As I saw KOLKATA changing

Early in the morning in the fresh light of a Kolkata waking up to another day, a missive from the world outside, curled and wound by a jute string would come spinning and then glide through the open door onto our red cement floor. It never missed its target – one open door of many others on the second floor of a jhool  baranda, a hanging verandah. I always ran out to peer through the trellis work of our wrought iron railing to see the newspaper man cycling away and stopping every so often to throw his next missile with the sure aim of a champion bowler, an art he must have picked up playing cricket in the numerous lanes or para[1] parks of the metropolis.[2]

And that is the memory of my childhood view of Kolkata, looking across a street of buildings similar to ours, with three and four storeys of ornate balconies and French windows with green wooden shutters, the bottom sections of which I could reach and lift the wooden levers to open on sleepy afternoons, to capture a glimpse of the vendors, like the one who twanged his one-stringed instrument, lugging his gunny bag of cotton wool, as he raised his nasal singsong voice to ask for ‘lep toshok’, quilts and mattresses.  He could then rip these open on our terrace, releasing a hundred soft feathery cotton tufts that he twanged into softer recycled buoyancy for renewed winter comfort.

But this swirl of feathery delight could not match the magic of the fifty pigeons we had in the chilekotha[3] on the terrace, housed in a custom made dovecote from where our neighbour, Notonda[4], would lift them up, having fed them earlier, and then send them surging across the sky, free to roam till he called them back in a ritual of homecoming, before every sunset.

This was the same terrace whose walled divisions I would be able to cross when I was a little older, after we came back to Kolkata from a three year trip away, to stretch a paper kite on a sharpened string, with which we raced backwards and flung up and then went back to retrieve the manipulating string from a companion, to feel the excitement of a competitive game played without scruples as we schemed to let our kite reign while we cut the life line of other kites, a tribe of colourful participants  in Kolkata’s skies. This sky was also  visible from an inner verandah which ran round the block on the inside, as the whole house was built round an open courtyard in the middle and all the upper floors looked down into it. It was an Anglo-Indian and Bengali Christian neighbourhood, a remnant of British India.

[1] The Bengali word for neighbourhood which has connotations of a community life and the sense of bonding it brings.
[2] The newspaper in question is The Statesman, an English daily started in 1885 in Kolkata, which was estimated to have an approximate readership of 180,000 in a 2002 Indian Survey.
[3] Literally, it means the kite’s room, named after the ubiquitous bird of prey that lurked on the Kolkata horizon, watchful and looming.
[4] I now wonder if that was his real name, for Noton is the name of a kind of white pigeon. Was it just a happy coincidence or a name affectionately given for a task he enjoyed, that stuck? I don’t know.

The capital of British India, from 1772 till 1911/12, Kolkata celebrated its tercentenary in 1990. It still retains many of the national assets of India, such as the Asiatic Society of India[5], the National Library,[6] the Indian National Museum,[7] the Victoria Memorial Museum and Calcutta University,[8] which was India’s first modern university and today has around 200 affiliated colleges.

There are many buildings in Kolkata that are reminders of its British legacy, many of which stand round what was once called Dalhousie Square, and now known as B.B.D. Bag, prominent amongst which are the government secretariat, the massive redbrick Writers’ Building and the General Post Office with its distinctive dome.[9] There is St Paul’s Cathedral beside the newer Academy of Fine Arts, the Gothic Kolkata High Court near the Strand and the Governor’s Palace which would have fitted the old description of Kolkata as the ‘City of Palaces’, a world one can still recall if one takes a launch/steamer ride along the Hugli, to witness the grand edifices that line the river, behind which the urban sprawl continues undeterred. Kolkata is also the city of colonial style clubs, where liveried waiters make the populous city fade amidst this manicured luxury. In fact, the Tollygunge Golf Club[10] (one of the three golf courses in Kolkata), is where Bob Wright and his wife stayed, keeping Anglo-India alive, as Mr Wright remained managing member from 1972 till 1977 and continued to live at what he affectionately called, the ‘Tolly,’ till he died in April, 2005.

