Monday, 14 April 2008

Atlantic Monthly: Kolkata

Photograph © Atul Loke-All Rights Reserved

Here's a Soundslides feature from The Atlantic Monthly of Kolkata photographs by Atul Loke. The one above is of street barbers in the Kalighat neighborhood of the city. The slideshow is accompanied by a lovely piece of sitar by Ravi Shankar, but I'm not sure why the magazine's website insists in opening a small window for the slideshow. It's annoying.

It is also the accompanying feature to Robert Kaplan's article about this teeming city. Kaplan is an author and an editor for the magazine. His writings have also been nationally featured, and while he's viewed as controversial because of his support for the Iraq war (his biography is revealing as to why), he captures Kolkata very well.

This is one of the paragraphs of the article which I found to be spot-on:

"Calcutta is, frankly, obscene. I walked out of a tony espresso bar—its windows cluttered with credit-card stickers—that offered an eclectic Indian-cum-cosmopolitan cuisine of extravagant mocha cocktails and paneer-tikka sandwiches. As I left the air-conditioning for the broiling street, I was careful not to stumble over families sleeping on cardboard along a sidewalk where men and women urinated."

It's exactly the feeling I had when I visited this city a few years ago. I was struck by the overpowering poverty the moment I stepped out of my hotel's doors. It was a jarring experience that remains with me to this day, and it doesn't seem it has changed since then.