Here is my travelogue for Kolkata India, birthplace of Satyajit Ray, or the City of RAY-diance as I like to call it. First impressions of Kolkata: it is so green; it seems to be part of nature as well as a city. Later on we were to marvel at the sanctuaries built into trees (what are they called?) and the seamless integration of the rural with the cityscape.
Anyway, we arrived at our hotel in the midst of chaotic traffic because the roads were being dug up. A blessing actually since the last few yards had to be taken on foot, meaning a lot less traffic noise. We were opposite the India museum and a stone’s throw away from New Market. All along Free School Street there were roadworks but the neighbourhood is friendly and welcoming.
Day One in Kolkata India
Flushed with success, we sauntered over to Music World to look for DVDs of Satyajit Ray films. Again, a huge thank you to Jyoti, Brishti and Scandojazzbuff for all their help. We visited Flury’s and wondered at the Parisian ambiance in this Kolkattan institution. Fired up by excellent coffee, we decided spontaneously to head straight to the Book Fair in Salt Lake, even though we were supposed to be meeting up there with IndiaMikers on the following day - we are a disgrace - I know that Somnath has forgiven us. Anyhow, jetlag notwithstanding, taxi driver not having a clue how to get there and shouting at us (?) for not knowing the way, we made it in one piece to the Book Fair. It was great! We had a wonderful day.
Day Two in Kolkata India
Later we took a cab to visit the Jain Temple, Sheetalnathji Mandir, also known as the Palace of Jewels, built in 1867, as well as the adjacent Jain Temple, Dadaji Jain Mandir, built in 1810. They are exquisite.
I was so overawed by the beauty that I left my camera (an old autofocus) on a bench in the garden. Returning with the same cab to Sudder Street, about 20 minutes into the journey, I reached for my camera to take a picture, and realizing I had mislaid it, we returned... it was still on the bench! Talk about good karma!
That evening we enjoyed the mouth-watering Bengali cuisine.
Day Three in Kolkata India
I call this the "Great B.B.D. Bagh Adventure" since we spent absolutely ages looking for the Black Hole of Calcutta and other landmarks such as the Tank. We couldn’t understand any of our maps (we had at least 3). At some point we asked a group of young men, “Which way is it to BBD /Dalhousie Square?”. One pointed left, one pointed right, the other pointed straight on. It was very funny.
The bottom line is that (in my blinkered English way) I was expecting something like a London square, not a pond of water! Well, you live and learn. If I were to do it again, I would take a guided tour because I think we were so busy trying to understand where we were going that we saw nothing.
The street with the typewriters was fascinating. I had also purchased "Ten Walks in Calcutta" which is a great book but so hard to follow when you have a million people trying to sell you:
- umbrellas (sun parasols?);
- gentleman’s underwear;
- school books;
- T-shirts and salwar kameez;
- plastic kitchenware etc. etc.
On top of that you are trying hard not to step on the produce on the pavement while crooking your neck upwards to read the non-existent street sign, which even if you could read it is different to the name on the map which dates from the previous century...!
Recovery came in the welcome form of coffee at Barista on Park Street. Then we visited the Nagaland Emporium and admired the stripey blankets. The Crossword Bookshop was OK but not as good as the Oxford Bookshop.
After a hard day’s sightseeing we popped into the Fairlawn for a Kingfisher and regretted that the next day we were leaving for Darjeeling, having been beguiled by Kolkata.
Day Four in Kolkata India
Following our wonderful interlude in Darjeeling/Sikkim we returned on the day of Holi to Kolkata.
Our visit to the Tagore Museum in Kolkata India
This is an oasis of calm in the chaos of Kolkata. The former family home of Tagore on Rabindra Sarani, ex Chitpur Street, is fascinating. Afterwards we walked the length of Chitpur through the souk of perfume sellers, fruit wallahs, etc. It started to rain, so we took refuge in a coffee shop.
Day Five in Kolkata India
Then we tried to follow the "Ten Walks in Calcutta" book to seek out some of the architectural marvels of the area. We chatted with an informative and interesting gentleman, but failed to find anything mentioned in the book. It was also very difficult to locate the Asutosh Museum, but it was well worth it. We were the only visitors and spent several hours there.
Last evening in town: the high life at Peter Cat for Chelo Kebabs.
The places I failed to see that I would visit next time around:
- Obviously, Kalighat. Hopefully without a severe attack of agoraphobia (joke).
- The flower markets, the Hooghly bridge.
- The New Market (we just ran through it, trying to avoid the eyes of the touts).
- The Park Street cemetery.
Actually, all the walks in "Ten Walks".
Latest comments for City of Satyajit RAY-diance
"The Extra-terrestrial it is still alleged that it was in fact based on a script actually written by none other than Satyajit Ray himself which was originally titled “The Alien”! In 1962 S.Ray wrote a short Bengali science fiction story titled “Bankubabur Bandhu” which was published in the Ray family magazine, Sandesh. The story revolves around a spaceship that lands in a pond in some part of rural Bengal and the villagers begin worshiping it as a temple which they think had risen from the depth of the Earth. The alien, however, establishes contact with a young village lad named Haba through dreams and in the course of its short stay on the planet the alien also plays a number of harmless pranks on the village community".....
"It wasn't until 1982; the year Spielberg's E.T. the Extraterrestrial got released that resurfaced “The Alien” endeavour into S.Ray's mind with terrible dismay towards Hollywood, unfortunately, once again. When E.T. was released the similarity with “The Alien” seemed more than mere coincidence to Satyajit Ray and many had the same opinion as well. Arther C. Clarke witnessed the similarities in E.T. which he reffered as “striking parallels” to Ray's script that was made for Hollywood and telephoned Ray in January 1983 and suggested to Ray that he contact Spielberg and point out the resemblances. But Satyajit Ray, the great man that he was, did not show any interest in pursuing the matter any further even though he was firmly convinced that his dear project “The Alien” was a victim of plagiarism. In his own words he told the Indian press that Spielberg's E.T “would not have been possible without my script of The Alien being available throughout America in mimeographed copies”. It must be mentioned here that E.T was co-produced by the same company (Columbia Pictures) that had contracted with Ray in 1967."
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I heard (Although not sure about the fact ) projection of one of his movies ( "Komal Gandhar" (1961) Aka "A Soft Note on a Sharp Scale " , a movie very close to my heart ) was stopped by the Cinema Halls (Owners) where it was released within just 3 days after the release , due to very poor selling of tickets .. It must have an entry into the Guinness book of World Records for the greatest FLOP show ever on the earth !!!
& Ghatak was the person who paved the way for "Indian New Wave" Cinemas , which we must not forget ..