Then there are the old Mansions like the ones at Park Circus and Esplanade which have still not been axed by developers’ schemes. Some of these mansions and old houses in Kolkata bear witness to Kolkata’s cosmopolitan inclusiveness, a story that is told in its Armenian Street, its Greek Orthodox Church, its Chinese restaurants, beauty parlours and hairdressers, its Anglo-Indian schools, its Parsi and Irani businesses and its Tibetan refugees.

Looking back at end of the fifties, I wonder, was Kolkata quieter then? We could hear the clanging of the trams on the main road which ran parallel to our street. We lived in a sort of joint family. Not the usual patriarchal one of a father’s family home, but one forced by circumstances on my young working parents, which was not uncommon in the mid-fifties of Kolkata. Partition had drawn a border overnight and many found their family homes and land on the ‘other’ side. These were the new migrants of Kolkata and they came in an unending stream, extending the city’s boundaries beyond its built up north and central blocks, to settle and build on the swampy land, many of them rice fields, south of the city. I realise now how lucky we were, that my parents found lecturing jobs and were able to provide a home for their siblings in our small flat. So I had uncles and aunts from both my father’s and mother’s side staying with us, spoiling me as the only child in the family. My uncles and aunts were all studying and doing little jobs to keep the ‘family’ going.

[5] Founded in 1784.
[6] The Library was moved in 1952 from Esplanade to Belvedere Building in Alipore.
[7] Founded in 1875.
[8] Founded in 1857.
[9] This square could be a section of London on an unusually deserted day, without its typical Kolkata traffic or people.
[10] Built in 1851 by the Scots indigo planter, Johnston and reclaimed and made into the Tollygunge Club in 1895 by Sir William Cruickshank who was the Head of the Bank of Bengal.

But there were other families who were not so fortunate. With no government plan to rehabilitate the refugees, those who came pouring into Shealdah Railway station, languished for years on the platforms, whole families living their meagre, undignified lives amidst a metropolis which, since then, has been struggling to cope with its population of around 14 million in its urban agglomeration which covers 1750 sq. km, though its Municipal Corporation area is only 185 sq. km. Kolkata is a north-south sprawl, a port on the eastern bank of the Hugli river in the Indo-Gangetic delta, comprising of alluvial soil and flanked by wetlands on the east, much of which have been reclaimed. Many of the East Pakistan refugees were supporters of Netaji Subhas Bose and were initially suspicious of the communist party which had sided with the war effort of the British Government and were considered anti-Subhas. Moreover, the refugees were wary of offending the post-Independence Congress government of West Bengal, still hoping for rehabilitation succour from them. But when the latter proved elusive, they organised themselves under communist leadership and illegally occupied abandoned barracks and land with tacit government support, right up to Dum-Dum and Barrackpore in the north and Tollygunge, Jadavpur and Garia in the south, in the Squatters’ colonies that changed the face of Kolkata and its politics forever.

Then began the bitter struggle against the Establishment as eviction procedures and orders were fought in protracted legal battles, protest demonstrations and rallies were organised, arrests courted in a game of survival. The state government’s initial disinterest in the refugees, in spite of their sizeable numbers, was probably because they did not have a voting right. Once this right was established, these Squatters’ colonies became the hot point of political angling, as agitational politics became the order of the Kolkata political scene and Left Party coalition governments were voted into power in short-lived state governments in 1967 and 1969, till a communist government was elected in 1977 and has since been re-elected again and again, marking the left, radical thinking of Kolkata as entrenched and almost unalterable.

