Have you ever explored a place looking at it through someone else’s eyes? It could be any place—perhaps the city you live in or a destination you’re visiting for the first time.

The perspective changes. I call this the ‘magical perspective’. It doesn’t permanently change the way I look at things, it helps me identify with the place while living it through someone else’s words, yet I experience it through my own feelings. And by the end of it all, it leaves effervescent memories which I know will never repeat. There is a detachment in the experience yet it is so involving.

Losing myself in the colours and textures.
Losing myself in the colours and textures.

Calcutta, or Kolkata as we know it now, is a city that is very alien to me, in a number of ways. As I have mentioned before, it is a city where I have felt the need to explore its charms and the stories with some company.

However, more recently I have had the pleasure of keeping company of people who are not from the city itself; call them tourists or call them focussed explorers. In their quest of getting around the city to get what they want or in my attempt to play the not-so-uninformed host, I chanced upon some characteristic lanes and polite people.

On a humid day, we head out to Burrabazar. It was a part of town I had never been to previously. Sure, it allured me but I remained clueless of how I may make my way through it.

Bidding farewell to our cab on the main road, I came across of a number of old men who navigated me to the designated shop we wanted to visit. It was an easy 10-15 minute walk inside through the labyrinth-like lanes. We crossed kids playing on the street, women idly gossiping, men grouchily looking at pedestrians and the most attractive feature, the colourful, old shops. This vast market has everything— from hardware shops to fresh fruits and vegetable vendors. The lanes were filled with chaos, clutter and political symbols and flags. My few hours in Burrabazar reminded me how the destination and the purpose isn’t as important as the journey.

Quietly watching the world go by?
Quietly watching the world go by?

The humidity continued to test our patience though it did not take away the fun. Until we could not manage a transport to Sealdah Station, our next stop. Desperately we walked and hailed the moody yellow cabbies for more than 20 minutes.

We managed to get a drop off at a point where cabs, rickshaws and buses divert off for Sealdah, and then gallantly proceeded for our onward journey in a bus! None of us were aware of the route or the expense but it felt like a city-adventure through our college days.

We treated ourselves with a snack break in Sealdah Station and on completing our work there, it was time again to begin our hunt for public transport across the mayhem roads. This time, we got lucky in a minute.

Once in Park Street, Kolkata’s iconic road, we made it well in time for a comfortable break in Mocambo Restaurant. Until we took our first sip of water, we didn’t realise how completely exhausted we were. And by the time I sipped from my cocktail glass, I knew I wouldn’t have had the day I did, without the company I kept.

The drive to explore brings curious minds together, I suppose. And a little bit of diverse perspective, always adds to the flavour of the experience.

When has magical perspective worked for you?

Amrita Das

I have been a travel and culture independent journalist. My bylines have appeared in many publications worldwide including National Geographic Traveller India, Lonely Planet Magazine India, The Indian Express and World Travel Magazine. A fellow of Media Ambassadors India-Germany 2019 program by Robert Bosch Stiftung and Centre for Media Competence, University of Tübingen. Currently, I am the photo editor for RoundGlass Sustain, a wildlife and conservation e-publication. I live in India.

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11 thoughts on “Exploring Kolkata Through a Different Perspective”

    1. I agree actually. The only catch with a solo traveller is, I’ve become choosy about the company I keep :D

  1. Before 5 years it was just a travel. But past 5 years I too many times tour as I am not from here. Earlier I never watched and thought about too many puzzled live wire on a pole in a busy market but now it is and a thought – how an electrician differentiate which wire is for which house and how he solves issues if happens?

    1. Ha, the expert eye of an electrician in Kolkata cannot be contested, Tushar! :P

    1. Kolkata does have its own charm though honestly Andrew, I’d rather explore it with someone.

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