Kolkata

Locomotive People

Posted by admin on January 19, 2017
DeTour, OtherCities, OtherWorlds / No Comments

At the Raxaul train station people were shoving and jostling in line for tickets. Although not a major railway junction, the station was brimming with people. Some sat on their haunches while others lay on the floor, fanning themselves to beat the flies and the heat.

The Express arrived two hours behind schedule, its compartments almost deserted. A group of neatly dressed Gurkhas were placing their luggage on the platform. A lanky man stood out from the group. He was rather shabby compared to others. He clearly didn’t belong to the Gurkha group. With a smile on his pale face, he spoke with a slightly older Gurkha with broad shoulders and pursed lips.

I talked to another man in uniform, and he said I could travel with them in the military bogie, if I wanted. Despite having a reservation elsewhere, I could not turn down the offer.

Once on the train, I took a window seat and watched the soldiers settle, putting their luggage under the long wooden seat that could double as a bed. Soon, the train left the station. The movement was a relief from the mid-day heat and humidity. Continue reading…

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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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