Friday, 24 March 2006

Goodbye South India - Hello Calcutta!

I bypassed Tamil Nadu's capital Madras (Chennai) alltogether and instead flew to Calcutta in the north - capital of West Bengal and former capital of British India.

This picture illustrates nicely the current state of Calcutta. Everywhere you see the imposing, old colonial buildings, but here it has ben turned into a bustling, chaotic bazaar with signs, shops and garbage everywhere. Probably not the destiny for which the british raj designed this building.

Calcutta is one of the few places in the world, where a poor man can be hired to pull another man around without any aid of an engine or even a bicycle. t is seen by many as degrading and exploitive and it has even been officially banned by West Bengals communist government. It is, however, also, many peoples' livelihood and therefore the phenomenon continues to be widespread on the streets of Calcutta.

Another example of what we westerners would consider a quite bizarre job. This man makes a living taking apart old computer ink cartridges on the sidewalk. I don't know exactly why this is done, but I assume it serves some recycling purpose.

Another example of the decaying, old colonial buildings setting their mark on Calcutta. this must once have been a beautiful, massive building, but now the facade is crumbling and ugly signs, plastic covers and eletrical wires cover much of the front.

A serene spot in the middle of a chaotic city. This is Park Street Cemetary housing a number of british graves from the late 1700s and early 1800s. It is overgrown with plants and only few of the grave monuments are well maintained. This beautiful old stone cross tablet was resting randomly on a tree.

A different part of Park Street Cemetary, a very serene but also somewhat bizarre and eery place. Most of the grave monuments are these huge, decaying, grey stone pyramids seemingly competing to reach the tallest and be the most massive.

All this might paint an image of Calcutta as a decaying, poverty stricken city, but that is not the full picture. To be fair Calcutta is also a quickly developing city, with many modern districts and facilities, a large well educated middle class and some impressive sights. I will have more pictures showing a slightly different side of the city in my next post.


The SeaWitch said...

Great pics Esben! Whatever will I look at when you leave India?

Esben said...

Hi SeaWitch!

Thanks again for the nice comments. I will try to think of new interesting things to put on my weblog when I get home. I believe that good opportunities for photos and stories present themselves everywhere in the world. However, even though I am about to leave India in a few days, I still have material for a lot of posts.

I am enjoying your weblog also, by the way. Much food for thought :o)