September 2018


The Old World Charm of Kolkata
September 2018




Trams wind through slowly allowing the passengers to catch a glimpse of the city

Exploring the golden elements of Kolkata which has added to the various characters of the city. 


One of the first things every traveller observes about Kolkata is that it looks like an old movie set. The textured walls of colonial houses, prominent red brick offices, hand-pulled rickshaws parked on the streets, and men with thick-rimmed spectacles talking in tea shops as tea simmers in the backdrop.


Even though some parts of Bengal's capital are now urbanising with trendy cafés and restaurants, a majority in the heart of the city and towards the north remain untouched. For all curious travellers who want to unravel the old charms of Calcutta (as it was called until 2001), start here.


Words: Amrita Das


Experience
Head to the gorgeous Marble Palace a few metres away from Chittaranjan Avenue. This mansion, turned into a museum today, was built in 1835 by a wealthy merchant, Raja Rajendra Mullick and is named from the 100 types of marbles it houses. It is a glimpse of Calcutta's opulence with victorian furniture, art, grand sculptures, art and Neo Classical architecture.


Take the tram from Central Avenue to Mullick Bazar tram stop. Trams were started by the British in 1873. After the initial discontinuity, in 1880 Calcutta Tramway Co was registered in London. Even though number of commuters are plummeting, this heritage transport is here to stay. Trams go across the heart of the city in a slow speed and it is heartening to see Kolkata from its moving frame.


Alight at Mullick Bazar to walk a few steps to South Park Street Cemetery. The cemetery opened in 1767 and graves are a mix of Gothic, Indo-Saracenic styles-even obelisks and Ionic columns appear. The earlier laid tombstones are laid in symmetry, however, later ones are haphazard. The necropolis comprises the grave of Sir William Jones, founder of Asiatic Society.

Victoria Memorial The marble building is an iconic symbol of Kolkata and is dedicated to Queen Victoria. The white marbled beauty has an intricate façade and the imposing structure is reflected on the surface of the waters nearby.


Relish
Though Bengali restaurants and English pubs are seen in the city centre, cabin restaurants remain typical to the city. As the name suggests, cabin restaurants had partitions for families and courting couples. Though the concept remains charming to date, somehow, the cabins have disappeared-thereby nullifying their cosiness. Today most customers visit for the sheer experience of it. For example, Anadi Cabin, which has been on Esplanade for more than 93 years, is known for its Mughlai paratha. This dish, perhaps unique to Kolkata, is a deep fried plain flour paratha stuffed with eggs or minced meat. The 115-year Dilkusha Cabin did away with its cabins in 2011. It is known for its kabiraji-a Bengali delicacy where fish or chicken fillet are deep fried with breadcrumbs and egg batter.

College Street, the largest second-hand book market in the world, lies in the centre of the city.


For an authentic coffee house experience, head to the iconic Indian Coffee House on College Street. This two-storied coffee house illustrates the atmospheric vibe of an old Indian coffee houses, as opposed to the new café culture. Within high ceilings and pale yellow coloured walls, thousands of visitors flock to this place to drink and eat economically and exchange ideas and have discussions. The coffee (hot or cold) is probably the best on the menu. In food, you can try the dry kabiraji or fish fry.


Shop
Kolkata is a gold mine for book lovers. College Street, the largest second-hand book market in the world, lies in the centre of the city. Most books in these stalls are for competitive examinations.


Sarees are synonymous to Kolkata. Head to Mahatma Gandhi Road or Gariahat for many options on Jamdani, Tangail or Baluchari saris, to take home as a perfect souvenir.

Practical information

- Photography is not permitted inside Marble Palace.
- Tram tickets can be purchased in the tram and start at five rupees only.
- South Park Street Cemetery is open from 1000hrs to 1700hrs daily.
- Do consider visiting the Tram Museum on Esplanade.
- College Street is closed on Sunday.

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    Vibrant neon coloured taxi - a common sight
    © Amrita Das

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    Traditional hand-pulled rickshaws still function in Kolkata
    Amrita Das

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    The 19th century Marble Palace with an eclectic collection of antiques, art and furniture

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    South Park Street Cemetery with graves of various styles
    Amrita Das

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    Victoria Memorial

    The marble building is an iconic symbol of Kolkata and is dedicated to Queen Victoria. The white marbled beauty has an intricate façade and the imposing structure is reflected on the surface of the waters nearby.

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    Kabiraji, a Bengali delicacy
    Amrita Das

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    College Street Coffee House with an old Indian coffee house charm is a favourite hotspot
    Amrita Das

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    Rows and rows of books - pick your favourite!
    Amrita Das

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    Stacks of educational books
    © Amrita Das

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