This blog post is about the National Geographic Channel Insta-Walk Kolkata, sponsored by Samsung Galaxy 2. I was short listed in the 20 selected by NatGeo, and I felt privileged. The best ever Saturday continued to have its effect on the Sunday morning and I loved the entire photo walk.
More inspiring that anything / anyone else that I could have imagined to inspire me, was the guy from Calcutta walks. He has a complicated name, shortened to “Ifte”. He helps visitors tour and takes them through the heritage of the city and has been doing it for the last 7.5 years. A former student of St. Xaviers, he is an avid reader and his passion exudes through his body language. When I approached him for a guest blog post on this site, I found out he does not like writing and has been refusing prominent English newspapers in Kolkata. Towards the end of this blog post, I will paste the contact details of Calcutta Walks, so that you guys, if interested, can get in touch with him.
So, the photo walk: It started at 8 AM, Girish Park Metro station Gate #1. I met few people whom I have been friends with for a long time over Facebook. Met Shimul da after ages. I’ll try to remember every little detail that I can, while processing the photographs and I’ll share it with you. And as Ifte said, I should not write about the history or the facts but about my experience.
Calcutta: The Black Town – The White town.
The Central Avenue separates the City of Joy, Kolkata, into two parts. The southern part – areas adjoining the Maidan – St Paul’s Cathedral, the Raj Bhawan, the now GPO (previously Fort William), the present Dalhousie area were inhabited by the British or the Whites. While the original inhabitants were pushed towards the northern half. The locality became densely populated with narrower roads and buildings closely built to each other, often sharing the walls. That part of Kolkata used to be Sutanuti – one of the three villages that were developed to become the modern city of then Calcutta, now Kolkata. The modern roads were laid in 1930’s and often would we find structures in the middle of the streets. For example – The red temple near Sobhabazaar Sutanuti Metro station or the house of Girish Ghosh in North Kolkata.
Calcutta was the second city to trade with the Americans. The first import from America being ice, in the late 1700’s. The Chatu Babu Lattu babu’s home that we often see near Manicktala was built by Rajdulal Deb. He is referred to first Bengali millionaire. He used to be the servant of the local landlord, not so far away. He had a keen interest in shipping and often conversed with the locals near the river Ganges, which too wasn’t far away. Once his landlord gave him about fifteen thousand rupees. He kept it with him and went near the river. That time there was a ship wreck and as was the custom those days, I am told, the articles recovered were being auctioned. Rajdulal Deb knew from his sources that those were non-perishable items. While the rest of the bidders were bidding for a thousand or two bucks, he bid all the money he had. Later when the Americans came to get the goods, he sold them back to the traders for a hundred and fifteen thousand rupees. The hundred thousand rupees was not accepted by the landlord who asked Rajdulal to keep it with him, as he was too smart to remain a servant to him. Rajdulal thus became a millionaire and then a business man. He set up his business and was one of the most influential men in Indo-American trade. Bottle neck as you might refer him as, he had a ship named after him. While he was known to be a very enterprising man and for making money, his sons – Chatu babu and Lattu babu were well known to waste money. Later Ananda deb, re united the entire family and formed a trust.
PS: Rajdulal’s accountant has a street named after him now. Now you know how influential they were.
I had never visited the lanes of Sutanuti and now that I have seen it once, I’ll again make my way to it. There is this lane which houses different houses of different architecture – few native Bengali architecture while the opposite house has double arched Italian architecture. Fascinating. Ifte, the guide showed us different remains of the old sewage pipes which has “Glasgow” engraved on it. While a lot of raw materials were shipped outside India to support the Industrial revolution, they did not have much to give us back. They made finished articles and sold them back to us. The pipes were however used in the ship to balance the weight of the ship.
