It’s a city that elicits various responses. Some swear by it, while others swear at it. This is Kolkata.
I had first visited Kolkata in October of 2011, having just finished a week’s stay in Shillong. The idea was to meet with a friend, have a few drinks, and try see a city I’d wanted to visit for many years. As luck would have it, it was pouring. There were parts of the city that were no-go zones, including where my friend lived. So my time was spent at another friend’s home, close to the airport, on Park Street, which is as close as I got to experiencing the city.
Then in November of 2013, I got my second chance thanks to my friend (who decided to tolerate my company), and his mum who was more than happy to have me. She and I were thankful the rains didn’t play spoilsport this time round.
I spent five lazy days, mostly eating home cooked food, and drinking at the city’s favourite watering hole, Olympia Bar, or OlyPub. And on days when we did venture out to go see the city, we invariably found ourselves at it OlyPub. I, of course, ended the night chewing on a ‘Calcutta १२०, chuna kam, kaccha supari’ pan.
I did see more of the city than the last time. While I didn’t really do justice, it was just about enough to give me a feel of the place and its people (so long as the taxis and buses weren’t on strike).
Did it disappoint? Not at all. While initially I wasn’t sure what to expect, after a few days moving around I was completely at ease. Sure, traffic can be chaotic most times unless the buses and taxis are on strike. And, outside of Park Street, unless you head to the malls, life might seem a bit slow after 9:00 pm.
This is when the action moves to people’s homes. Friends and relatives gather around, drinks are poured, and conversations get loud and boisterous. Everyone has an opinion on everything and anyone. Which is what makes them endearing, and this city truly unique.
I’d like to go back to the city. Perhaps take it even more easy the next time. Stay longer. And move around a bit more. Hopefully someday, soon.