“Calcutta is not for everyone.
You want your city clean and green, stick to Delhi.
You want your city rich and impersonal, go to Bombay.
You want them hi-tech and full of draught beer, Bangalore’s your place.
But if you want a city with a soul, come to Calcutta”
~ Vir Sanghvi
Nearly half a century after the British had left, Calcutta retains its old-world charm. With a vast expanse of colonial-era architecture vying for attention alongside the uber-modern era buildings, this city retains its ancient soul. It provides an interesting study of human essence; the perfect example of order seen in chaos!
Amidst the yellow taxis and the white-clad policemen, the perfect juxtaposition of the eclectic and the eccentric exists. The sweetness of rosogolla and misti doi is punctuated by the bitter helplessness of the glaring poverty seen in every nook and corner!
People follow their own concept of time and schedule, centered around their favorite version of small talk aka Adda! Someone wisely said- “Calcutta’s the only city I know where you are actively encouraged to stop strangers at random for a quick chat.”
These idiosyncrasies nonetheless, Calcutta holds a special place in our hearts!
So, where do you go in this wide chaotic city to get the real deal or even the best souvenirs or gifts? Here are some of our suggestions!
Famous Bazaars of Calcutta:
New Market is the de facto place for shopping in Kolkata! Its often said that if you don’t find something here, you won’t find it anywhere else. Even if shopping is not on your mind, you can simply visit the place for a ‘feel’ and ‘taste’ of the real Calcutta as this shopping mecca is housed within a colonial era complex and offers a wide array of eateries.
If you’re a bookworm like us, head to the College Street. Here, you can find that special edition of your favorite books at a prices that will leave you dizzy with excitement. Good luck carrying those voluminous books home! In the rare event of not finding anything here, head to Oxford Bookstore on Park Street, which even offers the option of unwinding with a cup of tea!
No trip to Kolkata is complete without a visit to Barabazar. This is literally a ‘huge market’ or rather a cluster of alleys, shops and chaos alike, where you might jostle for space amidst the still existing hand-rickshaw pullers, traders and awe-eyed tourists who frequent this place for a true feeling of the city! Be forewarned, this place might just be perfect to feel lost amidst a sea of people without a simple worry.
Another favorite of ours to imbibe the Kolkata charm is the Mullik Ghat Flower Market. Rows and rows of genda phool garlands (marigold) and the sweet fragrance of myriad flowers mixed with the stench of the nearby bathing ghat will greet you as you enter the place. This place presents some really wonderful photography options with a view of the Howrah Bridge looming in the background. The mornings are the best time to enjoy the freshest of flowers while avoiding the madness that mark this place.
Notable landmarks of Calcutta:
Kolkata and for that matter, the whole of West Bengal is synonymous with Durga Pujo! The atmosphere in the city is electric if you happen to be there around the time of the ‘Pujos’. This city prides itself in its traditions and loves to celebrate with full fanfare. However, if you do somehow miss this amazing spectacle, fret not! Grab your camera and head to Kumortoli for an unforgettable experience. Witness the kumors (sculptor) going about turning straw and clay into idols of gods, goddesses, humans and animals alike with the amazing deftness that has been passed on from generations before. Even, enjoy a cup of hot kulhar chai as time stands still around you.
The flea market on Chowringhee Lane (or Jawaharlal Nehru Road as it is now known) provides the perfect backdrop for some cheap thrills. Do haggle for the best price, and sort through mountains of junk to find one of a kind treasures to take back home.
If haggling for prices, the crowded streets bother you, Kolkata also caters to the new-new! Urban shopping malls like the South City Mall, the ever popular Forum Mall and the City Center are for the savvy shoppers. Luxury hotels in Kolkatta like ITC have come up with great options for accommodations as well where you find a great mixture of the old charm and new modern era.
Other Notable landmarks:
Apart from these, the Ghariahat Market, Hatibagan Market and the Dakshinapan Shopping Complex also deserve a special mention. In all, Calcutta offers something for everyone!