Thursday, December 19, 2013

Kolkata, 2013

Bengal and Calcutta or Kolkata as it is now called is a place I have wanted to go to forever. The people I met who came from there were a large part of the reason. Unfailingly brilliant conversationalists, intellectuals, liberals all. Another reason was the many bengali films seen at various film festivals over the years. We are speaking of the land of RabindraNath Tagore, Satyajit Ray, RamaKrishna Paramhamsa, Vivekananda, Chaitanya MahaPrabhu, Raja Ram Mohan Roy, Jagdish Chandra Bose. I know this is now reading like a history textbook. But there is no way one can speak about Bengal and not speak of history, so illustrious is their heritage and so sizeable is that single state's contribution to original thinking be it in any field. I was just so curious. And to be there during their famed Durga Pooja is any travellers or experience junkie's dream. Another very important reason to go to Kolkata was also to meet my long time virtual friend and artist extraordinaire Dithi Mukherjee. I have watched with admiration her art grow from strength to strength and evolve to a degree that spoke of deep dedication and an undeniable inner light.  
I was not sure how to even begin making a post of the what went on to be a some of the most deeply enriching  and nourishing days spent this year. So here is the 1st generic post about Kolkata, visual impressions, a quick cleaning of feet in the soil of Kolkata before stepping into the experience that Durga Pooja is.
 And so I reached Kolkata, to be met at the station by Chandi Da, Dithi's trusted driver. And Chandi Da was one more reason to make me fall in love with this place, such was his quiet enthusiasm in describing the city to me. And through my days in Kolkata, it was Chandi Da who drove us through the winding streets of North Calcutta with masterfulness. Please do not be surprised if you hear of various anecdotes about Chandi Da in the subsequent Durga Pujo posts, you have all been duly introduced to him.







 All one had to do was look up. This brand of crumbling old world beauty was everywhere. Every turn of the road, Every gate that opened seemed to be a story waiting to be heard.

 


 
Remnants of a colonial past.







 
I am a vegetarian and all the Bengalis I know are serious carnivores, so I worried if I would get decent vegetarian fare in Kolkata. My fears were baseless. On all the days of my stay there I hardly repeated a dish, I was treated to different kinds of vegetarian fare at all meals. I have to say this of Calcuttan weather and water - I have never before eaten so much deep fried and rich food consistently without a problem to my digestive system. How does it work?  When i say this all the bong I know smile knowingly. Its is clearly some well kept secret known only to Bengali's.
 This city has its quirks. On a busy street where there is hardly enough place for people to walk suddenly on the roadside springs up mini shrines of Gods and goddesses. Some are mobile shrines like the one shown above on a cart or a make-shift table. So people are going about their business and some people bow down  and pray religiously to these gods with people walking all around them. Now one could argue that this was so typical of India, but everything that is typical of India seemed to jump out at you and say "Look at me, I am real" in this city.
I thought this was real from a distance, but the closer I came I realised - a life size fake cow! standing by the side of the road, pretending to be the real thing. I told you - quirky.

You know this is my weakness. I promise you the Kalighat post will have a LOT more of Bengali script.
 Kalighat was an amazingly alive experience filled with the most interesting people. But that is another post.

But the Kolkatta experience is a people experience, whether it is on the streets, whether it was the families I met in old Kolkatta homes. My trip was made by Dithi with whom I stayed, with whose husband and family I have formed bonds that will last a lifetime. My trip was made by Dizzy Hellboi, (whose name I can't get over) who was orginally named Diganta Gogoi by his parents, ace street photographer, by the super happy times that Dithi, he and me spent cracking up mostly and most naturally shooting, doing our own thing in harmony.
 My trip was made by the many many beautiful old people who lived in their beautiful old homes, who have earned many a wrinkle with a life well lived.
Tradition, families, acceptance and love. I got to see and experience all of this to full in this trip to Kolkatta.
This is a picture of Dithi with Irene Dutta's mother. A lady who shines with her light of love. Who welcomes people into her life and family with her love.

21 comments:

prakash sharma said...
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Dithi said...

What can I say, my friend, your eyes and soul echoes my love for this place and makes it even better - you capture beauty and poetry with such ease and that is only because you delve deep and can love with abandon. Every word, every name and every speck of colour on that post is a gift, that i will always be deeply thankful for. Light of Love. Indeed!

pRiyA said...

What a post this is. Every picture is a rich, vibrant painting - those colour combinations, the houses, the lettering, the every present splashes of vermilion and right towards the end, best of all, the beautiful beautiful faces of angels...
I am very happy to read that this is but the first post of more.

Gasp!

pRiyA said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Harishri said...

Gorgeous!

Harishri said...

Gorgeous!

Anonymous said...
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Amtrips said...

What a storyteller you are Vinee..!You have nailed it dear.

Awesome pictorial representation of a city that speaks it loud and red always... :) I love the city and seeing these snaps made me nostalgic..!

Zafaran Art and Words Zone said...

Wow! As the wonderful colors in your pictures seep into me, I feel as if I am in another world, another era where Life moves at a different, unhurried pace, full of people with grace and charm! Lovely!

Mohua Chakraborty said...

A vibrant and colourful post Vineeta! Also it feels real good to get so many compliments about Bengalis being conversationalists, intellectuals and liberals. Would love to read your next episode of Kolkata trip. Yeah, I also have been quietly following Dithi and you with quite an admiration! On a lighter vein, let me tell you a secret that most Bengalis suffer from serious acidity due to consumption of so much deep fried stuff:P!

deejthtraveller said...

beautiful pics & a nice post...waiting for the series :)

Also, thanks for introducing to Dithi too :)

Looking Good Feeling Fab said...

Every picture tells a story :)a story that comes alive through your camera lens...what a beautiful soulful place..iv always wanted to visit Cal too..now that desire is more intense than ever ..thanks to this gorgeous post. And I must say Dhiti, u are as stunning as your art...your style is so distinctly yours..so rich in narrative..being a fashion blogger and lover..that would not go unnoticed to my eyes..
love n wishes for the new year.
Abhilasha

Arch at Rang said...

Such a heart warming post to come back to:-)
Beautifully captured and written!

Cheers
Archana

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Dita said...

Not only are the pictures stunning...so is your writing style...I have been reading and loving your blogs for more than a year now...but this is just fabulous! This has struck such a string that I Just had to stop and congratulate you! Love ur work!

Anonymous said...

How lovely! I am a big fan of Dithi's work. Bought two of her prints for E and H as a housewarming gift last year and two for our home. So glad I got to meet you last month.

-Anu (Mugdha's sis).

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