This is the same left thinking that organised the Hindu-Muslim tram workers to hold a united front in a long strike agitating for workers’ rights in the face of communal violence that ripped the city apart in 1946. And in this same city, tram-burning crowds protest against the existing establishment from time to time. Kolkata remains the only city in India with trams, introduced in 1902, which meander through its 6% road surface area. I remember what a treat it was to be taken by my aunts and uncles on winter weekends for a tram ride to the Victoria Memorial gardens, before the mist had lifted from the Maidan, the green heart of Kolkata.[11] On the way, I was fascinated by the hydrants at work, oozing water from hundreds of spouts, washing the city clean. At Victoria, while the dawn tinted the majestic marble of the palatial Memorial with its imposing dome, we would hail a roving cha-wala and taste the sweet tea, tasting better for the burnt clay cups that they were swirled into from super-sized aluminium kettles

[11] Similar to the Meadows in Edinburgh.


We finished the morning outing with a breakfast of phuchka[12] from a vendor before boarding a tram back, which all had fans to cool the passengers as the day turned warmer, unlike  buses ( but one could go upstairs to feel the breeze of a moving double-decker).

When we were about to leave for Britain, one of my aunts asked me what I would like to have before I left Kolkata. My answer was, a double-decker bus ride; and that is what we did, my aunt and I saw Kolkata from the front seat of the upper deck of a red double-decker bus,[13] boarding a number 10 at Ballygunge station and going to Howrah, the twin town of Kolkata on the other side of the Hugli. Kolkata met Howrah across the imposing cantilever Howrah Bridge,[14] built between 1937 and 1943, a geometric marvel of silver steel, 99 metres high and running to 705 metres in length. And here in this west bank city of the Hugli is Howrah Station, a spectacular red brick building designed by the British architect, Halsey Ricardo, opened in 1905, expanding on the second railway of India between Howrah and the Bardhaman coalfields, begun in 1854. So Howrah and Shealdah are the two main railway stations of the city, which is the headquarters of the Eastern and North-Eastern Railways of India, as Kolkata stands as the major city before India’s rail and road arteries stretch to the troubled north east. Kolkata is also a home to the circular rail and local train  network, which bring  the floating population of the city in the daily influx of small traders, local producers, labourers and domestic help – the backbone of Kolkata’s informal sector, without which the city would not pulsate as it does.

Kolkata was the city we aspired to come to, to study in as our parents and grandfathers had done. As I was growing up, I knew it had three Universities, five medical and two engineering and technology colleges. There were the prestigious research institutes like the Bose Institute of Biological Sciences, the Saha Institute of Nuclear Physics, the Indian Statistical Institute, the Indian Institute of Management, the Marine Engineering College, to name some. As Kolkata students, we became a part of a vibrant network, organising and participating in inter-college and university fests and competitions, in spite of the dangerous tumult of Naxalite times.[15] This was the city of the National Theatre, the Kolkata stage offering Bengali, Hindi and English plays for a veteran theatre going public who had seen Sisir Bhaduri, Shambhu, Tripti and now Shaoli Mitra, and groups  like Nandikar and Kallol bringing powerful drama and acting to the city, where Jatra, the folk theatre, also remains very much alive. I remember my feet sinking into the soft plush carpet of the Metro cinema and marvelling at the silver curtain rising at Globe to show Julie Andrews dancing and singing ‘The Hills are alive.’ When the Rodin exhibition came to town, we queued up from 6 a.m. in the morning to get in and we were at the end of an already long row of art lovers. Kolkata hosts the Dover Lane Music Conference, the Indian classical concert of India’s leading maestros, which lasts through the night and people walk back early in the morning, with the Bhairavi, the dawn raaga ringing in their ears. Kolkata was also the city of the British Council and the USIS (now called the American Center), with their libraries and seminars.

[12] Deep fried crispy balls filled with spiced potato and tamarind sauce.
[13] Very much like a London bus.
[14] Reminding one of the Forth Rail Bridge across the Firth of Forth.
[15] Will be discussed below.

