Jenny March 14, 2013

The streets in northern Kolkata – Chitpur, Jorasanko, Shyambazar, Lalbazar, Shovabazar and elsewhere – are more than stretches connecting the dots. You spend time on the streets not just going from place to place, but also to socialize, pass time and see what is happening in the neighborhood. And, to work. In a hot and crowded city like Kolkata, the preferred and most convenient place to work often happens to be on the street, or just next to it. Makes work more social for sure – and provides a chance for passersby to get to know local handicrafts and artisanship.

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A man prepares flower decorations in Mullick Ghat, one of the largest whole-sale flower markets in Asia.

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Colorful pieces of cloth – didn’t manage to find out what they will be used for.

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Recycling provides one of the most important sources of income for many of Kolkata’s inhabitants. The great read People Without History, on Kolkata’s impoverished Muslim communities, talks about this in length. The author Jeremy Seabrook interviews women who work with recycling plastic, who say that they recognize at least 15 different sorts of plastic!

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These men are carving pieces for wooden furniture.

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Another artisan tradition is making instruments. Kolkata, indeed the whole Bengal region, has an amazing musical heritage in the folk tradition of baul. The ektara is the quintessential baul instrument, but drums are equally important.

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These men represent a different Indian musical tradition – the brass bands, popular musicians who play on festivals and wedding parties. On the road that leads from College Street out to the main Chittaranjan Avenue, you can book any of a countless number of these bands, from offices that are little more than holes in the wall.

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Of course, the street is a kitchen too!

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When you reach the northern end of Chitpur Road, the pavement on both sides of the street suddenly turns into an open workshop for making Hindu deities. Krishna, Shiva – and, of course, the local deity, dark mother goddess Kali – are cut, sculptured, painted and decorated.