Calcutta Vignettes – 3

The rickshaw wallahs are such an important part of Calcutta, ferrying luggage and passengers across the streets, pulling their rickshaw by the sheer force of their bodies. I found this heart-breakingly sad and refused to use these rickshaws, but they are definitely still very much in vogue in the city. I just can’t imagine the landscape of Calcutta without these rickshaws.

I fell in love with the beautiful sound of the cowbells that these rickshaw wallahs hold in their hands, and ring to attract customers. I wanted to get one for myself, but didn’t find it anywhere. I should have asked a rickshaw wallah the source, I think now, in hindsight.

 

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A rickshaw puller’s bell

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In Bangalore, I have seen cans of filtered water being made available to the economically deprived sections of the society at INR 5 a can or so. But then, I have never seen anything as well designed and sleek as this ‘Water ATM’ that we stumbled upon near the Gariahat market.

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Water ATM near Gariahat market

Cool, no?

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Walk through the bylanes of Calcutta, especially around New Market, and you will definitely go back in time. While doing so, we came across so many quaint shops – some probably going back a few hundred years – that I loved photographing. This tea shop, for instance.

I loved, loved, loved the look of this tea shop, though we didn’t get in. There’s something very charming about the facade, right? Like it is straight out of a book.

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Wherever we walked around in the olden part of Calcutta, we came across these shrines on the roadside. The idols would be so beautifully decorated, and would look quite different from the sort of idols we are so used to seeing in South India.

This Hanuman shrine was spotted somewhere in New Market.

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Hanuman shrine in New Market

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Sindoor is a hugely important component of the shringar of an average married Bengali woman. We came across quite a few sindoor sellers outside Kali Ghat, and I was fascinated by the number of colours of sindoor powder on display.

I didn’t buy any because I am more of a liquid sindoor kind of person, and I don’t use it every day anyways.

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A sindoor vendor outside Kali Ghat

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I was utterly fascinated by this old-fashioned oil merchant’s shop in New Market. A munshiji sitting on a high desk, his minions transporting oil in big cans on a hand-pulled cart – where else could I have come across such a scene but for Calcutta?

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Inside an oil merchant’s shop in New Market

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We passed through this ‘hanging bridge’ on our way to the Dakshineshwar Kali temple. No, it is not Howrah Bridge, but a bridge built on similar principles.

I was charmed by this bridge, for reasons unknown to me. Riding in a cab going above the bridge felt like entering into a movie.

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A hanging bridge en route to Dakshineshwar Kali temple

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Water, filled in old vanaspati ghee dabbas, and transported on a hand-pulled plank was something we saw quite commonly while shopping in the New Market. Where was all that water being transported to? Where from? I can only speculate.

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Water being transported in New Market

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The variety of street food available in Calcutta is mind-boggling. With a toddler threatening to running amok the minute she was put down on the pavement, it was tough for us to sample all of this gorgeous street food – from chaats and rolls to chowmein and lassi – but we did our best.

That said, we would often crave for a Darshini to sit and rest our tired feet, in the midst of street shopping, a tough nut to crack in Calcutta.

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A kiosk selling food and tea near Gariahat market

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Have you read the other posts about our recent trip to Calcutta? Please do, if you haven’t already!

Man Proposes…

Calcutta Vignettes

Calcutta Diaries: Pastry Sampling At Flury’s, Park Street

Calcutta Vignettes – 2

Visiting Nahoum’s, One Of Calcutta’s Oldest Surviving (Jewish) Bakeries

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4 thoughts on “Calcutta Vignettes – 3

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