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Saturday, 5 April 2014

Oh Calcutta......Soul city..... City of joy....how I love thee!

New Market

Dear Reader, Kolkata on the surface is a dirty, slightly dilapidated, overcrowded city, but it has SOUL...and what a luminous soul it is....One that has survived centuries of the Raj, Riots and the languid indolence of the 'Bhadralok'; the bourgeois snobs, who live their lives entirely disconnected with society......

The heat and humidity are nearly unbearable, to even one such as yours truly, so used to the dusty and torrid embrace of the Delhi summers.Yet Dear Reader, Kolkata still manages to capture you. I love this city. My love affair with this metropolis began at the age of six, when I first came here for a visit. I was one of those kids who would tag along with uncles and aunts and end up visiting places. On that occasion, I tagged along with my uncle, my mother's younger brother who was on his way to the city. Back then she was Calcutta and one of my most poignant childhood memories is crossing in front of the Victoria Memorial at 5 am. The first rays of the sun turned the marble monument into gold, a sight, not many have the privilege of seeing. I remember, my indulgent uncle made the cabbie stop for a while right in front of the gate and in hindsight probably ran up the cab fare to more than it should have been. That was the moment I fell in love with Calcutta.



The Victoria Memorial
Imagine the sight Dear Reader, a looming white marble monument suddenly appearing out of the January mist, and then catching fire and turning into molten gold as the rising sunlight caressed it's white and pristine beauty. For my six year old self  it was an enchanted fairy castle which had appeared out of the mist by magic. I remember how my uncle entertained me and the cabbie with tall tales of fairy princesses, kings, queens, wizards and chariots of fire that he swore revealed the castle's true golden hue as they circled it... It is one of my most treasured memories; we returned that evening and we went around the monument in a horse drawn phaeton. You can well imagine Dear Reader, how special that day was, I truly felt like a princess.

Alas, I am not six anymore, and Calcutta is now Kolkata,  however, I have still managed to retain my impression of the city...A city of princes and paupers...a city of dreams mired in bleak reality. It is mystifying how Calcutta has managed to retain it's unique verve through the ages.


Park Street
One of my favourite places in the city, Park Street stands sentinel to nearly 300 years of history and Calcutta's existence. It is like a faded, unwashed cousin of the gorgeous Regent Street in London, littered with charming book shops and patisseries choc-a-block with government and corporate offices; and yet, beneath all the grime and surprising vines and creepers, you can spy the marble cherubs, the muses and the griffins. The beautiful detail work on the columns and the topmost fa├žades of the buildings, reveal the regal beauty of the architecture of  a bygone era.    
The Standard Life Assurance Building

This Dear Reader, is Calcutta's soul, resilient and charming, like that beautiful and graceful old lady whose features make it apparent of her youthful beauty that refused to fade beneath the wrinkles brought on by age. She is gracious and gentle, commanding respect and full of stories and tales of the past, yet still, her relevance and presence provides a balm to the chaotic 21st century nomad.
The General Post Office Building

2 comments:

  1. Very nice.
    I did not know Calcutta had a new name.
    My favorite city is Benares.

    ReplyDelete
  2. nice one beta.....true Kolkatta has a soul....rest is all dead!

    ReplyDelete