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Taking Calcutta Personally


Winston Churchill once said of Calcutta: "I shall always be glad to have seen it [because] it will be unnecessary for me ever to see it again." Not surprising. Calcutta has been depicted as a sweltering hellhole where shortages of basic amenities are so commonplace that one-tenth of its population is without electricity, sanitation facilities or potable water. A city teetering on the brink of self-destruction.

 

Calcutta Street Scene. Copyright: Margaret Deefholts.

Despite such Cassandra-like prophecies of imminent doom, and notwithstanding Churchill's opinion, I am at Howrah station, and glad to be back in Calcutta – now re-named Kolkata. After India gained independence from the British Crown, many of the streets too have been re-named. However it takes more than a cartographer's pen to wipe out a city's history and for me, this is as much a journey into colonial India's past, as it is through my own childhood years in the city.

The Sights:
Howrah Station, to my surprise, no longer plays host to hordes of squatters and the entrance hall, newly tiled, has orderly groups of passengers scanning electronic information displays of train arrival and departure schedules. A pre-paid taxi stand outside the station building eliminates the hassle of bargaining with mendacious cab drivers. Far from imploding on itself, an energetic campaign appears to be underway to clean up the city's image.

I direct my taxi driver to my hotel on Park Street. It is early March, and the oppressive heat of summer is still in abeyance. The sky, which I remember as being the color of smudged charcoal, is a steely blue. We cross the Howrah Bridge, spanning the turgid Hoogly River. At one time this 80-year old bridge seemed to be in danger of collapse due to its unremitting burden of bumper-to-handcart traffic. Now, with the construction of another bridge further south, the taxi driver whizzes me over with nary a beep of his horn.

Victoria Monument. Copyright: Margaret Deefholts.

On the Calcutta side of the Hoogly (the east bank), it is a different story. We plunge into a pandemonium of buses, trucks, cars, hand-pulled rickshaws, animals and pedestrians. Yet even here, there is evidence of change. The trams, which once resembled battered biscuit tins on wheels, have been jazzed up with bright orange paint and eye-catching ads.

Kolkata was, for over two centuries, the boomtown of India. It was where the East India Company established its richly profitable commercial base in the mid-1700s. After the British Crown gained dominion over the sub-continent in 1858, the city assumed the mantle of the nation's capital. Much of that history lives on in Kolkata's architectural heritage.

En route to my destination we pass Government House, a white palatial building, once occupied by a series of British Viceroys in the heyday of Empire. It is now the residence of the Governor of West Bengal, and through the grille-work of the gates I catch a glimpse of manicured lawns and lavish flowerbeds.

Also along my route, is a red brick building, appropriately called Writer's Building where East India Company's clerks, known as "writers" laboured under punkahs (cloth fans attached to rods and suspended from the ceiling) pulled back and forth by punkah coolies. Today their successors, known as babus, work under slow-turning electrical ceiling fans and still process Government files tied up (literally!) in red tape!

Eventually my taxi driver breaks free of the logjam of traffic and bowls south along a pleasant avenue of trees flanking a huge field, known as the "Maidan." The Ochterlony monument (an idiosyncratic, 165 ft. high fluted tower set on an Egyptian base and surmounted by a Turkish dome is named after its equally eccentric builder, Sir David Ochterlony) spears the sky on one side. More relevant in today's India is the cricket stadium in Eden Gardens to the west of the Maidan, where a test match between India and Australia is in progress. (Two days later, when India won the match, cricket-crazed Kolkatans exploded into frenzied cheering on the streets, and fireworks erupted all over the city.)Chowringhee Street. Copyright: Margaret Deefholts.Shopping &
Other Marvels:
Chowringhee, Kolkata's oldest shopping avenue, runs east of the Maidan. All the landmarks I remember from childhood are still there: the Great Eastern Hotel, once Kolkata's equivalent of Raffles Hotel in Singapore, and the Grand Hotel - both, alas, looking somewhat worse for wear. Leading off Chowringhee is Lindsay Street and the New Empire Theatre where such notables as Sir Harry Lauder, Yehudi Menuhin, Anna Pavalova and a very young Merle Oberon once performed. Merle Oberon's house, in fact, is just a few yards up the same street.

