City of Joy Kolkata was the capital city of British India, being founded in the year 1690 on the banks of the river Hooghly. While the city is a melting pot of cultures, there are some basic qualities that every Kolkata local possess, Bengali or not. Here is a list of things to do while travelling to the City of Joy and soaking in the best of what the typical Kolkata culture has to offer:
One is not a true Kalkatta-wala if they haven’t ridden a Tram or Bus. The very essence of Kolkata culture lies in that two-bogey vehicle moving at its own pace throughout the city. The tram line runs from Esplanade to Belgachia, Shyambazar, and more. Bus is the other public transport that one has to travel in to become a true local. The constant calling of the conductor for tickets, the men shouting at the driver to go faster, and that window seat which opens up a whole new world every day gives one a true flavour of the city. This is how most of Kolkata locals travel.
Does Boi Para ring a bell? Well, that’s College Street in local terms. Here the shopkeepers know more than your teachers and professors. Every local has at least once been to this iconic location, walking along the pavements lined with bookshops. One can get books here ranging from Rs50 to Rs2000. The most fun part is every book comes with discounts whose amount depends on one’s haggling power. To soak in the typical Kolkata culture, College street is the place to be.
Kolkata has its own local street markets visited by the people all the year round-Hatibagan in North Kolkata, New Market in Central Kolkata and Gariahat in South Kolkata. These places are a shopper’s paradise. With items ranging from clothes to accessories to crockery to grocery, these markets sell everything and harbours the very essence of Kolkata culture. One can bargain as much as they want for haggling is the sign of a true local in Kolkata.
Kolkata has some of the most iconic locations which form the very soul of the city. To have the Kolkata culture seep into one’s soul one has to visit Victoria Memorial, Indian Museum, go for a walk in the Maidan, discover lanes in North Kolkata, or spend a Sunday evening at Princep Ghat. Most importantly one has to watch cinema and theatre at Nandan, for theatre lives in every Kalkatta-wala’s soul. Similarly, Christmas remains incomplete if one has not visited Park Street or Jorasanko Thakurbari on Dol (Holi).
Jhalmuri is native of Kolkata and the cheapest means of joy. Fuchka (Panipuri) must be considered no less important. One also has to try the Chelo Kebab at the iconic Peter Cat in Park Street. Providing respite from the hours of book-shopping at College Street are the iconic joints-The Indian Coffee House and Paramount Sherbats & Syrups, the latter being visited by people like Netaji Shubas Chandra Bose to Jagadish Chandra Bose to Manoj Mitra. Cold Coffee and Daber Shorbot are the two most sought after items respectively. Last but not least, is Misti Doi and Rosogolla- the very heart of Kolkata culture.
No matter how many dress or miniskirts or jeans and T-shirt one has, they are not a true Kalkatta-wala if they have never donned a saree or a Punjabi on Ashtami. That typical lal par sada saree (white saree with a red border) is a must-have for every woman here. No matter how much one loves modernity tradition creeps into the heart of every local during the five days of Durga Puja. This festival captures the essence of the Kolkata culture like no other.
The very essence of the Kolkata culture is the language Bengali. Until one utters ‘Dada’ or ‘Didi’ or, hear the conductor shout aste ladies kole bachha (slow down, there is a lady with a kid) one won’t be able to feel like they really belong. The sweetest language in India, one needs to know the basics of Bengali to live here like a local.