February 23, 2013

Christmas in Calcutta

It seems whenever I am in Calcutta (now Kolkata) some kind of celebration is taking place. On my past few visits to the City of Joy I have commemorated the ARNABirth, enjoyed the incomparable sights and sounds of Durga Puja, and attended my cousin's wedding. I happened to be in Kolkata for Christmas in 2011, and yet again the city was in a festive mood.

The most vibrant nightlife district in town centres around Park Street (now Mother Teresa Sarani), which is decked out in Christmas lights. The grand buildings from the days of the British Raj, deteriorating yet elegant, still stand tall. Anachronistic restaurants and clubs, like Trinca's and Mocambo, are decorated in the manner in which they were during their heyday decades ago.

A large audience watches a concert take place in a nearby park. Worshippers or those just looking to rest for a bit fill the church pews. Crowds clog the sidewalks like cholesterol in an American's arteries. Magnificent yellow Ambassador taxis ply the streets. Once in a while I spot odd combinations in the dense mass of humanity, such as women clad in saris wearing Santa Claus hats.

Kolkata is a magical place. There is not much to like about the city, but so much to love about it. The commonplace and the exotic come together, the poverty and grandeur live side by side, no one is in a hurry and time passes slowly, and where, even if for a little while, anyone can feel like they are home.


"Instead of death and sorrow let us bring peace and joy to the world" - Mother Teresa