This is a guest post by Lyndsey Biddle who writes for leather briefcase, a website that offers luxury briefcases direct from the manufacturer. Lyndsey currently resides in Kolkata, India, where she is learning Bengali and Indian cooking.
I moved to Kolkata, India a little over a year ago to study Bengali and to learn more about Bengali culture. Though it is not my first time in India, my introduction to Kolkata left me somewhat bewildered. What a peculiar mixture of old and new this city is. With India developing and changing at an alarming rate, Kolkata is not excluded. There are constantly new tall, modern buildings popping up and neighborhoods are now seeing shopping complexes, cafes, bookstores, and all the conveniences that come along with a modern city.
Despite the changes the city is facing, Kolkata still clings tightly to its past and traditions. For example, most women in the city still wear sarees and apply sindoor (crimson powder) to the part in their hair along with a large red tip (red dot on worn on the forehead). Most noticeable to me is the respect that men show to women, something that I have not experienced to such a degree in any of the other cities I’ve visited in India. Men always more out of the way for a lady, give up their seats, and jump to the rescue for any small issue.
Kolkata has done a good job of preserving her architectural past as well. The north central part of the city still holds onto much of its British Colonial style architecture. This area makes for a great afternoon walking destination. Victoria Memorial is another great example of architecture left by the British. The memorial was built in honor of England’s Queen Victoria and stands as one of the predominant landmarks in the city. You can get to Victoria Memorial at Maidan metro station. Entry into the memorial itself is Rs10 for Indian nationals and Rs150 for foreigners. If you are a foreigner living in India and you have some form of residential proof then you can probably get in, after a bit of arguing, for the Indian rate. Otherwise you’ll have to pay up. The gardens surrounding the memorial are really the highlight of the place. It will cost you Rs5 to get in. Come for a stroll, a picnic, or just to lie on the grass and relax.
One of my favorite places in the city is the Park Street Cemetery. From Park Street metro station, walk east of Park Street for about 10 minutes and you will reach the cemetery. Entry is free and when you enter you will feel like you have entered a secret garden. All around are grassy pathways bordered by enormous tombs of British officers, dignitaries, and other notable residents of Kolkata from the time of British occupation. Usually there is nobody else there so it is a green and serene escape from the loud bustling Kolkata beyond its walls.
Whatever your reason for visiting Kolkata, the city holds a variety of worthwhile attractions. Though my favorites are parks and gardens, you may also enjoy the city’s many traditional concerts, dance performances, art galleries and much more.