There are still trams, but they're lean, clean and green. There are still hand rickshaws. And the skyline is as spectacular as it ever was.
Took R for Le Grande Calcutta tour, as much as could be squeezed in 3 days - the metro, the tram ride, Park Street, browsing through the second-hand bookstores on Rafi Ahmed Kidwai Street, breakfast @ Flury's...
The high point of the trip being a boat ride on the Hooghly at sunset. Amazing skies. R came aboard with her only past knowledge of Cal boats from movies like Parineeta, so she insisted the boat guy sing sad, haunting Bengali songs.
Boat guy - who looked Bihari - sniffed in a highly offended way and refused.
R: Don't you sing? You're supposed to sing.
Boat Guy: Says who?
R: In all the movies the boat guys sing. So you need to sing too.
Boat Guy: Name one.
R: Yes! Parineeta! They sang in Parineeta!
Boat Guy: Woh Parineeta nahin, banavati hai. (It's not Parineeta, but made-up.) Sniff.
Boat Guy: (mentally) Kahaan kahaan se chale aate hain...
But in spite of the mosquitoes and a view dominated on one side by the Millenium Park at low tide, not the prettiest of sights, it was still a very peaceful, nostalgic, calming experience. Next time I'll take her on the Ferry to Belurmath.
Also met up with some old college friends, including Oxy who decided to pay me back for all the times when I've tormented her with my holiday stories in cold places while she was suffering in a 35-degree office being yelled at by her amphibious boss, by also inviting an ex-girlfriend's best friend who considers me the lowest form of slime that ever crawled out of the toilet bowl, without telling me, so there's this intense, ice-cold dagger-laden vibe marching jackbooted across the table. Retribution is now due, once I figure out how.
Also spent a morning at Victoria, observing the monument, the statues, the laughing uncles and aunties, horny couples, militant marchers, and the Calcutta Traffic Police which for some reason was present in large numbers. Also met a Killer Crow who would drive away stray dogs a hundred times it's weight by swooping down and pecking their tails until the harried canine would snarl "Just leave me alone!!" and scamper off, followed by a beady glare from the crow.
Ended with a trip down to Swabhoomi, an artisan village with tons of ethnic-work shops and thousands of places to sit and chat. Unfortunately becasue of a Kal-boisakh (evening thunderstorm) earlier, most places were closed, but it was all the better for that by not being too crowded and noisy. This place is new - I came here for the first time - but it's Classic Cal in terms of being big, quiet, green, and has Culture dripping out of it's ears. Lots of nice places to sit and chat away, and a food court. Worth a visit.
Cal Trip - See the Photos here