This photo-blog is designed to work either as a standard blog with images or - by clicking any image - a photo-album. To see an image in full resolution in the 2006 journey, click to the left or right of an image in blog mode.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Kolkata Kolkata!

Outside the Central Market Calcutta

One of the real sights in the immediate vicinity in Calcutta were the central markets, another medieval experience from the unrefrigerated meat markets, through the cooped up live chickens forming a huge reservoir for transmission of bird flu (for which we took along Tamiflu just in case) the rather more inviting vegetable and fruit stands and a host of other weird and wonderful market stalls.

Markets 2006 (compare 1976 below)

An image I took from almost the same spot 1976 showing little change over 30 years.

A video of the Calcutta Markets

Rickshaw driver at the Market

Calcutta seems to be one of the few places where running foot rickshaws are still common, or even as of 2006 may have had an exclusive licence against the use of pedal rickshaws and tuk-tuks. The first time I was in Calcutta in the 1970s I was even transported by running rickshaw over the Howrah Bridge which was an intriguing an alarming experience especially as my heavy pack made the rickshaw liable to fall over backwards every time the runner loosened his grip.

The meat market

The poultry market

Fruit and vegetables

Groceries and clothing

The market area is surrounded by a makeshift ghetto of ramshackle slum accommodation.

Everywhere in the Suder Street area, in the early morning, there are people sleeping in the streets young men, children, women with babies all sheltering under plastic wraps newspapers and anything they can find to give a degree of temporary shelter.

People asleep in the early morning

Traditional disposables: Unglazed bisque-fired cups which are smashed
each time they are used to avoid anyone using them twice and getting sick.

Rabindranath Tagore

Indira Ghandi

A Very Mouldering Medicare Centre

Crowded scenes on the Howrah Bridge (photography forbidden)

Well it may be easier not to have to arrive two hours before departure to catch a train, but there are other significant problems. When we left in the evening to go to Howrah station, choking through the clouds of pollution from trucks and the mad overcrowded diesel buses, we came over the Howrah bridge only to find the station a sea of rickshaws, taxis, touts, and stinking buses and a sea of people everywhere and the train delayed for two and a half hours.

Calcutta Station

Stalls outside

Crowds waiting in the station

Christine got very tight lipped at the sight of having to bed down in the steaming heat and hold the bags in the half dark amid staccato announcements in Hindi and English, but after a disconsolate search a passerby pointed out a way to a food hall where there was an air conditioned eating place so we sat in relative comfort taking turns to watch the trains leaving with people literally hanging out the doors and falling off as the trains departed.


When we finally got our air conditioned sleeper we found we had been bundled into a non a/c side compartment, so took over a proper cubicle and refused to budge when the guard came complaining we had made the reservation a month before. It turned out he had to give in because he and the other rail workers had set themselves up with this compartment as a luxury suite and they couldn’t afford to use it at all or their game would be up, so we ended up with a suite of four bunks to ourselves and the copious cockroaches. In the morning I found I had been bitten from head to toe by bed bugs, which took days of antibiotic ointment to calm down.

Making the best of cockroaches

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