Malini and driver from D.J. Tours & Travel, Kolkata, picked us up at 9:00 a.m. for a long day of sightseeing and promptly began filling our heads with facts about Kolkata on the way to the Flower Market. Keep in mind that these are Malini’s facts:
- There are over 70,000 metered taxis.
- Kolkata/Calcutta is called “City of Joy” because the people are so easily pleased.
- The hand-pulled rickshaws can weigh more than 20 kilos/44 pounds (and then you add the weight of the people) and can only be found in Central Kolkata. Elsewhere, the rickshaws are pulled by bicycles or motorbikes.
- Kolkata is the only Indian city that still operates trams. …View image… The trams were pulled by horses at one time.
- The population of Kolkata includes the suburbs and exceeds 13 million people. More than one million people make their way into the city each day for work.
- Calcutta (British name) was the capital of India during the British Raj until 1911 and British Raj buildings were all around us. Some hollow shells, others being rebuilt and still more, used…View image… despite their dilapidated condition.
The majority of these 18th- and 19th-century mansions have Landmark status in Kolkata and cannot be destroyed. Many were “landlord houses” built by merchants who received a portion of land to manage and collect taxes by the British. The landlords kept 50 percent for themselves and in the process became quite rich and built their own grandiose houses.
Down by the Hooghly River and almost under the Howrah Bridge is the Kolkata Flower Market, open 24 hours a day and crammed to the brim with sellers and buyers. But first, Malini took us down steps to the banks of the Houghly River by entering the Market through dilapidated and crumbling buildings. There, we stood for a while…watching the locals go about their early morning duties in this very polluted river. A person has to use whatever is available to wash clothes…View image… theirselves…View image…boat traffic….View image…people constantly coming and going….
…before taking a deep breath and plunging into the chaos of the Flower Market.