Saturday, April 21, 2007

Strolling around college :)

Would take the metro station to college. And while the Park Street stop was also an option, I'd mainly opt for the 'Maidan' stop, as did most of the other college students.

Our major hangouts were the coffee-shops. Barista on Park Street was was my least favourite, Cafe Coffee Day on nearby Rawdon Street was quite nice, but our fave was the homely li'l Cafe Coffee Pai on Camac Street. So, I took Premankur here the time we were touring Park Street, and I tried out the yummy chocolate shake.

Gosh, their onion rings were to die for! :)

Right next to Coffee Pai was the Malgudi Junction - South Indian fare, with the best filter coffee in that area! And yes, I appreciated it all the more, after my Chennai stint! :)

Shakespeare Sarani used to be called Theatre Road. Unlike the other roads, though, which have horrendous modern names and gorgeous old names, this one has cuteness for both its names! Something divine about clubbing Shakespeare and 'sarani' (Bengali for 'road') together, and Theatre Road also sounds very... yummy. :) Anyhow, right at the junction of Theatre Road/ Shakespeare Sarani and Camac Street, you have the mall known only as Number 22, Camac Street. We used to hang out at the coffee shop here quite a lot too, and my fave was of course the Sizzling Brownie. :)

For a touch of traditional cuisine, Krishna's on Camac Street has some of the best north Indian sweets in Calcutta, all very attractively packed in their silver-blue matkas; and of course - the best puchka/ gol gappa/ paani puri is to be found right on your street corner. The guy down there is in front of Vardaan AC Market at Camac Street. (Taking a break from brisk business!)

Xaverians - Nihil Ultra :)

So, I spent twelve years of my life at this place, being brought up like a god missionary-trained boy. :) St Xaviers Collegiate School, Calcutta, was formed in 1860, and since then has become one of the best private schools in the city. Our nearest competitors are La Martinierre for Boys, whom we would call La Farts! :) Of course, they copied our uniforms and tried to be as cool as us - they were the brats, while we were the so-called 'gentlemen'. :)

Aa, and all the Jesuit priests! :) Father Boris D'santos, our strict Prefect and his cane - of which I got a couple of swipes now and then. :) And some of the teachers - AC, or s Chow, as we used to acll her, during my 9 and 10 standards, and Guha Roy during 11 and 12. :)

School had two gates, and the field was behind the main building, where the 'back gate' opened up, right next to the gymnasium (up there). While I now think the gym is full of old-world charm in it's porch-like look, I hated the place during my school years - that was where I huffed and pffed my way through horrendous exercises and calisthenics. And remember, I was a pudgy schoolboy. :)

Out through the back gate, and there was 'Delights', home of idlis and 'fountain pepsi'! And right next to it was the primary school - five years spent here. :)

Proud of our motto, proud of our badge,
Proud of our colours, proud of our flag.
Nihil Ultra, Nothing Beyond,
Be it in studies or on the playground...

So let's all give a lusty cheer
Fo'r our school so dear!

Gosh, I don't remember any more of the anhthem, I'm afraid, and I haven't been able to find it online anywhere, which is a bit surprising!

Even further back on the timescale, there was Mongrace Montessori School, a stone's throw away from Xaviers. That was where I soent my fiurst schooling years, chubby as anything, and quite the prankster (I believe), and a penchant for pulling girls' pigtails! :) Of course, I didn't notice the beautiful old-world bungalow Mongrace is housed in, then!

... and the uildings oppsoite Mongrace are as ancient, it seems. Lovely old brick houses, with wooden shutters and verandahs spilling over onto the street, and tall iron gates... :)

And of course, the strangely vigilant Globe Detective Aency. I always thought how strange it was, that the seedy office was in a locale surrounded by schools. *grin*

New Town?

Suddenly, a lot seems to be happening in West Bengal. Why did I post a snap of the hoarding on top (and the ones below)? Well, because they seem to be symptomatic of a new resurgent Bengal. As any Bengali in his twenties will tell you, we grew up knowing that industry was leaving Calcutta. When we grew up, most industrial houses were relocating away due to the unionism and associated problems of a Communist government - the longest serving Communist government, elected for more than three decades! And somehow, in the last five years or so, the Red Guys seem to ahve woken up to the fact that agriculture and Marxism alone will not help the state.

So this is what you have: spiffy ad campaigns; closed door meetings with the captains of industry; reining in unions and granting land for SEZs. So there was on Singur and one Nandigram, but thankfully the government is not abandoning its policy. What's helped: the great IT boom and the great land boom.

So you have all these vast townships coming up on the northern and southern fringes of the main city. Places like Rajarhat and South City which were earlier just hamlets or even empty land, are suddenly teeming with skyscrapers and residential colonies.

And the mall culture is suddenly everywhere in Calcutta. When I left in 2001, there was just the Forum mall and 22 Camac Street (down there), the only two high profile mall addresses. Now, there are so many - springing up in all those new townships and even in new swanky addresses in the main city. Signs of a new resurgence? Indeed...

