Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Nomoshkar Kolkata

Hii folks,

It was only a few days ago that I went to Kolkata to attend my friend's marriage reception; my second visit to the 'City of Joy'. But what a trip it was!! One of those trips where you see everything right from abject poverty to glittering luxury. Kolkata is one of those cities where people are very courteous and believe in the philosophy of 'Athithi Devo Bhava'. Unlike Delhi, where the Autowallah or the Taxi Driver won't miss any opportunity to take you for a ride; here there is a system which people make sure they comply. Right from the taxi drivers charging you as per the digital meter to people standing in a queue for buses and Trams, everything happens in a rather mechanical manner. So, the 'Chaos' that you observe in cities like Mumbai or Delhi is rather missing in Kolkata where despite a high population density, the vehicular traffic flows smoothly and pedestrians cross the roads promptly on the zebra crossing.

But the welcome that I received was something that shook me like hell!! First of all the pilot 'Captain John Thomson' made the landing with a thud; something that evoked a collective 'Ouch' from the passengers. For a moment I felt my heart stop and it took me a full 10 seconds to realize that we were all actually safe. Then the airport itself smelt of 'Communism' with green and red hues everywhere. It is I believe the worst airport in India with not even a 'Waiting Hall' for passengers. I could only imagine the chaos that would begin every time a flight is delayed. Just when I thought the worst was over, the man sitting at the counter of the 'Bengal Prepaid Taxi Association' announced that there weren't any prepaid taxis available now.

The next day was though probably the best time I had ever. It was because when it came to photography,  Kolkata offered me a lot. I could do all sorts of it, right from street, architecture, nature to abstract photography. As a photographer, you begin to see the world through the lens of your DSLR camera. That in itself is a different perspective as you begin to observe your surroundings closely thus creating opportunities to click some wonderful moments. And as I started doing it right from the word go, I found to my amazement that I was not that bad a photographer after all. I had consciously taken the decision to try clicking pictures even while in motion, which is difficult when you have to sit in the taxi. But I did manage to get some decent clicks.

Photography is not simply about clicking pictures, but it's also about understanding and associating with the stories behind each image. A good photographer can spot such stories in and around his surroundings quite instinctively and rest of the job is then done in a flash!! I can never measure myself as to how good a photographer I am as I am still learning the nuances of it. But let me share with you some of the moments in Kolkata which left a lasting impression on me.

Watching this kid play badminton with a small plastic Table Tennis bat made me go down the memory lane. There were days when even I used to play 'gilli danda' with a wooden bat that my mother used to beat clothes while washing them.

Took this shot from the taxi while on my way to the Victoria Memorial. I miss those days when I used to have my daily evening 'Masala Special Tea' just outside the IIMA campus.

These blue and yellow painted tin buses can actually sustain the load of over a 100 passengers. At least that is what I felt when I saw this one passing besides me. Travelling in overcrowded buses is something I did way back in Hyderabad and so can empathise with the elder man who knows it will take a lifetime before he reaches his destination!!

This yellow ain't dirty and in fact adds to the charm of the city. Kolkata seems so much more bright and joyful with this color around.

The reason I feel that a sense of 'Chaos' is missing in Kolkata is because of 'TRAM'. People still find the time to travel in these painfully slow rail bogies. Pedestrians of Mumbai could easily overtake a tram in motion any day!!

A great city is always known for the heritage value associated with it. And when it comes to Kolkata, you can't help but thank the British Empire for its ingenuity and persistence in transforming a once barren village to one of the most populated cities in the world. Same goes without saying for both Mumbai and Delhi.

This group of school kids reminded me of my school days. I thoroughly used to enjoy those excursions to the zoo's and the historical monuments.

The beautiful Victoria Memorial. To quote one of my friends,'Victoria Memorial is probably the most beautiful Indian monument after Taj Mahal.' Undoubtedly it is!!

The ugly face of India. This rag picker was reading aloud an English article on Gandhi using the empty plastic cup as his mic. With a near perfect accent and pronunciation, he was either showing off his oral skills which I thought were excellent or was simply being mad!!

I should thank my friend Prasad for postponing his plan to do some shopping or otherwise I would have never been on time at the Princep Ghat to capture this :)

The Sun at its glorious best in Kolkata. The new Vidyasagar bridge just adds to the charm amidst the serene and golden waters of Hooghly.

The boatman actually stood still for a few seconds probably thinking that I was clicking his pic ;)

This shot was quite interesting. I bent a little to get a suitable angle with the Sun and after the shot was complete, fell down on the boat as the boatman turned the boat sharply to my left.

Dancing in front of 200 odd people is never easy. But this wonder kid thought otherwise and rocked the floor with her mesmerising dance moves :)

Kolkata is a nice city to live in provided you earn enough. Otherwise, surviving in this city becomes difficult given the lack of infrastructure and amenities in most parts of the city. After experiencing the facilities or rather the lack of it at the Kolkata Airport, my friend commented, 'People here have forgotten to liberalise.' But the best part about this city is that the people here are sweet just like the sweetness associated with a 'Rosogulla' or a 'Sondesh'.

Signing off,