Kolkata's most recognised landmark is the Victoria Memorial at the south end of the Maidan – a massive marble-domed building elaborately embellished with Victorian-era statuary and bas-relief artwork. A few days into my stay, I walk up the broad gravel driveway, breathe in the scent of marigold flowers, and pause to listen to the plaintive call of the Indian Koel bird – harbinger of summer – wafting across the lawns. I turn left off the lofty entrance hall, into an air conditioned wing and spend a couple of hours absorbed in a magnificent display of paintings, photographs, articles and memorabilia spanning the city's 300-year old history.

As I did when I was a teenager, I amble through the maze of stalls in Hogg Market – popularly known as the "New Market" even though it has been in existence since the early 1900's. Not too much has changed here, although a part of the complex burned down some years ago and has been replaced by an upscale air-conditioned mall. I fend off persistent coolies and gawk at the merchandise on display: bolts of vibrant silks and crisp cottons, ready made garments, Bengali handicrafts, costume jewellery, cane furniture, crockery, and glassware, all for sale at a fraction of the price we'd pay in Canada.

Eating like a Princess:
Not for the squeamish, but fascinating nonetheless, is the produce and meat market located in a cavernous building adjoining the main market. The smell of ripe pineapples and papaya permeates the aisles of the fruit section. I stop to haggle over a basket of Indian gooseberries. These are small yellow berries within a pouch of dry paper-thin leaves, and as I pop one into my mouth, the juice spurts, sweet-sour against my tongue, evoking memories of my mother's gooseberry jam, eaten smothered in fresh cream at tea-time.

Indeed, what can be more evocative than the smell and taste of food relished in childhood? I take the time to drop by Nahum Confectioners in the New Market. The old proprietor has passed on, but his son peers at me and says, "Yes, of course I remember your parents…they ordered Christmas cakes from us for years! And didn't we once make a Birthday cake for you in the shape of a grand piano?" I'm astonished at his memory. Later, as I turn to leave, he comes up to me. "Next week is Easter Sunday, so here is something for you, just for old times sake." He grins and hands me a paper bag. Inside it is a small marzipan Easter egg.

There are several more places on my "must eat" list. Flury's on Park Street still retains its genteel Edwardian ambience: afternoon tea accompanied by a selection of cakes and cream-rolls, is served on bone-china crockery. The manager, intrigued by the fact that I used to live in Calcutta and that I'm now back on a nostalgia trip, insists on serving me personally, and refuses to present me with a bill! Where else but in Calcutta could one find so sentimental and generous a host?

At the other end of the scale from Flury's elegance, is Nizam's, which has been in operation for over 70 years. Tucked into a dimly lit alleyway in the city's hub, it is a small unpretentious place with ramshackle furniture, neon tube lighting and no air conditioning. But, as every Calcutta-wallah knows, Nizam's kati-kebabs and rotis are fit for a Moghul emperor. They sizzle with dark, mysterious spices that caress the palate like a teasing, smoldering flame. A group of friends and I drop into Nizam's after a party, and despite the lateness of the hour, there is a steady stream of well-dressed customers driving up in their cars, or strolling in from a nearby movie theatre after the last show. Some things haven't changed at all, even after a forty-five year absence.

Kolkata also boasts the finest Indian cream sweets such as sondesh, and rosgullas, and – a speciality of the city – a rich, thick sweet yoghurt sold in clay pots, known as mishti dohi. I find a hole-in-the-wall sweet shop, which, so I'm told, makes the best mishti dohi in the universe. And it is. Bar none.

Jimmy's Kitchen on Lower Circular Road, once a humble take-out kiosk serving Chinese chow mein, is now an upscale air-conditioned restaurant – but the food is just as superb. It is the entertainment, however, that makes my evening. A TV screen suspended from the ceiling is showing an Indian Bollywood movie. The hero and heroine ogle each other while playing peek-a-boo around the stanchions of the Eiffel Tower. In the flick of a camera's eye, they continue their amorous cavorting against the background of Sydney's Harbour Bridge. Then without missing a beat they are transported still dancing and singing, this time against a setting of landscaped bushes, shrubs and flowers. Where? Well, the Butchart Gardens on Vancouver Island of course! I chuckle at the incongruity of the moment: a familiar scene more than half a world away impinging on the clamor of a Chinese restaurant in Calcutta! Abruptly, the screen burps, goes blank and turns to flecked snow. "Must be videotape has broken," says my waiter philosophically. "Manager will replace with another one." But the TV remains moribund. So I finish my chilled, fresh lychees and cream and head back to my hotel.On the Way to Temples:
Although the Kalighat Temple in south Kolkata is on most visitors' itinerary, I'd never been there. Nor had I travelled on the city's much vaunted air-conditioned subway constructed in the mid-1990s. This seems as good a time as any to remedy both deficiencies, so I descend the steps at the junction of Park Street, and Chowringhee, buy a ticket for Rs.10.00 (about 33 cents) and walk onto an immaculate station platform. There are no beggars, no touts, and no bawling vendors. The train pulls in and since it is off rush hour, the compartment offers plenty of room. A business executive sitting next to me scans The Statesman newspaper and a batch of uniformed schoolgirls giggle at a private joke in the opposite corner. The seats are utilitarian but comfortable and although its billing as "the best subway in the world" might be a slight exaggeration, it is certainly no less efficient than its counterparts in New York or Paris – and a great deal less expensive.

