When in Kolkata there are certain things that are entangled with the concept of “city with a heart”. The problem is, can these things really be pointed out? But I will make an attempt at it nonetheless. Kolkata is like the sepia-toned photo frame which is all about memories and nostalgia. This city still smells of burnt cigarettes and long-lost love stories.Kolkata is called the cultural capital for a reason, even with its almost fading heritage and glory it has some elements left in its people and places that can be experienced if you actually spend some time here. Once upon a time, this culture was thriving with young minds throughout the city huddling together for the typical Bengali “adda”. These addas could be about anything from politics, to poetry, from Karl Marx to a protest march and umpteen number of strangers could share a brilliantly well aware debate over some tea. The roadside Bengali adda with chai and stories is on the low these days. But the adda is not the end of the typical Kolkata things. Till date, you will see complete strangers voluntarily holding your heavy bags for you on the crowded buses and metros. This is because here complete strangers can connect and share a moment of empathy and not feel weird about it, something unimaginable in other metro cities.
This is a city where you can find free art exhibitions in many places across the city. Spend an alone day here and experience the artistic side of the city.
A city where you can get to watch a movie at a proper theatre at just 30 bucks. A city where you can finish a meal at 50 bucks. A city where you can go around watching art exhibitions all day. A city of old churches, of small by-lanes, of hand-drawn rickshaws, of umpteen number of heritage Ganga ghats, lost in time. This city is all about the experience and feel of it and not just the buildings and places.
One of the two Howrah bridges is the crown of this city. To truly feel its glory, go see it at different times of the day. Picture by Srijita Basak.
Like here you can suddenly end up finding an amazing night view of the same bridge and a mid-night boatman telling a hundred stories. Picture by Sanchari Chatterjee
The first Howrah bridge, the queen of them all. The first thing you see if you reach Kolkata on a train. Picture by Srijita Basak.
Walking down the roads of old Kolkata you will find so many beautiful churches that will simply brighten your day. Go spend a quiet evening there, dive deep into your memories and warm up your heart. Picture by Sanchari Chatterjee and Srijita Basak.
Or have a lazy day at the Kolkata Maidan and relive your school life love story and share a hearty laugh.
Go for a heritage walk at the Park Street Cemetery if you want to find peace. This place is mostly devoid of people, you can easily drown in your sorrows here and be comfortable with it. Picture by Srijita Basak.
Or go get your photography skills tested at the beautiful Victoria Memorial. Picture by Sanchari Chatterjee.
Surely don’t forget to take the epic heritage Kolkata tram ride. It surely is the laziest transport, but it still makes you feel like you are time-traveling into some old Kolkata.
Or go see some live sculpture making at Kumartuli in North Kolkata. These are artists who haven’t had any formal training in big institutions, but on any given day they will make trained artists run for their money. Their specialty? They make idols of gods, and it becomes a riot of artwork during the Durga Puja. Picture by Sanchari Chatterjee.
If you are lucky enough to travel to Kolkata during the autumn, no matter what your religion or belief, never miss out on this feeling of the Durga Puja. The feel of it lies in the cotton clouds of October, the sounds of the mantra, the new clothes, the friends, the food, the crowded streets of pandal hoppers. Take out one element, and your feeling is incomplete. Picture by Sanchari Chatterjee.
If you ever want to get away from the hustle of the city and still enjoy a great sunset within it, go sit beside the Rabindra Sarobar lake and enjoy a cup of early morning tea and refresh your senses.
Oh, but how can the Kolkata feel come to an end without a stroll down the old narrow lanes of North Kolkata? Picture by Srijita Basak.
But beyond that, when in the city do taste all of Kolkata’s food, because Bengalis are truly incomplete at heart without their typical fish and mutton curries, sweets, and so much more.