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The Journey to the Cultural Kaleidoscope of Kolkata

Every city has a unique story to tell. I was born and brought up in Kolkata, India. Every time I go back, the same city touches me with different emotion. The roads, the buildings, the changing topography every time represents a unique nostalgic representation of the past and present. This time when I went back I decided to go for a day trip with my brother, revisiting the nooks and corner of the same old city that I left years ago.

Calcutta used to be the British capital of India.  The confluence of the British Raj, Kolkata under the influence of the Iranians, the Jews, and the Muslims (in the backdrop the strong Bengali culture) created the niche for the city to become the pioneer in Indian Cultural Renaissance.

My brother who is an amateur photographer seemed to have a unique gift of being a story telling guide. So  we saw the city, Calcutta (or Kolkata) like we have never seen her before.


The Bow Barracks of the Anglo Indians

Bow Barracks – Anglo-Indian Neighborhood of Kolkata

The Anglo Indians are at least two groups of people. One could have been the British people who came to Kolkata during the British rule and never went back to Britain, the other is the mix of Indian and British people.

Bow Barracks is the Anglo-Indian locality in Kolkata, the old red buildings where nearly 140 Anglo-Indian Christian families still reside here in Kolkata, on  Hare Street and Bow Bazar Police Station. During the pre and post British Rule, the Anglo-Indian community used to work in high-profile jobs in British owned companies or good paying jobs.  However, after independence and with the advent of indigenous companies, their influence and presence in the high-profile job scenario also deteriorated. Now they merely thrive to make two ends of their life meet and create a niche for their existence.

Metcalfe Street of the Fire Temple

Parsi Fire Temple in Kolkata

This is the “Parsi” or the “Parseee” region of Calcutta .The Parsis are the Persians who are the followers of the Iranian prophet Zoroaster. During the British rule under the East India Company the Parsi firms were created to leverage the brokerage of the transition of the business dealings with Indian merchants. Calcutta also emerged as a pioneer of ship building in the 18th century. Although the spirit of the Parsi family is thriving in Kolkata, their number has decreased due to migration, family planning etc. Ervad Dhunjeebhoy Byramjee Mehta established the present fire Temple Anjuman Atash Adran in 1912.

Sun Yat Sen Street of the Chinese.

Chinese neighborhoods

Sun Yat Sen was a Chinese philosopher calligrapher and writer. A small lane hidden within the hustle and bustle of the city is named after him. This is Kolkata’s own China Town where the Chinese settled during the 18th century. This neighborhood is also famous for the Chinese breakfast in another bi –lane called Territti Bazaar. Chinese New Year is celebrated with traditional Chinese values and aspects.

Pollock Street and around of the Jews

Jewish Temple

The Jewish community in Kolkata played a significant role in developing the mercantile development of the city. Till the 1970’s there were 600 Jewish families and today their number has been diminished to only 30. A traditional Shabbat requires at least ten people but there aren’t enough left to worship  in the city. The famous academia and author Jael Silliman put a lot of worth in putting all the information of the Jewish existence in Kolkata in digital context. Strangely, India and Israel shared some history.  India and Israel gained their independence almost at the same time within a span of few years. India gained her independence in 1947 and Israel in 1953. Slowly in a course of time the Jewish community did assimilate with the Indian population, yet they failed to create a niche for themselves.

Canning Street of the Portuguese

Portugese Church

The Portuguese had a love-hate relationship with Kolkata. Their initial place of worship was started in the early 17th Century. Once again this community is thriving to maintain their existence. There is nothing Portuguese about the Portuguese area and one church left within it. Historical evidence shows that Portuguese arrived in Calcutta much before Job Charnok did.

Armenian Street of Armenians

Armenian Church

During ancient times, the Armenians followed the land route through Bactria for trade relations with. Called the “Merchant Princess of India” they settled in different parts of India including Calcutta and Delhi .Sir Apcar Alexander Apcar was a notable Armenian who was a prominent businessman and later became the head of Bengal Chamber Of Commerce and Industry. There are five Armenian cemeteries in Calcutta. The area of Free School Street is popularly known as the Armenian Street. The population has been decreased to a handful of houses in Kolkata.

Although our day trip concluded for that day, so many different known yet unknown places remained to be rediscovered and revisited. Until I go back again, I will cherish these moments of getting to know my city all over again.


-Indrani Banerjee

Indrani is  from the “city of joy” Kolkata , India. However she has been living in the United States since 2005 and at present she is based in Las Vegas, Nevada.  She holds an MBA degree from University Of North Alabama. She is the business lead for major manufacturing company.  She is passionate about poetry and literature and other forms of arts like music and cinema . She  enjoys her happy hour with her friends and often takes on adventurous outings or vacations, which include rafting , base jump or skydiving . To sum up , her life is measured by “3 F’s namely fun, food, and friends .

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