Park Street, Esplanade, Maidan, and Shakespeare Sarani – these formed the life of a random teenager in Kolkata back in the 90s. Seldom was there a need to venture beyond the confines of these neighbourhoods. Yet, it is just beyond, perhaps a trifle northwards, that one discovers there is more to Kolkata. Time flies, the teenager grows, travels and sees the world. Back home, he realizes that he knows more about the other cities he has been to in the past 10 years than he knows of his hometown. He could have read a book, but a book is only a gateway. The true beauty of a city has to be experienced in person. Such is Kolkata, earlier known as Calcutta.
Kolkata presents in its rich fabric of history, arts and culture, a myriad of options for the urban explorer. While the modern Kolkata is developing at a quick pace, the historic Calcutta perhaps has more arresting qualities. Be it an afternoon spent in Indian Museum or a morning walking the alleys of north Calcutta looking up the palatial of abodes of the once rich and famous of Calcutta, the city has much to offer to the student of history, architecture and photography.
Photowalks, in my opinion have a therapeutic quality. I find it quite helpful in escaping the rush of the regular life. For a few hours, I’m an observer, a passive participant to the rush of Life. Sometimes, a walk may not yield a single photo, sometimes it may give you moments worth remembering all your life. I have been known not to take photos for entire photowalks, simply because I didn’t feel like it. While there are times when I have run out of memory cards. Needless to say, my personal approach is more of a stroll where photos just happen, if they have to happen, purely driven by the moment.
Having recently volunteered as an Administrator for the photowalk group Kolkata Photowalking, I was forced to look back at my experience. Short as it may be, I discovered that I always came back with some fine memory from almost every photowalk. And a few practical lessons over time. As a photowalk organiser I have been asked about the kind of gear that one should bring to a photowalk. Even though I wrote a Guide to Photowalks sometime ago, based on my lessons I decided to make my list.
While working on the next post, I was reminded of this personal favourite of mine from a couple of months ago. I thought I would share it with a small look into why the I like this shot.
This shot was taken somewhere in the Burrabazaar neighbourhood of Calcutta during an early morning photowalk. Although purely a result of coincidences, I personally love it due to the political undertones that this shot has. It is open to interpretation. E.g. some may attribute the crumbling facade of the building towards the overall state of affair in West Bengal. Notice how the rule of thirds apply along the man, the cart and the flag post.
Life in Calcutta presents a myriad of options for an urban explorer. While history will be the common thread, the point of view will be different. One could explore based on architecture, transport, historical acts, arts etc. A recent event in the city “Explore Calcutta” chalked out several such exploration routes for the enthusiast. The event was in memory of Jane Jacobs, known internationally as Jane’s Walk. One such route took explorers along the history of theatre in Calcutta. Starting with the Jorasanko Thakurbari and ending at the Shovabazar Rajbari, the walk presented the history of theatre in 19th century Kolkata.
The walk started from Jorasanko Thakurbari, just off Chitpur Road (nearest metro station: Girish Park). The erstwhile residence of Rabindranath Tagore, houses the Rabindra Bharati University and Museum. Theatre here started in 1869 and was mostly a private affair. The “Thakurdalan” has been the stage of many a landmark plays of Bengal Renaissance Era.
… Without trying what I have to tell you. I know this is another list, and perhaps one that could incite a few moans and groans at the onset. However, this is different. I honestly do not wish to tell you what just about every guidebook has already screamed aloud, or what every most travel bloggers have already told you. Honestly, read enough of them and the “lists” could start chasing each other in your head and leave you all confused. Oddly enough, it was while compiling a “list” for my sister, who is going to visit London in a few weeks, that I came upon this little set of things, which I believe, should feature on a visitor’s list.
So, without wasting much time I’ll plough ahead.
Photowalkers in action
With the increased availability of digital cameras of all shapes and sizes, photowalking has become a regular activity for most photo-enthusiasts. So much so, that beyond personal sojourns, there are camera/photography clubs for the sole activity of photowalking. The popularity of this rather social activity is on the rise. For the uninitiated, the most pertinent question would be “What is photowalking?”
What is Photowalking?