At Kalighat I join a surge of devotees heading towards the temple. It is dedicated to the goddess Kali: a black-faced deity, with bloated tongue, ravenous mouth and a garland of skulls around her neck. Animal sacrifices are still carried out here, and the temple atmosphere reeks of malevolence. It gives me the heebie-jeebies. I don't hang around for long.

Like its demon namesake, "Kali-cutta" too has its cruel aspect – all too evident in the squalid alleyways in the Bow Bazar area where one cannot but be wrenched at the sights and sounds of unparalleled human misery and degradation. Even though the city seems infused with a newly found confidence in its plans for the future, it will require a great deal more than surface spit and polish to deal with a population density that continues to strain the city's resources almost to breaking point. Yet, Kolkata has proved its resilience time and again in the past. No doubt it will endure, even thrive, in spite of itself.

Kipling called Calcutta "The City of Dreadful Night." I conjure up a vision of him sitting across a table from Jyoti Basu, fiery, charismatic leader of Bengal's ruling Communist Party, and the architect of modern Kolkata. I wonder what they would say to one another.

When You Go:

Getting There:
Kolkata's Dum Dum Airport is served by several international airlines. It is also well linked by a network of internal flights to other cities across the country. Most airline offices are in the centre of the downtown area around Chowringhee Street. The city has two major railway terminus stations, Howrah on the west bank of the Hoogly and Sealdah (for travel to North-Eastern areas) on the east bank. Computerized booking offices are located at Fairlie Place in the heart of the city.

Where to Stay:
There isn't much to choose from as far as budget hotels go, but the YWCA at 1 Middleton Row, although a bit battered looking, is cheap, clean and very centrally located. Book well in advance. Meals are included in the tariff (approx Rs.750 or Can$30.00 for non-a/c, double with attached bath) but the dining room is dingy and the quality of food is like the stodge served up in Indian boarding schools.

Good mid range hotels are also a challenge to find. Try Hotel Astoria (6/2 Sudder Street), or Heera Hotel, north of the New Market (28 Grant Street).

The best of top range accommodation is the posh Tollygunge Club set on 44 acres in south Calcutta (10 minutes' walk from the Tollygunj Metro station) where you can play at being a 'pukka sahib/memsahib' in Raj style surroundings. Prices range from US$30.00 to $80. Book well in advance. The Great Eastern Hotel at 1 - 3 Old Courthouse Road is well located. Park Hotel (a small luxury hotel at 17 Park Street) and Fairlawn Hotel (13A Sudder Street) are other options.

Other Attractions:
Calcutta's churches and cemeteries bear mute testimony to its colonial history. St. Paul's Cathedral across from the Victoria Memorial is eerily reminiscent of Exeter Cathedral or York Minster. Its naves are flanked by memorial tablets paying tribute to the lives and careers of British army officers and administrators who shouldered "the white man's burden" in India. Of particular note is the placard honouring Sir Henry Lawrence who played a heroic, and tragic, role in the defence of Lucknow during the 1857 Sepoy Mutiny.

St. John's Church (near Dalhousie Square), built in 1787, contains some exquisite marble statuary. The churchyard includes a commemorative plaque honouring those who perished in the Black Hole of Calcutta, (moved here from its original site) and the mausoleum of Job Charnock, who founded Calcutta in the mid-17th century.

St. John's Chuchyard: Job Charnock's Mausoleum. Copyright: Mary Doray.The Park Street Cemetery too has its roster of notable gravestones: William Makepeace Thackeray's father rests there, as does a son of Charles Dickens.

Marble Palace (off Chittaranjan Avenue on Muktaram Babu Street) houses a delightfully idiosyncratic collection of curios, statuary and paintings. Some exhibits are valuable (paintings by Joshua Reynolds and Rubens), others are merely whimsical.