Another new thing that I learnt was the use of the Lions symbol. I had often wondered why exactly Lions were used as the British Empires’ symbol. It was a concept from India and they were used to invoke fear among the Indians and establish their dominion. The British put big lion’s statues on the British Government buildings, the first being the modern day Governor’s house. All families loyal to the British had put lions up on their door. However at first the British soldiers did not like the idea and used to knock the lion statues down. The Indian families used to put up a new one. The British did break that again and it was like a game till the point in time when the British soldiers were made to believe that the Indian families were putting up smaller lions, less fierce compared to that of the British. Ifte spoke about the Sobhabazaar Rajbari but most of it was already known to me. What I did not know was there was this Mayor’s court behind the Rajbaari. Any case involving the people of the black town was settled in the court presided by the Sobhabazaar Raja. If it in any way involved the British, they were taken to the court of the White Town. Sobhabazaar Raajbari – the one we know as the seat of the Company Pujo, was the centre of Fun and Frolic. ..
I’ll write no more. I’ll paste for you few snapshots taken during the Insta-Walk and for the first time, I’ll go public with my Instagram URL. Click on the instagram icon I pasted just above. Well, do follow me at Instagram, knowing fully well, I am not at all good with the mobile camera and Instagram for me meant only my niece or my closest of friends. It is for the first time I will be mass uploading photographs on my Instagram. I square framed all, as we were supposed to upload to Instagram and share it via Facebook and Twitter.
Do one thing, go to Instagram and show some love,
Oh yes, Contact details of Ifte:
Walking Tours Pvt Ltd,
Phone number: 9830184030
Email ID: email@example.com
Do leave for me, your honest reviews of the photographs and yes, if you find any flaw in my write up please let me know. If you like this article, forget not to Like or share this in all social media platforms available. Loads of good wishes, Anirban.
I am not really a cricket fanatic. My knowledge of Sachin is limited to the links people posted when he retired or the television interviews that he gave. Come on! It is impossible not to know Sachin, especially if you are an Indian. He is there on the field, off the field, on television, posters, banners … heads and hearts. Sachin is like a pulse that keeps a person living and breathing.
At the Aviva Bloggers Meet, Kolkata, I was going through the videos of Sachin and his association with Aviva and the promotionals. Incredible! I said to myself. Never saw him speaking about his children and plans of making Arjun – a cricketer or his daughter to become a doctor. That is what his children wants. Right now I am the mama of a beautiful 1.5 year old niece, soon I’ll be a father myself. How do we plan to support our children’s dreams? That was the discussion at the blogger’s meet.
I think of Sachin, what a personality. There are few things to learn from him. That inspires me to become someone remotely as close as Sachin and no, I don’t play cricket..
First is his sustained commitment to hard work and his passion. His sense of perfection in cricket, one might say. But look at the character he has made of himself! When the entire world was criticising him and debating whether the God of cricket should continue playing in the Indian 11, he stayed calm and more than that – focussed.
He never spoke a word which might hurt the team spirit or something against a team member or any person. He led a dignified career, with even his bestest of opponents respecting him. Such is the dignity.
And today I watched him speak, so humbly. The other side of the cricketer’s life. I watched him speaking at his farewell. Such humility. Something we should all learn from.
Three things that inspire me about Sachin – sustained commitment to hard work, sense of dignity and humility.
Way to go. You can check the latest promotional of Aviva here. This video has struck me and I am left contemplating.
So, another new Facebook page for Bloggers?
That is definitely not the intent. The wish is to do something substantial and spread awareness. It might get reduced to just another page if the bloggers from Kolkata refuse to be a part of it. This page has a slightly better purpose.
Kolkata blogging so far has not been a lovely story. While cities like Delhi, Mumbai, Pune and Bangalore have marched ahead in alternative ways of brand promotion – Blogger engagement programmes, Kolkata has hardly any visibility. And no, I am not the first one to say this. We had people saying this. We had people organising small meetups and workshops for the same. Kolkata Bloggers Meet in 2009 and 2011 was organised by Webreps, to bring Kolkata on the map. A Bloggers workshop – BCET Bloggers workshop was organised in Bengal College of Engineering and Technology in 2009. Even then, not enough heat was produced.
