Day 5 Aug 17 was the day we really worked Kolkata. The morning started slow as always but eventually it was time to get exploring. For Ktan it was a bitter sweet type of journey, since he was excited to show me Kolkata yet terrified of where he has to go to show me the real Kolkata.
The heart of Kolkata uptown …. Near the old bridge Howrah and where all the shops clutters together with mass amount of people that for once, the people rule the roads and not the busses. We stopped by the Stock Exchange … once upon a time Kolkata had a stock exchange and it was this building but due to its numerous and uncontrollable corruption and swindling it was closed down. I learned that Kolkata is where India’s Old money is …. Old money as in old power and old wealth …. They may not be the riches anymore but they are still very influencial. The Stock exchange was an interesting place for lunch. You see, the upper or middle class of India that has good stable office jobs in their nice suits and pants coming down to this one dingy street standing and eating street food for lunch. I mean nothing wrong with it but it was still a sight to be seen. My stomach was put to the test again as Ktan hops from one food stall to another. The first was Chilla …. A sort of pancake but made out of dhal …. It was delicious and good but I decided not to waste precious space stuffing it on Chilla and went on to the next dish which was a Dahikachori
|End Product OF Chilla|
Dahikachori….. a curd base dish but looks like one of their round biscuits being crush then layered with chilli souce, onion, curd, more chilli sauce and who knows what, till it was all slimy and sticky ….not a big fan but not too bad for the small portion I had …
|Street Stalls at the Stock Exchange - Kolkata |
Next was Chole Tikya …. Chole which means chick peas was normal to me now although this one was spicy as hell … tikya …. Some sort of bread Precious space used up and I was full … lunch was done … but Ktan and his friend urged that I must at lease try the toast.
Makkan Toast …. Which was the true India style toast … a toasted bread over charcoal spread with homemade butter … sprinkled with a generous amount of sugar …. Bites of Unhealthy goodness …
|Authentic Indian Toast - TAKE MY MONEY |
This was followed by another toast with cheese and I surrendered, bloated by the little street food for lunch.
|Makkan Toast with Cheese |
Ktan and I left after lunch for the beginning of the hell sightseeing … his friend bid us good luck and farewell. First stop was the General Post Office. A large building and with a locals that knows the language we found the stamp room and I had my heart’s content picking out stamps … India stamp collection mission completed.
|General Post Office - Kolkata |
Then starts the long 5 hours walk immersing in Kolkata We walk into this street which was the heart of Kolkata. A specialized street that sells all the hardware tools you could possibly imagine …. Stalls after stalls and parts after parts …. If you can’t find what you want here you won’t find it anywhere … then again if you don’t know what you are looking for this is the best place to go looking as long as you can bear the heat ….
Onwards a right turn and the streets turn into another specialized street …. Electrics, party items, balloons, jewellery, household and even medicine street there were all there …. At the medicine street Ktan paused and showed me a shop selling Condoms …. A specialized shop selling only condoms …. they had good business too ….
|Rows and Rows of Shops in Tiny Streets of Kolkata|
|The shops of Kolkata sells Anything and Everything |
|Porters Hard at Work - Kolkata |
We then walk along the Ganga river … upstream visited the temple near there but this time smart enough not to go in but appreciate it from the outside by ignoring all the beggars on our feet. More walks and I was dizzy …. Seeing porters of people doing hard honest work carrying anything and everything on their heads … some work alone strong muscle showing and moved faster than any of the buyers who was zombie walking in the heat. Some in groups pushing small carts filled with sacks of spices or food … Porters was the fastest way to move goods in this congested parts of Kolkata … I admired them with their ruthless movement and willpower to get the job done ... it was brute labour … Good Honest Work I told Ktan and he agreed …. Looking at them strengthen my will of not sympathizing with the beggars of India ..
|Temple Along the Ganga River - Kolkata|
Among all the maze we were finally out and Ktan was finding this one special place that was called Kumartuli.
Kumartuli was a place where sculptures of Gods and Goddess were made year round for all the festivals in India … Large and small sculptures made out of straw and mud clay. The skill are passed from one generation to another and together they make all the sculptures for the immersion ritual during certain events throughout the year …. They would display, parade and finally immerse the clay sculpture into the river …. Or better yet the Ganga River. These guys makes these sculpture.
|Ktan - The Joy of finding Kumartuli|
As we got closer to the place Ktan became more and more paranoid in asking for direction …. Finally he told me that just nearby is the red light district of Kolkata …. Don’t want to wander into it accidentally he said ….
Kumartuli was amazing …. My most enjoyable trip in Kolkata and it was not a tourist place …. Tiny shops but filled with rows of sculpture being made in their raw form and some with paint being put on for the final touches …. All these works for a festival and it is destroyed in a matter of weeks … the generation of sculpture has endless work ahead of them.
|Kumartuli - Sculptures of Gods and Goddess |
|Kumartuli - Final Painting Touches on the God |
|Kumartuli - Ganesha in the Making |
|Kumartuli - Carvings from Soft Plastic ... I think |
Wikitravel does not mention this place and it was not even on the Tripadvisor list … Lonely planet for once won the contest with a small paragraph of it …. Yet it was not easily found …. Even Ktan a local Kolkata boy was looked upon like a tourist let alone me …. Exhausted we took a cab back to the pub near home and head back once we manage to cool down and wash away our exhaustion.