The British Council introduced us to travelling theatre groups, visiting artists and scholars and was the nerve centre for Kolkata students.[16] This is what Kolkata has meant to many of us, a city of enthusiastic theatre, film, art, music, book and sports lovers. The city with which India’s Nobel Laureates are associated, like Sir Ronald Ross, Rabindranath Tagore, Sir C.V. Raman, Mother Teresa and Amartya Sen and the film director, Satyajit Ray who won a life-time’s Oscar for his work. But here is also a crowd that can agitate, gather near the Shahid Minar[17] to listen to fiery speeches or be sentimentally moved to play patriotic songs in the Maidan when faced by 9 million fleeing a military pogrom in East Pakistan in 1971 and taking refuge in India, rousing Kolkata to dream for another nation’s independence, in the birth of Bangladesh.

The Shahid Minar, the Victoria Memorial and the Howrah Bridge have dominated the Kolkata skyline for a long time,  and the latter’s congestion remained a nightmare reality for people travelling between the two cities and for passengers hoping to catch trains at Howrah. Finally the bridge has been matched by the second Hugli Bridge, a multicable toll bridge called the Vidyasagar Setu, built between 1978 and 1992/93, fanning out across 457 metres between Kolkata and Howrah at the Rabindra Sadan end of the city.

When the bridge was still a dream, another dream of Kolkata was realised in 1976 very near where it was to be, in the first Kolkata Boi Mela, the Book Fair that was started by the Kolkata Publishers’ and Booksellers Guild. It takes place at the Park Street end of the Maidan from the end of January till the first week of February. Starting with a week, it now takes place over 12 days, and is visited by two million people, making its attendance the largest in the world. This is where I went to browse, buy books, see authors, watch artists and craftsmen at work, pick up reproductions of paintings by the famous artists of the Bengal School of Art and modern painters who graduate from the Kolkata Art College, scrutinise sketches and photographs of old Kolkata, marvel at the numerous magazines that mushroom in this city of readers and eat at the various food stalls, without which Kolkata would lose its appeal, as the love of good food goes with its love of books and art. In fact, the book district of Kolkata with its new and second-hand books and its publishing houses in College Street, symbolised by stalwarts like Dasgupta, is complemented by new world bookshops in Landmark and Crossword and specialised publishing firms like Seagull, to show that Kolkata still retains its hunger for books. And now it looks forward to the Book Mall that will be the first of its kind, rivalling the shopping malls with car-parks, that have changed the character of Kolkata, the shopper’s paradise which ranges from its pre-colonial New Market, its post-Partition hawker’s market at Deshapriya Park and retains the south Kolkata flavour of Gariahat market, none of which have been ousted or forgotten as Kolkata moves on.

[16] The Kolkata British Council is the first to have in Indian Director in Sujata Sen, and is responsible for putting the process of twinning Kolkata with Edinburgh (the first UNESCO City of Literature), in motion.
[17] Also known as the Ochterlony Monument

But these commercial successes did not come in any easy arch of progressive development. The agitational politics of Kolkata, the trade unionism and the centre-left rift saw an erosion of Kolkata’s industries. Companies which were associated with Bengal and Kolkata like Bengal Potteries, Bengal Lamp, Bengal Chemical, Calcutta Chemical. Sulekha (which vied with Quink ink), Dunlop[18], Surfridge, Usha which made fans and sewing machines, slowly became lost names across Bengal and India. It is true that companies like Bata and Hindustan Motors persevered. But many factories saw huge padlocks on their gates and industrial units took on a derelict, hopeless look. The industrial decline not only created job losses for workers but had a knock-on effect on the prospects of the middle class in Kolkata, which saw the emigration of young students to Universities elsewhere and an upwardly mobile population seeking viable employment outside the state in India and abroad, especially in America. This trend has continued, leaving an ageing population living alone in big houses which were once built for two to three generations to live together.