Does Kolkata lack good writers ? Definitely no. Kolkata / Bengalis even today produces the finest of writers.
Are they not tech savvy? The statistics does not show it.
Do they not wish to express themselves? Oh wait ! Go to the nearest paarar chaa-er dokan, they’ll tell you how less interest Kolkatans have in expressing themselves.
Then why not?
While interacting with many people in the last one week, I found young people fanning various misconceptions regarding blogging, and perhaps one big question they have in mind – How do we do it? A certain section asks – Why do we do it? I ask Why not?
I won’t ask you to blog to earn money. I wont say – be popular being a blogger. I would say – Just for the sake of expressing, Blog ! Keeping the fame and the money aside, Blogging injects into you a certain sense of accountability, sincerity and more than any thing else – humility, it helps you grow as a person, developing your presentation skills and understanding how your viewer reacts to you and your opinions. Blog to reflect yourself as a person, blog to create a brand of yourself, blog to create an on line version of yourself. Broaden the horizon, reach to a bigger audience. Blog !
What is the aim of this page?
- The primary aim of this page is to connect to the bloggers from Kolkata and stay connected.
- If the response is good, we proceed further.
- We aim to use this page as a tool to enhance the individual blogger’s audience base.
–> How? If you connect to us, we automate your blog posts to our page. Each time you post a blog, it appears on our page’s timeline and reaches to our audience. Considering your audience to be different from ours, you reach to a bigger audience.
- A single database of Kolkata bloggers is required. Regular tips sharing, showcasing of blogs, offline Bloggers meet or simple events like Blogging workshops will only help bloggers learn and better themselves.
- We require to blog about Bengal. We require to blog about Kolkata. We require to blog about our society, our perspectives. We require to showcase Bengal with all its glory, all its might. This will only make the Brand Bengal. We, the people of this beautiful place.. we the people of this beautiful state ..We are the ones who can speak good, make good, build Brand Bengal and a better Bengal.
- We are not aiming to be as big as Indiblogger or Blogadda any time soon. Our aim is to meet in person, discuss, exchange ideas and work together. You blog about what you want to blog about and we share it by our page. To me, it does not sound a bad step to take.
How to sign up? Message your blog link and your contact details to our page. Simple. And one of our coordinators will connect to you.
~ A note to the student who is reading this ~
If you are a student reading this : A blog can groom your essay writing skills, your debating skills, your speaking skills and yes – your presentation! Trust me. If you want I am willing to go to your school or college to speak about blogging, what blogging might do to you and my experiences.
Graphics design: Roudra Mitra. We thank him from the bottom of our hearts.
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While strolling on the streets of College street today, we stopped at the “Maha Bodhi Society of India” Buddhist temple and wished to photograph it. Any one who knows me, knows it very well – I love visiting religious places and catching hold of any relifious guru there and converse, be it Parasnath temple or Jama Masjid. At times when I am agitated, I found solace in the Cathedral church or at times on the top floor of the Nakhoda mosque. But this was a new experience. Came across a Buddhist monk. We talked. My agitation made way to a subtle smile and I returned home peaceful. He wished to meet us again before he left Kolkata for Delhi and invited us to Sri Lanka, his home place. Achira Dasgupta has more for you.
He said, “I love India. I want to die here.”
We were standing outside a heavy mahogany door. The nameplate beside it had caught my eye. The name of the society brought back faint memories of me entering a Buddhist monastery in Dharamshala, Himachal Pradesh holding my brother’s hand. But then, this was College Street in Kolkata on an almost-busy Saturday morning and that had been 13 years ago. The reality check brought a smile on my face. I took a step forward.
I pushed the door open and entered. Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine the banana-yellow building in the heart of Kolkata to be housing this! The long, wood-panelled hall was illuminated on one side by dipped lights reflecting off life-size golden statue of Lord Buddha and his disciples. At the other end, streamed in the diffused early morning light through a glass panel overlooking College Street. The two sources of light, merged with seamless ease, the warmth and mellowness reflecting on our faces, providing a near-perfect setting for what awaited us.
