Street Photography in Calcutta (Kolkata): Twenty Shots with a Leica M6 and Kodak Tri-X Film

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The Victoria Memorial, Kolkata (India Blog 14)

 

The Victoria Memorial, Kolkata (India Blog 14)

9 December 2018. 5:50 Morning. It is Sunday. I slept good, from 11:00 last evening or so. I crapped out even though there was a lot of pounding going on. I woke up a couple of times, but had a good sleep.

Noam Chomsky has turned ninety years old. I think that there is not much that they can do to him at this point. Nothing, no matter what he says. Anyone who has not read him could learn a lot from him. Just a couple of his books would be enough if they understood them.

I will do some walking again today, but not so far as yesterday. I will go to that Victoria Memorial, which is to the south of here. After that, I am not sure. I will surely need my 28 mm lens to take pictures there.

I would also like to get a picture of Mother Teresa’s place, just to have a picture of it, since I am here. I do not know if what she has done is right or not. There is a lot of controversy about it at this time.

Travel always teaches one something and I think that I will learn something on this trip.

1:35 Afternoon. I started out about nine o’clock in the morning and walked to the Victoria Memorial. After that, I took a taxi to Mother Teresa’s. I didn’t see much there, just the front of the place. But I ran across a political rally for Mamata Banerjee’s political party, the All India Trinamool Congress, on the way back. She is the Chief Minister of West Bengal State.

So I stopped and got some pictures of that. I walked part of the way back, shooting some colour film.

Need to change money. Official rate is around 71 rupees to a dollar.

The walk in the morning was not bad. After a while, walking to the south, one gets away from most of those street vendors. They have taken up the sidewalks in so many areas. Now they are organized into unions and the government cannot dislodge them to send them somewhere else.

On the way, I crossed over to the west side of the big street. There was a large park across from the Tata building headquarters. I walked around that park and made a few pictures. There are signs forbidding almost everything. Not yet breathing, fortunately. There is even a sign that says that shooting film is prohibited. It seems that there are cameras everywhere. Presumably digital cameras and cell phones are fine. They just do not want one using film. What could this mean? By that time, I had already taken all the pictures that I wanted with film, so the sign came too late to do any good.

I walked past the Birla Planetarium. A little later, I came to an open area where there were some vending stands on both sides. I looked for signs that this might be the entrance to the Victoria Memorial. But there was not any mention of it anywhere, as far as I could tell. I could not tell exactly where I was according to the map I could find on my cell phone.

Finally, I went over and talked to a taxi driver. He said: “This is Victoria Memorial.”

I said: “Well, there is not a single sign anywhere saying that it is the Victoria Memorial. And there wasn’t. Amazing!

There should be a limit to nationalism.

It seems that they have become so nationalistic that they do not post the name of such a British monument, even though they are charging one to go in and see it.

I was quite early, so not many people were going in the gate. I lined up for the ticket. They had made it pretty stiff for foreigners. It is not important money, but it seems a little over the top. At least a couple of beers. The ticket is rupees 30 for Indians but rupees 500 for foreigners. They have made it some seventeen times as much for a foreigner.

Well, there they have it. They are actually putting themselves down, in my view, by doing that.

As I was walking in the morning, just down from the hotel, there was a huge throng of people. Obviously very poor. Some welfare organization was giving out free food. And the line was very long. It seems that the food was puris and channa.

Back to the Victoria Memorial. I went inside the gate and broke out my Minolta film camera (old SRT 101), because I needed the 28 mm lens to take pictures of the grounds and building. I sat down on a bench to rest for a while before going on up to the building.

A couple of people came up and wanted to make selfies with me. Why, I have no idea. But I don’t mind. A couple of times, it was attractive women, but with a man, of course.

After making some pictures, one must walk around to the back of the building which is the entrance. There is a security check set up there. I went through that and went inside. Several people were coming, but it was still not very crowded. But I noticed that it was quite noisy inside. Especially, people were shouting to each other while taking selfie photos. There were framed black and white photos along the walls from the late 1800s.

I made a few pictures inside, using my Leica M6 (F 2.5 at 1/15 second). I could do it without a flash, even though there was not a lot of light inside.

Inside, one is under a huge high dome. One can climb up to a walkway that goes all around the perimeter, about half-way to the top. I didn’t walk up there, but it could have been good for some pictures.

