Tuesday, Jul 05, 2022

Calcutta Diary

"It’s almost like a sleeping megalopolis has been suddenly awakened and people emerge from its gazillion honeycomb cells relentlessly": This week's diary takes you to the streets of Calcutta during Durga puja.

Calcutta Diary Calcutta Diary

Pilgrim’s Fairy Tales

In some ways, it’s like the city itself. Old and new at once—a warm, familial bonhomie, shot through with surprise and laughter. Puts you in mind of some ancient myth of eternal recurrence. Still, the Durga puja in Calcutta is like the coal of Newcastle. How do you describe an experience that has been lived, consumed, written about, photographed, filmed and feted by millions? Perhaps it takes the fresh initiate’s virgin eye to peel the layers of cliché off, well, a cliché. For a first-timer like me, the encounter comes as a series of jaw-dropping, exotic revelations. Like a haunted house ride in a giant amusement park, surprises and twists in the plot lurk at each turn. Each pandal is a new game. A crumbling building serves as one—the idols housed in what resembled an abandoned palace hall. I wonder at the choice of venue. Then the penny drops! It’s entirely a reconstruction. Oldness has been created anew.

A City Walks By