Mother Teresa's Hospital for the Dying Destitute is near the Kalighat Temple. Volunteers and visitors are welcome. The Indian Museum on Chowringhee has a vast display of artifacts including notable Pala statuary and some outstanding exhibits of Buddhist-Gandharan art.

Culture:
Despite its colonial overtones, today's Kolkata is very much an Indian city. Its cultural heritage is rich in music, theatre, dance, literature and art. It has counted among its citizens the likes of Satyajit Ray, internationally acclaimed filmmaker and writer, and Rabindranath Tajore, winner of the Nobel Prize for literature in 1913. Theatre dance/drama performances are held at Rabindra Sadan, (Cathedral Road) Kala Mandir (Shakespeare Sarani) and at Hotel Hindustan International. Check the leaflet Calcutta This Fortnight available at tourist offices. The city's coffee houses (near the University) are venues where Bengali scholars, poets and writers hold forth with passionate loquacity on subjects ranging from radical political theories, to abstruse philosophical speculation.

Organized Tours:
Contact the Government of India Tourist Office at 4 Shakespeare Sarani, or the West Bengal Tourist Office at 3/2 BBD Bagh (Dalhousie Square).

Reference Reading:
Oxford Book Shop on Park Street, offers a diverse range of books on India, as well as a selection of internationally published works of fiction and non-fiction.

Calcutta. The City Revealed by Geoffrey Moorhouse is a fascinating and comprehensive look at Calcutta's history, its culture, people and the city's all too often turbulent political scene.

City of Joy by Dominique Lapierre.

The Lonely Planet - India offers a wealth of excellent information and advice for visitors to Calcutta and other areas in India. Don't leave home without it!

Chowringhee Street. Copyright: Margaret Deefholts.Shopping &
Other Marvels:
Chowringhee, Kolkata's oldest shopping avenue, runs east of the Maidan. All the landmarks I remember from childhood are still there: the Great Eastern Hotel, once Kolkata's equivalent of Raffles Hotel in Singapore, and the Grand Hotel - both, alas, looking somewhat worse for wear. Leading off Chowringhee is Lindsay Street and the New Empire Theatre where such notables as Sir Harry Lauder, Yehudi Menuhin, Anna Pavalova and a very young Merle Oberon once performed. Merle Oberon's house, in fact, is just a few yards up the same street.

Kolkata's most recognised landmark is the Victoria Memorial at the south end of the Maidan – a massive marble-domed building elaborately embellished with Victorian-era statuary and bas-relief artwork. A few days into my stay, I walk up the broad gravel driveway, breathe in the scent of marigold flowers, and pause to listen to the plaintive call of the Indian Koel bird – harbinger of summer – wafting across the lawns. I turn left off the lofty entrance hall, into an air conditioned wing and spend a couple of hours absorbed in a magnificent display of paintings, photographs, articles and memorabilia spanning the city's 300-year old history.

As I did when I was a teenager, I amble through the maze of stalls in Hogg Market – popularly known as the "New Market" even though it has been in existence since the early 1900's. Not too much has changed here, although a part of the complex burned down some years ago and has been replaced by an upscale air-conditioned mall. I fend off persistent coolies and gawk at the merchandise on display: bolts of vibrant silks and crisp cottons, ready made garments, Bengali handicrafts, costume jewellery, cane furniture, crockery, and glassware, all for sale at a fraction of the price we'd pay in Canada.

Eating like a Princess:
Not for the squeamish, but fascinating nonetheless, is the produce and meat market located in a cavernous building adjoining the main market. The smell of ripe pineapples and papaya permeates the aisles of the fruit section. I stop to haggle over a basket of Indian gooseberries. These are small yellow berries within a pouch of dry paper-thin leaves, and as I pop one into my mouth, the juice spurts, sweet-sour against my tongue, evoking memories of my mother's gooseberry jam, eaten smothered in fresh cream at tea-time.

Indeed, what can be more evocative than the smell and taste of food relished in childhood? I take the time to drop by Nahum Confectioners in the New Market. The old proprietor has passed on, but his son peers at me and says, "Yes, of course I remember your parents…they ordered Christmas cakes from us for years! And didn't we once make a Birthday cake for you in the shape of a grand piano?" I'm astonished at his memory. Later, as I turn to leave, he comes up to me. "Next week is Easter Sunday, so here is something for you, just for old times sake." He grins and hands me a paper bag. Inside it is a small marzipan Easter egg.