The sense of loss and disillusion gripped the state as a land-reform movement that began in North Bengal near a small town called Naxalbari, which lit Kolkata in the late sixties and early seventies in a conflagration of Marxist-Leninist violence that wanted to shake the foundations of what it saw as a corrupt, decadent, dysfunctional bourgeoisie system that needed to be swept away by a revolution. The coffee houses of Kolkata, the nexus of its many student revolutions, transformed from the storm in the coffee cup to storms of actual confrontation between students and police in barricades and pitched battles, which left College Street, the street of bookshops, of Calcutta University’s Ashutosh campus, Presidency and Sanskrit Colleges and Hindu School, a battleground between the dreaming young, the disaffected populace and the Establishment. The hit-lists which were drawn up by a section of the Naxalites, targeting people in key positions, who were seen as enemies of the people, led to murders and counter-murders, turning the tide of public support against the Naxalites.  The Naxalite movement[19] caught the city in a violence that made it dangerous for youth to stay in their homes for fear of arrest, and the death of suspected Naxalites in police custody, the vanishing of those captured (both women and men), the settling of old scores by various factions under cover of the Naxalite movement, the relentless measures taken by the Indira Gandhi Government, making in-roads into the group to splinter it from within with the help of the then state government, amounted to a good section of Kolkata’s (and Bengal’s)  aspiring, intellectual youth being wiped out altogether.

[18] Dunlop reopened on 31 October, 2006.
[19] It is interesting to note that the Naxalite Movement coincided with student revolutions elsewhere in the world. In the 1960s, American Universities saw a series of protests. There was the nationwide protest against the Vietnam War. In Latin America, this was the time of Che Guevara and a young Fidel Castro’s revolution, while in Paris, American and Latin American revolutionary protests inspired the Student Revolution of May 1968. In another context, China saw the beginning of the Cultural Revolution in 1966, which was to continue till 1978, around the time when Naxalites were finally released and free to become participating citizens of Indian social and economic life.

So Kolkata, the city of adda, that untranslatable Bengali malady/obsession/culture/lifeline – call it what you will – that serious-light, intellectual conversation/discussion/debate about politics, football,[20] newspaper articles, football and cricket matches, theatre, film, war, anything… where young men[21] gather in tea stalls, in coffee houses, on the rowaks,[22] to solve the worlds problems as it were, through adda, was suddenly transformed during the Naxalite days.  Rowaks were uncannily empty and instead of young men commenting on and teasing passing girls, there was a city of young men in hiding. Yes, what was missing was the presence of carefree youngsters. We became alert to furtive footfall, running feet, someone knifed in broad daylight, sten gunshots ripping still afternoons and silent evenings, blood spilling over tramlines and those old French window shutters closing quickly over silent streets, afraid of being called on as witnesses.

It was not till the mid seventies that Kolkata was able to bounce back to its bustling activity with its amazing resilience and  resume its claim to fame as ‘the city of processions,’ and agitational politics took on a different turn as a Marxist government came to power in 1977 to stay, perhaps forever… Processions continue, of workers, teachers, political parties, halting the slow traffic, knotting it in unimaginable convolutions in spite of measures to restrict times and roads for such spectacles, challenging the city’s transport system. The challenges have been met with new flyovers arching across the city, blocking out familiar landmarks, and siphoning the ever increasing car and bus traffic into these new vehicular ducts.

The transport system of Kolkata has seen various challenges to its existing rivals. When I came back as a student to study in Kolkata, we witnessed the onslaught of the maroon minibuses which came in with purpose built low roofs to discourage standing passengers and were a challenge to breathe in. Kolkatans, in their indomitable style, packed in like chickens in a wicker basket, the taller section folded once or twice in excruciating postures that would defeat medieval torture racks, till the minibus authorities had to revamp their buses to raise their ceiling, to let their passengers pile into every bit of space, squashed but upright. The minibuses remain, defying traffic rules in hair-raising races with each other and other buses, to scoop up passengers at bus-stops, the drivers and conductors hooting and urging themselves on, as if Kolkata is one sports ground for sprinting minibuses, totally oblivious of the lives they put at risk on the road and in their oven baking, claustrophobic, utterly choked interiors.

The state buses, battered and smashed with time, have seen many novel additions of limited-stop buses, ‘specials’ and deluxe buses, hiking fares that private buses have failed to compete with. However, around the time I graduated from a student to an earning citizen, I was grateful for the upgraded rickshaw in the auto-rickshaw, painted the yellow and black to match its Ambassador taxis and vying with their custom, offering single passenger rates as shuttle taxis on busy routes.

