When one travels to another part of the country every two months, it is but natural that your company for travel will change and change again. And sometimes, you have no one to share those experiences with but yourself. Every year during the winter months, I commence on a brief travel stint to Calcutta. Yes. I shall call it Calcutta because it signifies for me an ethereal old worldly-ness of times past and brings to mind an amazing haunt for the eternal broke. Winter in Calcutta can be damp but also mighty pleasurable since the mercury denotes a temperature that cannot be called cold.
Walking alone along the streets of this city, one can understand the rhythm of its street culture of vendors, food stalls and shopping. Especially a favorite hangout zone in the city for all the college going students is the College Street. The presence of colleges such as the Presidency, University of Calcutta and other medical colleges are the reasons why this name has been derived.
The three important requirements that complete an amateur academician in their early years are all to be found here. Books. Food. Friends. And to feel that you will be strolling the same streets and sipping tea in the same cafes that once attracted and continues to call out to the city’s intelligentsia is heady. College Street is known for its lanes and by lanes of books and publications. Ranging from medical encyclopedias to popular fiction for the light readers, all kinds of books are available here at discounted prices and at second hand shops. Many of the major Bengali and Non Bengali publications such as Ananda Publications and Rupa & co. are also to be found here.
A typical old Calcutta charm and the musty smell of papers indulge the traveler into its myriad lanes of stationery and office supplies. This road which stretches from Bowbazar to the College Street Bata crossing can be a paradise for the reader, student, teacher, foodie and a Calcutta lover. The famous Coffee House in the area can provide patrons with hot coffee and delicious kobiraji cutlet while you read the newest bestseller. This has been the haunt of many intellectuals and known faces throughout the ages such as Manna Dey, who even wrote a song about it. College Street also harbors the best places to quench your thirst known as the Paramount Juices and Shakes with its famed Daab Malai and chocolate shakes.
Street hawkers selling potato and eggplant fritters and phuchkas can give you the right bite while you walk along drinking chai through the college campuses looking at used and unused books. A day out in this corner of the city can make you one with the beating heart of the largest cultural hub of the country.