There are several more places on my "must eat" list. Flury's on Park Street still retains its genteel Edwardian ambience: afternoon tea accompanied by a selection of cakes and cream-rolls, is served on bone-china crockery. The manager, intrigued by the fact that I used to live in Calcutta and that I'm now back on a nostalgia trip, insists on serving me personally, and refuses to present me with a bill! Where else but in Calcutta could one find so sentimental and generous a host?

At the other end of the scale from Flury's elegance, is Nizam's, which has been in operation for over 70 years. Tucked into a dimly lit alleyway in the city's hub, it is a small unpretentious place with ramshackle furniture, neon tube lighting and no air conditioning. But, as every Calcutta-wallah knows, Nizam's kati-kebabs and rotis are fit for a Moghul emperor. They sizzle with dark, mysterious spices that caress the palate like a teasing, smoldering flame. A group of friends and I drop into Nizam's after a party, and despite the lateness of the hour, there is a steady stream of well-dressed customers driving up in their cars, or strolling in from a nearby movie theatre after the last show. Some things haven't changed at all, even after a forty-five year absence.

Kolkata also boasts the finest Indian cream sweets such as sondesh, and rosgullas, and – a speciality of the city – a rich, thick sweet yoghurt sold in clay pots, known as mishti dohi. I find a hole-in-the-wall sweet shop, which, so I'm told, makes the best mishti dohi in the universe. And it is. Bar none.

Jimmy's Kitchen on Lower Circular Road, once a humble take-out kiosk serving Chinese chow mein, is now an upscale air-conditioned restaurant – but the food is just as superb. It is the entertainment, however, that makes my evening. A TV screen suspended from the ceiling is showing an Indian Bollywood movie. The hero and heroine ogle each other while playing peek-a-boo around the stanchions of the Eiffel Tower. In the flick of a camera's eye, they continue their amorous cavorting against the background of Sydney's Harbour Bridge. Then without missing a beat they are transported still dancing and singing, this time against a setting of landscaped bushes, shrubs and flowers. Where? Well, the Butchart Gardens on Vancouver Island of course! I chuckle at the incongruity of the moment: a familiar scene more than half a world away impinging on the clamor of a Chinese restaurant in Calcutta! Abruptly, the screen burps, goes blank and turns to flecked snow. "Must be videotape has broken," says my waiter philosophically. "Manager will replace with another one." But the TV remains moribund. So I finish my chilled, fresh lychees and cream and head back to my hotel.On the Way to Temples:
Although the Kalighat Temple in south Kolkata is on most visitors' itinerary, I'd never been there. Nor had I travelled on the city's much vaunted air-conditioned subway constructed in the mid-1990s. This seems as good a time as any to remedy both deficiencies, so I descend the steps at the junction of Park Street, and Chowringhee, buy a ticket for Rs.10.00 (about 33 cents) and walk onto an immaculate station platform. There are no beggars, no touts, and no bawling vendors. The train pulls in and since it is off rush hour, the compartment offers plenty of room. A business executive sitting next to me scans The Statesman newspaper and a batch of uniformed schoolgirls giggle at a private joke in the opposite corner. The seats are utilitarian but comfortable and although its billing as "the best subway in the world" might be a slight exaggeration, it is certainly no less efficient than its counterparts in New York or Paris – and a great deal less expensive.

At Kalighat I join a surge of devotees heading towards the temple. It is dedicated to the goddess Kali: a black-faced deity, with bloated tongue, ravenous mouth and a garland of skulls around her neck. Animal sacrifices are still carried out here, and the temple atmosphere reeks of malevolence. It gives me the heebie-jeebies. I don't hang around for long.

Like its demon namesake, "Kali-cutta" too has its cruel aspect – all too evident in the squalid alleyways in the Bow Bazar area where one cannot but be wrenched at the sights and sounds of unparalleled human misery and degradation. Even though the city seems infused with a newly found confidence in its plans for the future, it will require a great deal more than surface spit and polish to deal with a population density that continues to strain the city's resources almost to breaking point. Yet, Kolkata has proved its resilience time and again in the past. No doubt it will endure, even thrive, in spite of itself.

Kipling called Calcutta "The City of Dreadful Night." I conjure up a vision of him sitting across a table from Jyoti Basu, fiery, charismatic leader of Bengal's ruling Communist Party, and the architect of modern Kolkata. I wonder what they would say to one another.

