Saturday, 23 March 2013

My Kolkata Walk

There are holidays, & 'holy' days, 'wholeness' days & 'holla-out-loud' days, honeymoons & heavenly hiatus &, of course, your good old fashion, run-of-the-mill, rest & relaxation, sexy vacation. All imply some form of respite, intermission, suspension of duty & recess from the ravishes of everyday life, perhaps even some perfumed-pamper & a little extra five-star-sparkle thrown into the crystal clear waters.

  The Hooghly River

I do not travel to INDIA for any of the aforementioned, ney, I tell you, I go there to be: propelled, pummelled, shaken about, spun around, smacked sideways, stunned, stupefied, confounded, confronted, crushed, affronted, assuaged, jolted, jarred, scarred, stared-at, serenaded-to, thwacked-on (by ricocheting spit-balls!) bumped-into, blessed & blithely bothered. In short, I go to experience the full gamut of human experience, of life 'Unfiltered'....a 'Walk of Life', which starts for some, & ends for others, in Kolkata.

The push & pull of industry

The family that works together...

Negotiating the space

Kolkata, that City of questionable 'Joy', that evokes more Dickensian drudgery, than Dalrymple delight, more 'Mother-House' affliction, than multi-fusion menu & more begging black-holes than a quantum-physics symposium. That she is ALL this, and more, makes her so frustratingly fascinating & likeable, people flock to her Hooghly-shores, not to escape the minutiae of life, but to face it.....head on & unapologetically.

 The wall of fancy-pants pundits

Tottering trams & tired buildings

Herbaceous road-side vendors

Peaceful Buddhist Shala

Ever wonder where your hair/shaving brushes come from? 
The finest goat manes!

Bow Barracks

Door to the 'other' side

 Churning chick-pea flour

Old Russian Theatre

Spicy street

While the heaving Howrah Bridge dominates, & august, British-colonial monuments flank the cityscape, as well as lend to it its modern history, it is the interactive alleyways & 'paraganis' (traditional townships), with it's confluence of cultures - British, Persian, Chinese, Armenian, & Portuguese among them, their shapely shrines, mosques & churches, edifying eateries, beguiling bookshops, institutes for 'adda' (political/topical conversation), tireless tailors, wily wallahs, vendors & hawkers, iconic, rickety-rickshaws, scrumptious, sought-after sweetshops, witty, bouncy, Bengali repartee, rolly-polly aunties in shimmering saris & unmatching cardigans, little girls in felicitous frou-frous, paired with non-negotiable Nikes, the elder-spunk in a safari, the young bro' in Gabbana, industrious indie films, lilting literature & fierce, freedom-fighting....that all give this city its soulful, colourful cadence.

Beth El Jewish Synagogue, 1856

The call to prayer caps

Old Portuguese Cathedral, 1799

Bubbly bidi (cigarette) stall
 jolly Bengali belly!

Vanity Fair!  
Mirza Ghalib (Freeschool) Street 

Dakshineswar Temple

Namaste your Majesty! 
The royal residence under renovation

Armenian Church, 1707

Snack time


Hindu wedding preparation

100 year-old Chinese tea shop

So, Ok there are also scuzzy dogs & stench-filled drains, pesky touts & clambering charlatans, roving eyes & ridiculous poverty, not to mention a swelling, swarm of 22 million sonorous souls all vying for that same cup of chai...but there's a story for ALL of that &, if you're interested & willing to rise above otherwise preconceived notions, relatively privileged lives & necessary sanitary proclivities, able to stomach the sensory intensity & digest the inescapable might just get a far more gratifying & graceful picture of this grand & life-giving megalopolitan.

The poor

The industrious

The hungry

The iconic

Don't expect though, to see a beautiful city.....if anything, she is a shambolic mess of snazzy new cars, overwhelmed infrastructure, whiteness cream, dreams, fumes & aspiration. Kolkata tests & beckons you to forage for her 'beauty', weed it out, blow off the refuse, paint it a new colour, reinterpret the concept, pack it away.........then carry it in your heart, veins & lungs, for a lifetime.

Thank you for making space in your day to read my post


#All Writing & Photography by Rani.C (Char)

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