I made selfie pictures with several people when they asked me to. There were several people from Bangladesh. But the most interesting was this couple from Assam. It surprised me when they asked to make their picture with me. I stood with the woman and her husband.

Then, I felt her pressing her soft warm flesh against my body from the side. It was pleasant, but my inclination was to check my bag. But it was nothing like that. It seemed that she was just being friendly. Getting that close to a stranger of the opposite sex was certainly culturally different from the far more cold west. And surprising for me in India. Maybe Assam is different. I don’t know.

I took a few more pictures and got out of there. Out in the open air. Outside, I sat down on a bench and called Selma. She laughed about the huge discrepancy in the price for Indians and for foreigners.

It is a little over the top. Maybe four times the rate for foreigners would be slightly less vulgar and still make the point.

News from a Space Power.

I would head for Mother Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity.

Some Street Pictures of Kolkata (Calcutta)

These pictures were taken in December 2018 in Kolkata (Calcutta). I like to use the old name of the city, Calcutta, better. I guess I just got used to that. A great city, which would be educational for anyone to visit.

These pictures were made with my cell phone. I normally shoot film, but I was running out of film, so I had to take some pictures that way.

A street scene with an old classical building. Part of the picture is underexposed, due to the shitty quality one sometimes gets with a cell phone.

Selling fresh coconuts on the street. These are cut open for the juice inside. Much more healthy that drinking Coke or Pepsi.

An ice cream vendor in the evening.

There are still these old-fashioned types of rickshaws on the streets. It seems that they should be banned, but they provide some way for some people to make a sort of living. Personally, I would not want to take one of these. It just seems too inhumane. 

Inside an old Hindustan Ambassador taxi. I love these old cars, based on a 1940s British model. They are like something out of the 1950s. They are no longer made in India. The drivers put their little Hindu gods and goddesses on the dash board. Amusing. They are supposed to be metered, but generally, one just agrees to a price to go somewhere.

Alongside a city bus. Some of the public transport buses are in quite poor shape and incredibly crowded.

I am not sure if this emergency exit would be very useful in the event of an accident. It might just be a case of bending over and kissing one’s sweet ass goodbye. WB is West Bengal state.

A large mosque in a Moslem section of the city. Some people do not realize that a large number of Moslems live in India. In fact, it is a major Moslem country in terms of numbers of Moslems. It is the Nakhoda Masjid (Mosque). 

An older man in traditional Islamic dress. Don’t think there is any danger to foreigners here. People are fine and quite friendly. So one can feel quite at home, if that person is used to living and travelling in foreign countries.

A typical street-food place in Calcutta. It is a cheap place to eat and usually the food is quite good. On a holiday, it might not be the best idea. One must be acclimatized to Indian food.

The entrance to Nakhoda Mosque. Personally, I generally avoid anything having to do with religion. It makes life a hell of a lot easier.

A street in front of the Mosque.

This poor son of a bitch is having a hard day every day. Why wouldn’t he be wise to welcome a communist revolution? Actually the Marxists ruled West Bengal for many years, but didn’t do enough for the masses. If one compares this with China, one has to appreciate what a great success Mao was in modernizing China. Almost everything that Americans use these days is made in China. 

A calendar in Urdu, English and probably Hindi. The print is a little hard to make out.

These bananas are very tasty as they are generally ripened naturally and grown locally. Fruit is plentiful all through the year.

Indian capitalism has turned this poor guy into a human draft animal. Shouldn’t he be loyal to an economic system that treats him worse than a horse or a bullock? Where is the claim for justice and human rights? Why would such a person be worse off under communism? 

Another street seller. He is an entrepreneur. 

Another old classical building, now falling into decay. Want to compare this to what one sees in Shanghai? Now who says that Mao was not successful in developing China. Mao laid the foundation for capitalist China today. Yes, it is capitalist, but east Asian state-guided capitalism, not the wild west yahoo capitalism that has ripped the USA to hell. In the USA, corporate capitalists are the ruling class. Bezos with Amazon made profits of eight billion and is paying no taxes at all to the state. Now that is a hell of a ruling class. A hell of a democracy!

Getting fat with street profits.

Street scene, Calcutta. One might want to take a trip to Calcutta and see how Indian capitalism is treating the masses. One might learn some things that are not taught by professors in Economics 101. Most of those teaching the courses have never ever taken a trip outside the USA! That could make one think a little bit about what is going on in the world.