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Calcutta: The City of Palaces

 

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Welcome to Calcutta, the cultural capital of India and one of the friendliest cities in the world. A city of amazing depth and contrast, Calcutta is home to one of the world's finest existing specimens of British imperial architecture as well as one the highest concentration of artists, poets and writers around the world. The showpiece capital of western imperialism in the so-called Orient, descendants of the fortune-seekers and refugees who arrived in Calcutta during its heydays in the 18th and 19th centuries, from all parts of the globe - from Afghans, Armenians, Burmese, Chinese, Danes, Dutch, English, Flemish, French, Greek, Irish, Jews from Baghdad and Kabul, Portuguese, Scots and Swedes,  immigrants from every corner of India, not to mention the indigenous Bengali community are conspicuous in its cosmopolitan cultural fabric.

Visitors to Calcutta, after they have overcome the initial shock much the same way they do in any other large city, find the city enchanting in its beauty, whose citizens hold the arts in higher esteem over economics. This is a city of art galleries, music festivals, theater, cinema and book fairs. The best large city in Asia for walkers, history comes walking down its streets, lined with old mansions, many covered in moss and mildew, where no visitor is turned back without an offer to share the meal, bazaars specializing in either special wares or qualified by the community of merchants that populated them and a myriad temples, mosques, churches and synagogues that tell the tale of largely peaceful coexistence over the centuries. And, by the way, street vendors and the homeless, bring the same boons and banes that their brethren do in Battery Park, Hyde Park and Ginza. Visitors who stay longer, run the risk of addiction to Calcutta's notions of freedom of speech and turn into chronic visitors or residents.  Here, all opinions are respected (one gentleman has been proclaiming for several years, via graffiti and handouts, based on some mathematical basis, that the sun revolves around the earth in 365 days, and has not been sent for a mental evaluation yet) and animated discussions over endless cups of fine Darjeeling, on any topic under the sun or beyond, are discussed for hours, often for no reason beyond the sake of debate.

Focus Calcutta Initiative, Inc. Contents may be used for non-commercial purposes without malicious intent. Last modified December 10, 2003