Perhaps the biggest sign of this, a rethink of Calcutta on India's consumer-map is the opening of Kentucky's Fried Chicken and McDonalds finally here. The fast food MNCs, much as we like to hate them, delayed opening shop in the city for years - so while Bangalore and Bombay saw multiple outlets, Calcutta saw none. When they finally opened, bang in uptown Park Street, it was interesting that these outlets have been the highest revenue earners for the MNCs in India. Calcuttans are clearly hungry! :)

But in a good way, as if to signal that the new Calcutta does not necessarily mean a break from the old, we have one of Park Street's oldest and most famous addresses due for a relaunch. The Skyroom is memorable for so many Indians, not just Calcuttans, who came here to dance and eat during the 60s and 70s. It was one of the most sought-after places to be seen at in those days, but then it fell to ruin due to (what else?) labour problems. The current owners however are opening the place all over again - and though the shutters are down today, you can hear the busy workers inside, working inexorably towards a brand new opening. :)

Howrah Bridge II

I love this snap - I think it is so... evocatively Calcutta! :)

The second Howrah Bridge, seen from Chowringhee Avenue, at dusk. Gorgeous.

Also strolled over to the race course grounds from Chowringhee, and took these snaps of the high fences.. and again, the second Howrah Bridge beyond the fences. :)

Monday, April 9, 2007


Headed out to Nandan one fine evening, to catch a movie and take some random snaps. This place is supposed to be the heart of Calcutta cinema, anc CM Buddhadeb Bhattacharya is said to spend loads of his time here. Highly subsidized rates for a really great airconditioned hall and some excellent galleries, in addition to the Academy of Fine Arts, ensures that Nandan is packed with people at all hours of the day. :)

I mean, when you consider that you get BALCONY seats for Rs 50, you kinda think that Communism isn't all that bad, really! :)

Wednesday, April 4, 2007


The motto of Kolkata Police is "We Care". Not very original about it really, since even Delhi Police says something about "care", etc, but then we don't really know which came first. KP is Headquartered in its Lalbazar barracks, a lovely old red building. Sadly, I didn't go there and take snaps, so all I have is this information kiosk in front of the Birla Planetarium, and a potbellied Man in White at the Park Street-Russel Street junction.

Tuesday, April 3, 2007

Christian Park Street

The southern end of Park Street is where my college is. Right across the street is the Park Street police station in a gorgeous red brick building, very grand and very non-police-thana-like! :) That actually reminds me of the Colaba thana here in Bombay - with the same air of old-world charm and grandeur. :)

While I'm going to post some snaps of my old college soon, just a couple of steps away is the white house where the Bishop of Calcutta lives. And right next to it, is the chapter of the Seventh Day Adventist Church in Calcutta. :)

... And in case you thought that good Christians only go for gorgeous gothic buildings, think again and get prepared for the monstrous granite thing that is Assembly of God Church! :)

At the soutern end, you have the old Cemetery, a heritage site in its own right! This place has the funeral memorials/ monuments of some of the very first European inhabitants of the city, together with some notable people since then. Right in front, there's a huge plaque announcing that this is where the great Bengal Renaissance poet and teacher, Henry Louis Vivian Derozio, is buried.

Buladi says Goodbye

Bula-di is, or rather, was the West Bengal government's campaign face against HIV. The 2 year old campaign has been withdrawn now, owing to a paucity of funds, but it has had an amazing effect as far as enhancing knowledge of HIV and AIDS is concerned, in both urban and rural areas of the state. According to the WB State A Prevention and Control Society, around 9000 people have reportedly been infected by HIV since 1986, with another 4900 living with AIDS. The problem is: while the Buladi campaign will be taken off the billboards, the TV and radio slots, the government agency is not sure what its going to do next here. Ouch.

And, yes, while I was snapping pictures of Buladi on Park Street, Premankur was munching on a (hold your breath) date sandwich. I dunno about you, but I've never heard of a date sandwich! :) O, and he also does corn sandwiches. *grin* Corny boy.

Nostalgia on Park Street

Park Street has a special significance for me - as corny as that may sound. I spent 15 years of my life here in this area - first at school, then college after that. And a lot of afternoons ahve been spent at the Flury's building, either at the confectionary itself, or browsing at the MusicWorld storenext to it - which happens to be India's largest, by the way. :)

Up there is Park Mansions, at the Free School Street junction of Park Street.

Mansion Cricket

This old house is right opposite my college on Park Street. Not in the very best of condition, but it's still an amazing building. Very old world charm. :) And the kids playing cricket out in front added to the charm, I think. :) :)

Going, going... not yet gone!

Victor Brothers, in central Park Street, is one of Calcutta's most famous auction houses. This place has been here forever, it seems, dealing in everything from antique furniture and memorabilia to jewellery and art. So, of course, yours truly decided to 'strike a pose' - for the right price! :)

Of course, when I went there, the shutters of the auction house were down, but I managed to get some neat snaps through the black shutters and the musty glass. Some interesting snaps, I thought.