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Calcutta (Kolkata)


First things first, having located it on the map at the last moment I checked out the Bangladeshi Consulate this morning, quite a trek, where the boy on the desk seemed suitably friendly and assured me that it would be a doddle to bag the visa if I so wanted. Happy with that, it was time then to take in some of Calcutta's architectural wonders and first stop on my intended tour of the southern sights was St. Paul's Cathedral, a grand twice rebuilt structure in plain whitewash in and out. Whilst the standard stained glass windows and idolatory were minimal, it was fascinating wandering round to read the numerous memorial plaques left to long gone colonial figures, notably the Rt. Hon. James Bruce, Earl of Elgin and Kincardine, Viceroy and Governor General of India, who lived 1811-1863 and died at Dharamsala. Another betrayed colonial bigotry in memorial to a Sir Henry Montgomery Lawrence who "taught how kindly subject races should be ruled"....."and who fell in memorable defence of Lucknow, July 1857" (the Indian Mutiny). Capt. George T. Gowan was also killed at Tapore, "he fell whilst endeavouring to recall the mutinous sepoys of his own corps to order and obedience". A brother and sister aged just 20 and 21 escaped mutineers and endured "many months of privation and suffering" only to subsequently perish in the massacre of Lucknow. By a remarkable coincidence there was also a plaque to P.A. Vans Agnew and William Anderson, those buried under the memorial obelisk I had visited at Multan, Pakistan. Some were lost in battle, others to disease, drownings and shipwrecks. A girl of 9 died at sea.

Too late for the impressive Victoria Memorial building, a superbly ostentatious chalk white palace, I admired it from the outside then crossed the road to the Maidan, one of the largest city centre parks in the world, akin to the Padangs of K.L. or Singapore and New York's Central Park. Fountains danced to music here and crossing the considerable length of it I had to dodge umpteen rabble bands of enthusiastic cricketers and footballers. Across the other side I spied my first of Calcutta's trams, now sadly a dilapidated and dwindling force, and the population of this city was epitomised in a veritable constant stream of buses. Further on I came across the suspiciously Scottish sounding Ochterlony Monument (named after a certain Sir David), a 46 metre tall white obelisk resembling a minaret which the Indians had tried to decolonialise with a forgettable local name. It had been erected in 1828 in commemoration of his leadership of East India Company troops to victory in the Nepalese wars 1814-16. Given the distances involved in discovering Calcutta that was quite enough for one day.

Posted by andyhay 00:00 Archived in India

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