Moths flew around Lord Buddha’s head in the murals telling us his story, the disturbed early life, his renunciation of it all and of course, the Nirvana. The oxblood-red velvet carpet underneath our feet felt comfortable. I stood there right in the middle of the room, enthralled, until my friends started complaining. I sank back into the carpet looking forward to moments of self-thought.
But, what as was intriguing me the most? I wondered. Buddhist monastery is not new to me. I realised, it was not the grandeur of a Buddhist monastery…I had toured enough to expect this. It was the silence that pervaded the room like a living entity, the silence that engulfed us with every step we took – the silence that spoke. I could not catch neither our muffled footsteps, the familiar whispers of friends nor the slow stirrings of life on a winter morning in Kolkata – the silence was proving too strong for me.
At first sight, the hall seemed empty. But on a second look, I could discern a hint of saffron amidst the red and the gold. On inching closer found the monk of the temple reading his prayer book to himself.
Anirban approached him and asked him to tell us a bit about the monastery in Kolkata. He smiled. We realised, he did not understand the Bengali we spoke while approaching him. While Anirban struck the conversation, we went near him and sat down at his feet. His eyes seemed exceptionally bright for a mortal but the warm smile that greeted us started the conversation! The prayer book on his hand had a cover that could explain nothing to us. On asking him, he said that the prayer book is in Sinhala (Sri Lanka’s national language), his mother tongue. With each passing moment, we were only getting familiar. The language neither hindered the communication nor his enthusiasm to interact.
He was 52, had his base at a little Buddhist ashram in Sri Lanka. He has travelled extensively in India, almost 16 states. This temple came to existence in 1920, one of the later ones by the society and he is here for the last 15 days, another stop in his grand tour across India.
He was interested to know about us, his shy friendliness making us interact more inquisitively. Few questions had no answers from him except for a smile. He narrated the story of his Guru and how his mother language is similar to that of Sanskrit. He spoke about Lumbini and how exquisite its monasteries are. He spoke extensively about the different monasteries in Nepal and Himachal Pradesh. He said he loves India and would like to breath his last here.
“Did the youth of India state in India approach you for talks?” – Yes they did. A Delhi youth, Jain by birth, with ‘lots of riches’ had approached him with his problem. We did not ask him about the solution he had offered him but got to know that the boy was on the verge of being converted to Buddhism!
On being asked whether he interacts with the locals in the states he visits he laughed with us! He actually tours Hindu temples in each state and speaks with the people he comes across. I found myself smiling as I imagined him speaking to the people in the Indian streets, recording their experiences, embodying in him their brush with the divine. What mattered most was his reticence on speaking about his preferred religion or the need to get us enrolled in the world consensus of Buddhist population. He listened to understand. For us it was therapy in the mildest of possible ways and I could have sworn that the air-conditioned clinics in the city grills could not have offered us more or better.
As we rose to leave, he sprang to his feet and said “Let me bless you all, my children.” The energy in the little man was infectious; we could not help following him blindly. As we sat down at his feet again, this time facing the golden statues we felt the silence ensconcing us once more…and then he began to chant. The slow rhythmical strings of words swirled around us like vapour, making us dizzy, we were bowing our heads in unison to divine power, terrible and beautiful, the power which we know not…the power which radiated from his offering to his Lord. By the time he had finished chanting what he called “the good luck sutra” we were almost numb, wallowing in our own senses. When we had entered this quaint little room we had imagined ourselves to be mortals blessed with souls whole and unimpaired. But the last lap made us realise that as he had given, this god man has taken more. He has taken away the blemishes, replenished the souls that had come to him expecting nothing but were taking away a lesson for their lives.
Post written by : Achira Dasgupta
She is a second year English honours graduate student in Basanti Devi College, Kolkata.
I was overwhelmed by her knowledge and her expressions, the first time I interacted with her.
An extremely light hearted girl, anyone would love to work with, I wish her grand professional success in the near future. Look out for more of her posts in this blog !