Friday, April 8, 2011

An Afternoon Stroll to College Street

The incidents narrated here were experienced during my third trip to Kolkata in the winter of 2010 and like the second trip back in the summer; this time also I had to spend more than a day in train to reach the land of Intellectuals. But the story is not about that train journey and how I managed to survive 24 plus hours among screaming children, gossiping sisters, watchful mothers, 'bridge' playing fathers and shouting grandmothers. Instead, this story is all about Books: yes, the small ones, large ones and the obscure ones.

It has always been my desire to go to the famous 'College Street' for an evening stroll ever since I came to know about its existence. But, unfortunately, I was unable to go there during my previous two trips. So third time I was determined to push myself into visiting the Library of Eden.

It was a typical Saturday morning. I woke up at 9 and after a quick bath and breakfast reached bank by 10. It was very difficult to stay awake till 2 in the afternoon after which I went to the nearby Madras Cafe and had a Masala Dosa for Lunch (Yes, you heard right.Masala Dosa for Lunch. Am a hard core Southie!!). After that not so heavy lunch I flagged off my Quest to find the Street for books. Using Google Maps to navigate myself through the many streets and alleyways of Kolkata, I continued my errand.

It is very hard to walk on Kolkata streets: Sidewalks are taken over by poor families, numerous tea shops, hawkers and sellers of all kinds of exotic goods. Sometimes you feel like you have passed through a time-warp: Ancient looking men pulling the Great Fat Indian Middle class in their old Rickshaws against the backdrop of almost in ruins Colonial era buildings. Trams, which are worthy enough to be display pieces in Cairo Museum, have to fight for space in these narrow streets already filled with yellow Ambassador Cabs,Rickshaws, cycles, motor cycles and people. I was right in the middle of this commotion that the babus call 'Life'.

It took me more than 20 minutes to complete by trek and reach College Street, perhaps the largest open book store in the world. Heaven for a book worm like me. The Street and alleyways are all filled with numerous small book stores selling all kinds of books: Law, Medical, Engineering, Commerce, Fiction , Poetry, Pirated versions, Originals, Seconds etc. and the best thing is that you can always find a bargain if you are willing to explore the streets (Of course your knowledge of Bengali will be most useful). It was great!!

10-15 shops and 1000 bucks later, I had in my possession, City of Joy' (as souvenir of my 3rd Trip), 'The Fountain Head', 'Atlas Shrugged', 'Cosmos' and 'Learning the Law' (as Gift to someone). Unfortunately my reading has not yet progressed, for now, after the first 200 or so pages of 'City of Joy'. I continued my exploration for some more time although I didn't buy anymore books after the first stint. Bengali girls are beautiful enough to distract even the hardcore bookworm and I am still a novice in the bookworm community :). Anyways thanks to them, I had enough money left in my pockets to enjoy another Dosa and Coffee from the old Madras Cafe at Chitharanjan Avenue.

1 comment:

  1. Another page in the Chronicles added after a long, long time..