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By Iftekhar Ahsan
Founder, Kolkata Walks

1. Architectural heritage

Thousands of houses with red-oxide floors and sleepy green-shuttered windows, the spacious porches on the ground floor, with their intricate cornices, elaborate wrought-iron grills, and open terraces give Kolkata its unique old-world charm and reflect the amazing architectural ethos of the city, but they are being lost in the mad rush for multi-storey buildings and concrete chaos.


2. The chaos of the commute

Main roads run through residential complexes. These stick thin lanes not only have two rows of parking, but also big fat yellow six-seat ambassadors (mostly carrying just the driver and a malnourished passenger) along with a Benz and a Zen, scrambling their way through them. Then there’s the legendary one way traffic rule. And somehow, everyone seems to know the flow. It’s like their mother tongue. They are just born with the traffic language of the city.


3. The mother of all festivals

Durga Pujo. These two words bring forth a flurry of images into the minds of Bengalis.  The pristine blue skies with tufts of cottony clouds and the softly swaying strands of kaash phool. The sweet strain of Mahishasuramardini at 4 A.M. in the morning on the radio in the sonorous voice of Birendra Krishna Bhadra. Durga Pujo is not just another religious festival. It’s social, it’s celebratory and it’s 100% inclusive. Everyone’s welcome.


4. The legendary sweet tooth

A true Bengali considers a meal incomplete without desserts and these two items top his list. Rosogolla is a ball of cottage cheese dipped in sugar syrup and mishti doi is sweet curd. You’ll find these at the local sweet shop everywhere. If you have a sweet tooth, it’s a sin to miss them during your visit to Kolkata. Even if you don’t like sweets so much, they’re absolutely worth a try.


5. The Mecca of cricket

Spoken in the same breath as the hallowed turfs of Lord's and MCG, Eden Gardens needs no introduction. Standing symbol to a number of historic achievements and path-defying victories, an opportunity to visit and revisit this stadium is always impatiently awaited. Even after one’s twentieth visit, after you have climbed the stairs, struggling to balance your ticket, ten pouches of water, chips and popcorn in the two hands, at the sight of the field, you pause in wonder. That one second is enough to fill you with an inexpressible nostalgia. It never fails. 


6. Tram tales

The most charming sight to come across when traveling through Kolkata are the dainty trams. Many are charmingly rusty, while even the new ones still maintain that vintage essence that makes the tram the signature icon of Kolkata. According to CTC, the first tram rolled out on the tracks way back on February 24, 1873 and has been witness to both the World Wars and the Indian freedom struggle and withstood the ravages of time to continue operations even today. A leisurely ride on a street car through the time-honoured city is must-do before leaving Kolkata.


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