Monthly Archives: March 2015

Kolkata Collage

Posted by admin on March 16, 2015
CitiSights, OtherCities, OtherWorlds / No Comments

The Express click clacks into Howrah

on a nippy silver-grey morning.

Steel wheels squeal to a stop.

Flurry of activities off the track.

 

A torrent of humanity in the city by the Hooghly River.

Indeed this is the City of Joy

where beggars brandish their sores and shake off the winter.

 

The strong smell of beedi.

Vapour rising

from people huddled

around tea and food stalls.

Packed buses and battered trams

hurtling past old, crumbling buildings.

Half-naked people inside unused drains

Stray dogs, squatting pissers,

dark factory chimneys.

 

 

Calcutta, Kolkata…

like the interchangeable name,

the sights of the city change

from English grandeur

to Bengali geniality

with equal ease.

Waterloo Street, Jackson Lane, Elgin, Dalhousie Square

Dharmatala, Bowbazaar, Tollygunj, Belighata,Chowringhee.

Palatial mansions, British memorials, monuments.

The Royal Calcutta Club serving English cookies and afternoon tea.

They clamour for space

among brisk crowd, reckless traffic,

strikes, demonstrations,

sadhus, street hawkers,

handcarts drawn sometimes by horse

sometimes bare-chested men–a poverty striptease.

 

A forced but passionate mixture

of the East and West is Kolkata,

Where Bengali babus with tastes of

the English gentleman

complain about life in a dying city,

talk about Tagore, Marx,

the metropolitan problems—

they recall the heyday of the Raj,

and gulp down a rich pudding at Flury’s,

talking about Kolkata’s destitute and starving.

The indifferent human maze on the streets, lanes, buses, trams, the metro.

The various degrees of human degradation at Kalighat.

Blessed Teresa’s home for the hungry, the naked, the crippled, the blind.

The flesh-trading labyrinthine ghettos.

 

In Kolkata, a perfection-seeking youth

learns the bitter lesson

that life is not a textbook, all shimmery.

It is to learn from those

who find bits and pieces of happiness

amidst their destituteness, dispossession

pointlessness.

From a frail little granny wearing

a wrinkled sari, siting near a culvert

smiling, combing the dark tresses

of a little girl looking at passersby

with cool eagerness.

It is to take heart

from the fact that

there are lives in this city

who show how to squeeze

fleeting happiness

from their private misery.

(Citiwalks.com)

 

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The Turkish Connection: What Kathmandu can learn from Istanbul?

Posted by admin on March 01, 2015
CitiSights, KathmanduWalks, OtherCities, OtherWorlds / No Comments

Ferry ride in Bosphorus, Istanbul

Looking at the Galata Tower from the Bosphorus straits in Istanbul, the part of my mind given to making comparisons reminded me of Kathmandu’s Dharahara. Both are nine-story tall (Galata stands at 66.9 m, just a little taller than Dharahara’s 61.8 m). Dharahara, also called Bhimsen Tower, was Kathmandu’s tallest structure when it was built in 1832, and so was the conical-shaped Galata when it was constructed in 1348. And both towers command a huddle of tightly-packed houses and buildings in the heart of the respective cities.

Though Kathmandu’s Dharahara cannot match the architectural splendor of Galata Tower, the likeness between the two cities of antiquity doesn’t end here.

To start with, writers and poets sometimes invoke Kathmandu’s  historical names – “Kantipur” and “Kasthamandup” – to call to mind the city’s former beauty while Istanbul could be referred to by many as “Constantinople”. (The Istanbul guide book I was carrying mentioned a certain Lale Pudding Shop at Divanyolu neighborhood, calling it the“fabled halfway point to Kathmandu of 60’s hippie lore”). And if Kathmandu is the City of Gods with hundreds of beautiful temples, shrines, stupas and monasteries in ancient city squares, palaces, narrow alleyways, and street corners  Istanbul is the City of Mosques. The first thing that strikes visitors to this city are the imposing, visually stunning domes and edifices of mosques which dot the city. The former imperial city that served as the capital of four empires – Megarian, Roman, Byzantine, and Ottoman, making it the crossroads of various civilisations –  has altogether 3,113 mosques, minarets and madrashas. Continue reading…

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