About Me

I ramble about a number of things - but travel experiences, movies and music feature prominently. See my label cloud for a better idea. All comnments and opinions on this blog are my own, and do not in any way reflect the opinions/position of my employer (past/current/future).

03 March 2015

Reflections: Kolkata

It has been just over 5 years since I was last in Kolkata. Like the new shiny airport, there are things that have changed drastically - yet much remains the same. The airport itself seems to have this dichotomy - the transformation is an engineering marvel; but it manages to retain the bureaucratic overhead, seemingly recycled the public signage from the old airport; and since it is largely underused, with no one but passengers and staff, it is quite soulless.

The gap between the rich and the poor has become more noticeable. Kolkata, previously proudly working class and communist, has acquired a distinct upper (middle) class segregation - flashy malls and gated high rise complexes, live side by side with beggars, slums and street vendors eeking out a living.

The pollution levels have not decreased, instead it probably has increased. Part of that could be purely cultural behaviour - shop keepers for example regularly thoroughly wash the perimeter of their stores, but have no hesitation to throw rubbish or spit just outside the perimeter. Noise pollution has certainly increased, and the haze seems to be ever present. That said , Kolkata is probably one of the greenest cities in the world - with greenery across the city, and one of the most noticeable aspects from any high rise.

Life seems to have become harder - the long commute times and big traffic jams (average car speed seems to be around 30 Km/h) and living costs have spiraled. Although some things, like the low cost of telecommunication services (due to economies of scale), and more stable electricity supply are significant improvements, these are probably still luxuries for most.

In short a lot has changed, but not necessarily for the better or for all. In many ways it retains the old stereotypes of being dirty and unprogressive (when compared to other large Indian cities). India may be on its way to becoming an economic powerhouse, but for Kolkata at least, it has a log way to go to becoming an attractive place to live.

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