Saturday, January 9, 2010

The City Never Dies

What do you do when your city is dying? Do you feel sad like when a person you know dies? Do you tell others, “don’t worry, everything will be all right”? Maybe even go for the “inhe dawaon kee naheen, duaon ki zaroorath hain” line.

Well, if the city’s Calcutta, you eat. Calcutta might be dying (it’s been dying for the longest time, really—Rajiv Gandhi thought it was dying even back in the 80’s) but there’s always a huge variety of interesting food available in the city to take your mind off that sort off stuff. And while cities that are not dying might offer, on paper, a lot more, much still remains to be said for Cal’s cuisine which is a part and parcel of the city unlike, say, Korean food in Delhi.

Eating out in Calcutta consists largely of three cuisines: Chinese, Mughlai and Continental (a British Raj relic). There’s also “Indian”, which is a euphemism for Punjabi, but it doesn’t make sense to sample that on a trip to Cal when you now live in Delhi. There are hardly any Bengali restaurants in the city, although this is changing now.

Tangra, Calcutta’s main Chinatown, still bustles; had a tough time getting a table at Kim Fa on Christmas day. Calcutta’s other Chinatown, Tiratti Bazaar, though, I was told has shrunk down.


It’s amazing the way the political graffiti, flags and other paraphernalia has changed in favour of the Trinamool Congress. Just by looking at Calcutta, you can make out that the Left Front is on the back foot--which is pretty much the same conclusion that you’ll reach on talking to Calcuttans. From Taxi-drivers to book-sellers to commuters on those new-fangled, low-floor buses, everyone I spoke to felt “it was time for a change”. Of course, it must be kept in mind that the city has never been a great Left supporter anyway, but this time around people aren’t wishing for a CPM defeat, they are, or so they feel, prophesising it.

Of course, you never know with the temperamental Mamatadi. This sort of rise can induce a number of mistakes—spelling, for one.

Might be a pun, although it’s highly unlikely. For all its warts, Bengal’s politics, unlike the rest of the country, has little to do with caste.


vicious said...

you said it all !!!

Rakesh said...

I've now heard so much about Calcutta cuisine that I'm 'dying' to try it :P

And the spelling mistake maybe coz. the painter realised that his font size was too big.

Or maybe, she's spelled the north Indian way now :)

Vikram said...

Whats the phrase, In India you dont cast your vote, you vote your caste ? Maybe its not a mistake at all :)

Hades said...

Vicious: Did I? Waise, I started of by writing this long, rambling nostalgia-induced post but then I whittled it down to this.

Rakesh: Oh, you should. And, Calcutta Chinese, at least, is going places--I hear there's a place called 'Tangra' in NY now!

Vikram: Heh, yeah. Reminds me of another incident, this time from the 70s :

A CPI(M) piece of graffiti read : “More power to the state” referring to a demand for less centralisation.

Scribbled below:”Yes, I agree; we only had power for two hours yesterday” referring to the acute power situation of Bengal.

the blogger formerly known as sansmerci said...

a true foodie from calcutta.. do u write on

Hades said...


No, not really. But it looks like a nice site. Thanks.


Btw, if anybody's from Delhi, they could check out the Eating Out in Delhi blog. It's almost closed down now but, even then, do go through the archives--good stuff.

J. Alfred Prufrock said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
J. Alfred Prufrock said...

All too brief a post (found through trackback)

A point about Bangali cuisine in Cal - try Kewpie's, Bhojohori Manna (some 5 branches and counting), 6 Ballygunge Place (though their Salt Lake branch is rubbish) and of course Oh! Calcutta (the weekend buffets rather than a la carte).

Stadel Hotel in Salt Lake also has an awesome buffet spread on festive occasions.


Hades said...


Well, I've eaten at Oh Calcutta, 6 Ballygunje Place and Kewpies (which at one time, if I'm not wrong, was pretty much the only hoity-toity bong restaurant in Cal). I actually find the food at Delhi's Oh Calcutta better than the one at Forum.

There's one more name that I would add to your list: Suruchi on Elliot Road. Used to frequent it quite often back in the day, but haven't been there in quite some time now.

Hades said...

Still feel that the Bong food on offer in Calcutta lacks in comparison to, say, the Punju food in Delhi, though.