I don’t know what made me think of sharing a Kolkata photo essay at the fag end of this year. Perhaps, it is because 2022 was very tough and boring, or maybe because I am fed up with living in a dull, bureaucratic Germany and long to return home. I am not sure what triggered it but every time the day is gloomy (which is nearly every day), I long for the blue skies of Kolkata. At this time of the year, the colour of Kolkata skies is soft blue, and little white puffball clouds race across it. The sunshine is warm and without the acidic, damp heat of summer and people seem more relaxed. The city hosts many different kinds of annual shows: flower shows, dog shows, cultural shows, etc. Many different kinds of fairs take place, the biggest of them being the annual Kolkata book fair. The city clubs sport emerald green lawns and in the evenings, there are barbeques, musical soirees, and film festivals.

Durga Puja is the biggest festival in Kolkata

Kolkata photo essay of the masses

In this photo essay, I am not going to share these upper-crust joys of living in Kolkata, but the grim reality of the city. It is not a wealthy or beautiful city and daily millions struggle there for survival. However, it is a city with a very rich history and a very colourful character. If ever a city can get a human portrayal, then Kolkata would be an eccentric, highly educated, slightly batty, and cantankerous elderly dame of noble birth who has fallen in hard times. Her strained circumstances do not make her humbler, less self-righteous, or less argumentative. Instead, it gives her a sense of charity, kindness, and pride. She shows affection gruffly and rebels against any sense of convention. Kolkata behaves this way; always with a chip on the shoulder, ready to tell anyone off, and never ever giving up on pride. In fact, this attitude can be seen in every class of Kolkata citizens irrespective of whether they are Bengali wives, university students, Marwari businessmen, or daily labourers who toil in the city’s wholesale markets. We love our tea, our gossip, our newspapers, and our eccentric, sense of freedom. We like our propriety too although that is pretty malleable in our eyes. We adapt to new social changes fast, take pride in our open-mindedness, and then complain about how Kolkata has become unrecognizable from good, old Calcutta. Presenting a photo essay of Kolkata taken during my last visit. This is one crazy, funny, eccentric city.

A street tailor and his shop

A daily labourer in a Kolkata wholesale market

Kolkata is full of grand, old buildings

Another old building in Kolkata

Locally called Rajbaris, these old buildings

Are homes of erstwhile landowners and their families

Entire families lived in these buildings

And they are full of exquisite details

Beautiful metal grills,

Lovely tilework,

Exquisite woodwork

And beautiful stucco embellishments.

Then there is beautiful woodwork on doors,

Quintessential sights like these Kolkata rickshaws,

And stunning colours and old textures.

The grand moods of Kolkata

Are daily juxtapositioned

With the photogenic street life.

In this city, you will find culture,

A collective passion for reading,

And unusual photo opportunities.

Kolkata has a passion for flowers, especially shiuli,

Lovely fragrant chatim,

Edible aquatic flowers, shapla.

Its culinary habits too are a hodgepodge of betelnuts,

Indo-Chinese dishes,

And greasy fried vegetarian breakfasts.

Kolkata is a very photogenic city

For street photographers.

Follow the rest of the Calcutta series