Kolkata, the declining beauty
This post is also available in: French
Our second visit in Calcutta (Kolkata), 7 years after the first one, didn’t leave us indifferents. The first time, we visited the “City of joy” (sic) and didn’t feel any big differences with the other Indian cities we’ve been across. Ok, it’s the only city where the human rickshaw-pullers are remaining but we didn’t notice nothing much. This time, we really get the feeling to visit almost a different country from the one we’ve been living in for the past 2 years.
From an architectural and historical point of view Calcutta is a beautiful city with a rich colonial history, often old-fashioned, sometimes about to fall apart but with an indisputable charm. But while walking across the city, we became aware easily that the preservation of the old stones is the least of the worries of people who live on the pavement.
It is for sure a big cliché but it’s true that Calcutta can shock cause of the poverty around: people, sometimes even lonely children, live everywhere on the pavements. They eat, wash themselves, sleep and work on the same 2 square meters. It’s full of life and that’s what makes the city a kind of heaven for photographers. Once the first shock swallowed, Calcutta is also a very charming city. The thousands of yellow ambassador-cabs, the old colonial buildings, the street vendors, the large river and the famous Howrah bridge…. the atmosphere is very special there but it’s like being a spectator lost in a hive where all the rules are unknown. This is an explosive cocktail, the most beautiful of India and also the most pitiless. We can feel that the city has a international capital-city potential (and it was a capital during the first part of the British Raj) but Calcutta has been let far behind and it will be difficult to catch up…
On the gastronomy side we’ve been charmed by the unique flavors we already had the change to taste in Bangalore. Big fans of fish, Bengalese people use also a lot of.. mustard ! It’s very different from what we’re used to eat in South India and it’s tasty and delicious!
This little week-end has been a very important reminder for us. Being in Bangalore, living and working in Indiranagar, we can easily forget what India also is. We live in a protected environment (even if we do not live at all in a gated community) and it’s important sometimes to face other realities of India that affect many of the people living in the country.