When You Go:

Getting There:
Kolkata's Dum Dum Airport is served by several international airlines. It is also well linked by a network of internal flights to other cities across the country. Most airline offices are in the centre of the downtown area around Chowringhee Street. The city has two major railway terminus stations, Howrah on the west bank of the Hoogly and Sealdah (for travel to North-Eastern areas) on the east bank. Computerized booking offices are located at Fairlie Place in the heart of the city.

Where to Stay:
There isn't much to choose from as far as budget hotels go, but the YWCA at 1 Middleton Row, although a bit battered looking, is cheap, clean and very centrally located. Book well in advance. Meals are included in the tariff (approx Rs.750 or Can$30.00 for non-a/c, double with attached bath) but the dining room is dingy and the quality of food is like the stodge served up in Indian boarding schools.

Good mid range hotels are also a challenge to find. Try Hotel Astoria (6/2 Sudder Street), or Heera Hotel, north of the New Market (28 Grant Street).

The best of top range accommodation is the posh Tollygunge Club set on 44 acres in south Calcutta (10 minutes' walk from the Tollygunj Metro station) where you can play at being a 'pukka sahib/memsahib' in Raj style surroundings. Prices range from US$30.00 to $80. Book well in advance. The Great Eastern Hotel at 1 - 3 Old Courthouse Road is well located. Park Hotel (a small luxury hotel at 17 Park Street) and Fairlawn Hotel (13A Sudder Street) are other options.

Other Attractions:
Calcutta's churches and cemeteries bear mute testimony to its colonial history. St. Paul's Cathedral across from the Victoria Memorial is eerily reminiscent of Exeter Cathedral or York Minster. Its naves are flanked by memorial tablets paying tribute to the lives and careers of British army officers and administrators who shouldered "the white man's burden" in India. Of particular note is the placard honouring Sir Henry Lawrence who played a heroic, and tragic, role in the defence of Lucknow during the 1857 Sepoy Mutiny.

St. John's Church (near Dalhousie Square), built in 1787, contains some exquisite marble statuary. The churchyard includes a commemorative plaque honouring those who perished in the Black Hole of Calcutta, (moved here from its original site) and the mausoleum of Job Charnock, who founded Calcutta in the mid-17th century.

St. John's Chuchyard: Job Charnock's Mausoleum. Copyright: Mary Doray.The Park Street Cemetery too has its roster of notable gravestones: William Makepeace Thackeray's father rests there, as does a son of Charles Dickens.

Marble Palace (off Chittaranjan Avenue on Muktaram Babu Street) houses a delightfully idiosyncratic collection of curios, statuary and paintings. Some exhibits are valuable (paintings by Joshua Reynolds and Rubens), others are merely whimsical.

Mother Teresa's Hospital for the Dying Destitute is near the Kalighat Temple. Volunteers and visitors are welcome. The Indian Museum on Chowringhee has a vast display of artifacts including notable Pala statuary and some outstanding exhibits of Buddhist-Gandharan art.

Culture:
Despite its colonial overtones, today's Kolkata is very much an Indian city. Its cultural heritage is rich in music, theatre, dance, literature and art. It has counted among its citizens the likes of Satyajit Ray, internationally acclaimed filmmaker and writer, and Rabindranath Tajore, winner of the Nobel Prize for literature in 1913. Theatre dance/drama performances are held at Rabindra Sadan, (Cathedral Road) Kala Mandir (Shakespeare Sarani) and at Hotel Hindustan International. Check the leaflet Calcutta This Fortnight available at tourist offices. The city's coffee houses (near the University) are venues where Bengali scholars, poets and writers hold forth with passionate loquacity on subjects ranging from radical political theories, to abstruse philosophical speculation.

Organized Tours:
Contact the Government of India Tourist Office at 4 Shakespeare Sarani, or the West Bengal Tourist Office at 3/2 BBD Bagh (Dalhousie Square).

Reference Reading:
Oxford Book Shop on Park Street, offers a diverse range of books on India, as well as a selection of internationally published works of fiction and non-fiction.

Calcutta. The City Revealed by Geoffrey Moorhouse is a fascinating and comprehensive look at Calcutta's history, its culture, people and the city's all too often turbulent political scene.

City of Joy by Dominique Lapierre.

The Lonely Planet - India offers a wealth of excellent information and advice for visitors to Calcutta and other areas in India. Don't leave home without it!