected beauty and history in the back lanes. It strengthened my trust in people. I have always felt safe and am respected by the locals, but this day taught me how people are genuinely helpful towards strangers in an emergency. Our campus at ISB&M not only boasts of an unmatched view but the neighbourhood is also rewarding, plus Budge Budge is replete with rich cosmopolitan history, but that is for another day.
Written by: Prof. Avirupa Bhaduri Faculty, Media & Communication ISB&M, Kolkata