[20] Kolkata is the home of India’s leading football teams in Mohan Bagan (founded in 1889), Mohammedan Sporting (founded in 1891) and East Bengal (founded in 1920), which accounts for the city’s passion for the game.
[21] Tha para addas are usually dominated by young men, though the coffee houses, small restaurants and student canteens, see a mixed crowd of young women and men.
[22] The narrow platforms leading to houses.

As cycle rickshaws are banned from major sections of the metropolis, and hand pulled rickshaws are slow and laborious,[23] the auto-rickshaws offer seats that minibuses cannot assure and squeeze between spaces they cannot enter, giving hazardous rides to passengers at heart-stopping speed, who have to develop strong stomachs for these bumpy rides.

But amidst this cacophony of horns and beeps, came a new dream, overturning the alluvial underbelly of Kolkata, as hillocks appeared which soon grew grass and bushes, marring the Chowringhee’s prestigious view, blotting the entire length of Kolkata in one long line from Tollygunge to Esplanade. This was the building of the Metro, which became the definition of ultra chaos, till, miraculously, it was opened in 1984, running today from Tollygunge to Dum Dum, which, for a long time, was the only one in the country and remains the pride of the city.[24] This is where I would take my niece down for a treat, no longer longing to see Kolkata from an ageing population of Kolkata’s double-deckers, or its meandering trams, but happy to see the Kalighat pat paintings replicated, or colonial or sports  scenes at various stations and walk out onto to the sound of Tagore songs played at Rabindra Sadan Metro station, in an ambience that never fails to stimulate, baffle or astound the imagination of a Kolkata traveller in this subterranean world of cleanliness and order that continues to exist with meticulous clockwork precision.

All this has been possible because Kolkata has not seen the same kind of mob fury that has rocked the confidence of communities across India, especially as recently as in 1984[25] and 1992,[26] for it has remained relatively calm, since it had its fair share of communal violence in the pre-Partition days. So this city continues to celebrate its festivals with verve, Durga Puja[27] when families and visitors go round the city to admire the artistically sculptured images, the imaginatively structured pandals[28] and the amazing lights which are strung up to tell whole stories and contemporary events, or at Eid when around a hundred thousand Muslims pray at Park Circus Maidan and at Christmas when Park Street is strewn with lights and every grocery shop in the city sells fruit cakes.

[23] They are now on the way out as they have disturbed the conscience of Kolkata for a long time.
[24] Delhi too has a Metro now which opened on 24 December, 2002.
[25] The attacks on Sikhs that followed Indira Gandhi’s assassination by her Sikh bodyguards.
[26] The repercussion of the demolition of the Babri Masjid (Mosque) at Ayodhya.
[27] Durga Puja, the celebration of the coming of the Mother Goddess who kills the demon to make good win over evil, is an example of Bengal’s inter-dependent economic and cultural fabric, when various artists and craftsmen from all castes and religions contribute to this community festival, which is part of their livelihood. This year, Durga was sculptured in the British Museum and immersed in the Thames.
[28] Marquees that are erected to house the images and are built with artistic variations, mainly of bamboo and cloth, and can be made to look like the Taj Mahal or the British Museum, as suits the artists fancy and the time.

