A Visual History of Kolkata


alcutta to Kolkata, if we look back at how it occurred, we can see a complex process that involved the weaving of new images over the last few decades. And it was not only images, the process affected sounds, words, music, politics, socio-economic layers and much more.

From Sutanuti, Gobindapur to the Kolkata of today, there are a so many stories to tell, it has fascinated many foreigners and even Indians like myself.

The city lives with a long history and carries with it innumerable told and untold accounts of the human race.

I was born in 1970 and visited Kolkata a number of times with my parents. In this book I would like to weave a modest and faded journey through texts on that period. The visual account would cover the time from 1987-88 until today, times when I saw Calcutta remodeled as Kolkata, the colour red become the tri colour and old café culture reemerge as CCD.

What is Kolkata for me and how does it position itself within India and the country’s vivid culture? Is it really worth taking a deeper look, or is it just utopian to look back at the old history and the ruins of the British Empire. And what of the scattered middle-class Bengalis whose very existence seems almost to be under threat!

Does the so-called Bengali existence really matter ?

Well, I would like to create a book so that it flows like the river Ganges, spreading throughout the land, while each city along the way retains certain unique features.

Below is a glimpse at some of the fragmented thoughts which will grow into the elaborate flow of this book. It will use visuals and text [ about 70 per cent visuals and 30 per cent text ] to substantiate the history of the last few decades.

– What is Kolkata

– Jaminders/Zamindars of Kolkata

– Babu culture

– Tagore’s Kolkata

– Calcutta for the British and Calcutta for larger India

– The Bengal Famine

– Calcutta in the 70’s

– The Communist party and Calcutta

– The middle class Bengali

– Bengali Renaissance and its influence on Indian independence

– The river Ganges

– Culture in general as it relates to the Jorasanko Tagore house

– The Anglo-Indians and Marwari’s of Kolkata

– Club culture and restaurants

– Personalities and Calcutta

– Reality, and an utopian picture of Calcutta

– Food and the Bengalis

– Public festivals and local religious activities

– Political changes in 2010-11

– A city and a space for the existence of every class and community

– Present concepts of a metropolis and Kolkata

I am sure that a vast number of books have already been written on this city, but they were mostly preoccupied with text. Fragmented subjects and visuals have been the basis of numerous coffee table books on Kolkata, but discovering a city through a combination of history and contemporary visuals would be a new approach.

The ideas mentioned above do not follow any particular sequence and there will be many more which will arise, to become more elements that will flow through the book.

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