Walking around the streets of Kolkata i can’t help noticing the differences with other big indian cities. As any other indian urban landscape, it’s an assault to the senses, an unmistikable mix of noises, smells, colours and people walking everywhere.
There is pretty peculiar in Kolkata’s streets atmospheres, something like a “retro” feeling. Despite modernization is rapidly taking place everywhere in the Subcontinent, despite the fierce competition of more “Cosmopolitan” Indian mega cities, the city of joy feels so much more genuine than her sisters.
Despite the harsh realtiy of the streets, the slums and the conditions many local people still face everyday, a walk on the busy areas outside the tourist ghetto built around Sudder Street, there’s a real vibrant atmosphere amongst the thousands of punters, and even in the poorest corners, it’s easy to spot a smile and a positive attitude towards life.
We decided to take the metro and after a couple of stops, once arrived to M.G. Road, we walked towards the university area, where we knew there is a very famous canteen that caters to mainly students and teachers. On the way to the coffee house we walked through the book market, a colourful spot where it was hard to find any English title.
Nothing really changed over the last 50 years: waiters wearing old school elegant uniforms, a big old menu on the wall and giant frames with portraits. People were chatting over a cup of chai smoking cigarettes despite the No Smoking policy. A very “lefty” and bohemien vibe filled up the cafe, and reminded that in the whole of India, Kolkata has always been the “red “city.
On the way out, we stopped talking with some local students: they were demonstrating against women’s situation in West Bengal. A young female student told us how many rapes are still occuring in the city and in the surrounding countryside. they don’t get any press, let alone a proper trial. The only thing a victim of sexual abuse can do is to go back home being told that her dress code was probably the problem. Despite the death sentence for the recent Delhi gang rape case, where a young girl was killed after being attacked by 5 men, and the public opinion getting always more sensitive to the issue, i felt like Indian women are facing a reality that is not gonna change for a longtime.