Living in London in Barnes, the early sixties, Christmas was the only festival I could link Kolkata with. Another similarity with Kolkata was the lack of parked cars then, which allowed us to play on the streets. One change that has come over the Kolkata middle class as it has elsewhere, albeit at a different pace, is the acquisition of cars. In the 80s when I returned to Barnes, I found cars parked in streets bereft of playing children. In Kolkata, only the rich had cars in the 60s and the most popular one, remained the Ambassador for a long time. In the seventies and eighties, though private cars seemed to be in abundance on Kolkata streets, they were not owned by the general middle classes. The liberalisation of the 90’s was followed by the banks wooing customers with loans, which changed the lifestyle of Kolkata’s middle class who now own cars, many of whose parents and grandparents didn’t. And they live in flats bought again with bank and company loans, in apartment blocks where pigeons are not welcome, buildings which have replaced the old Kolkata houses of inner courtyards, continuous terraces, and house fronts with jhul barandas of ornate trellis work. In their place are multi-storeyed buildings with minimum balcony space and the ground floor given over to car parks to accommodate the car population[29] of a crowded Kolkata, gated and with their own security system.
[29] The cars are now of multiple makes, both Indian and foreign.

Kolkata is ensnared by its tenancy laws that make it impossible to evict old tenants paying absurdly low rent fixed decades ago, and landlords lodging law suits have had grandchildren continuing the case, in the hope that great grandchildren might enjoy, the by then, degenerating family home. Another problem is the law of entailment which makes it impossible sometimes to locate, identify and round up all joint owner/shareholders to restore or sell a property. So the beautiful but crumbling old houses, some with inner courtyards or trellis balconies, are handed over to ‘promoters’, who demolish them and build concrete blocks, raising the Kolkata skyline, where newspapers now have to be delivered by boys and men running up common stairs.

Kolkata is everyone’s city, loathe to clear its pavements of pavement dwellers, its slums sitting side by side gated multi-storeyed buildings, and refugees and economic migrants still drawn to its overburdened infrastructure. It is a city of contrasts with its millions of workers, its teeming middle class and entrepreneurial rich. Revolution has always fired the imagination of Kolkata and today a new revolution has brought hope to what Rajiv Gandhi once called the ‘The Dying City’. West Bengal’s present Chief Minister, Buddhadev Bhattacharya, has welcomed the expansion of IT and a sector has come up for this purpose in its planned township area of Salt Lake. Many new institutes are added to reflect the city’s changing interests and infrastructure like those offering courses in hotel management in a new world of global hospitality or others which rework old institutions in the West Bengal National University of Juridical Sciences, necessary if one is to challenge not just the Gothic dignity of Kolkata’s High Court building, but its prolonged system of delayed justice befitting only Dickens’ Chancery. The challenge is to retain the grand old façade while instilling new methods to circumvent the colonial style red tapeism, to make way for rejuvenating economics, while not letting the poor be forgotten in the heady rush towards globalised success.

The very skies over Kolkata look different as the skyline has adjusted and altered to let its new brood of pigeons scour the horizon of a growing metropolis with a resurgent economy. Kolkata remains a home to a pan-Indian populace who have settled here, coming from the far west like, Rajasthan, the Punjab and Gujrat, from the deep south like Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh and Kerala, from the neighbouring east like Orissa and Assam and Nepal in the north, joining the native West Bengali and east Bengali/East Pakistani/Bangladeshi refugees and recent migrants in a city which may not be the economic or political capital, but prides itself in being the ‘cultural capital of India.’

References and Bibliography

Bagchi, Jasodhara and Dasgupta, Subhoranjan, The Trauma and the Triumph: Gender and Partition in Eastern India (Kolkata: Stree), 2006.

Chaudhuri, Sukanta Calcutta: The Living City (New Delhi: Oxford University Press), 1990, 1995, Vols I & II.

Chakrabarty, Prafulla K. The Marginal Men (Kolkata: Naya Udyog), 1999.

Das, Suranjan, Communal Riots in Bengal, 1905-1947 (Delhi: Oxford University Press), 1993.

Fraser, Bashabi Bengal Partition Stories: An Unclosed Chapter, London: Anthem Press, 2006.

Ray, Manas, ‘Growing up Refugee’, in History Workshop Journal, Issue 53, 2002, pp. 149-179.

Roy, Ranajit, The Agony of West Bengal (Kolkata: The New Age Publishers), second edition, 1972.

Samaddar, Ranabir, Reflections on Partition in the East (Kolkata: Vikas Publishing House Pvt. Ltd.), 1999.