Walking in Kolkata (India Blog 19)
I left the hotel just after 9:00 in the morning. Got a taxi to Calcutta University. The taxi driver pretended to know where it was, but quickly called up his friend and asked where it was. Obviously, he had never taken anyone there before.
The traffic was not very bad at the time. When we arrived, I got down. It did not look like the entrance to a university, but the name was above he gate. It may be just a part of the campus because I know that years ago, the university had something like 60,000 students. I walked along a few of the book stalls outside on the street. They were selling mostly old out of date books.
I decided not to try to enter the university, since my main objective was to shoot some pictures around the area.
Around the corner there were some slogans written on the walls. I made some pictures. No one minds at all, it seems, what one makes a picture of, except the police and security types, of course. I was using up my remaining film too fast.
I went down and around the corner. A fantastic old and decaying building was on the other side of the wide avenue. I had to photograph that. There were small trees growing out of the top of the fourth floor of the building near the roof.
On the way, a friendly young girl met me and said “hello.” Very friendly. Unfortunately, she was not attractive. Short, chubby and rather pie-faced, but a lovely person with a friendly smile. She welcomed me to Calcutta. It was genuine, so very nice.
I thanked her and told her I was very happy to meet her. I asked her if she was a student. She said that she had been a student, but was not doing journalism. It was nice to meet such a lovely person.
I made a couple of pictures of that old building, the last two frames of the roll of film. I had to sit down and put in another roll of black and white film. That was the only roll that I had with me.
I crossed the wide avenue. I think it is the street that becomes Chowringhee farther down. Then I walked on into an area that was totally Islamic. These sections of the city are often divided communally. I didn’t realize it at the time, but it was very close to the Nakhoda Masjid.
The area was certainly poor, but highly interesting. There were many old decaying buildings, crumbling, but generally still occupied. No repair or maintenance, it seemed, for like a century. I don’t know.
Anyway, I shot film there like crazy and burned up another roll of black and white. There were goats in the street.
Once my film ran out, I started to look for a taxi back to Sudder Street. But on the big avenue, it was a straight shot for rupees 100.
When I got to the hotel, they were still cleaning my room. I had to wait out in the lounge room in the hall.
I rested up for a while and put a roll of Kodak color film in my leica M6. I thought that I could always convert the color film to black and white.
When I went out again, I walked to Hogg Market. There is a big bazaar inside there, divided into small shops. It is not as open as Kapali Carsi (covered bazaar) in Istanbul.
A guy came and wanted to show me some silk saris. I thought that it would be a good time to go and see some silk scarves for my wife and other friends.
The guy took me to a shop run by two Biharis from Patna. I ended up buying my scarves there. I probably paid too much, but not much that one can do. I bought 7 or 8 of them. I just wanted to get it out of the way, because I do not like to eat up my time shopping. My wife can choose the ones she wants and give the others to her friends.
I walked around and made some pictures in the market with ISO 200 color film. Without a flash, I had to shoot on 1/15 second at f 2.5 in some places. Some places were brighter when there were lights around.
There was a meat market, a miserable place. There were goats in there that were about to be slaughtered. It made me feel very sorry for them. How can one not have any feelings for those poor animals? It is mostly bakri (goats). Anyway, it is good meat, but I felt bad about the poor animals.
I went out and made a few more shots. Then I thought to take a few shots with the cell phone. The pictures do not come out too badly, but one has to take care to frame them properly. I decided to supplement my film with some of that.
Since I have been in India, I have spoken to only two or three women. In Calcutta, the one at the reception and the girl at Calcutta University. Well, I am not counting the beggar women who are trying the milk powder scam on foreigners.
While I was taking some shots with the cell phone, I stumbled across the old restaurant called Nizam’s. It is very near the Hogg Market. I saw the locals eating in there and decided to give it a whirl.
At first, I ordered dal and rice and two nans. The dal was mainly just water, but then I asked the waiter for curried potato. What he brought was allu gobi (potato and cauliflower) and some other things mixed in. I had never had anything quite like it before, but it turned out to be absolutely delicious. If I go again, I will just order that and two nans.
The whole thing was only 250 rupees, but one can certainly eat there for less than 200 rupees.
(Later I looked for this restaurant again but ended up in a different Nizam’s that was not as good.)
I came back to the hotel to rest up. But I had eaten too much. I felt like I was stuffed. For shore!