Grabbing a quick vegetarian cheese and spinach quiche at Flury’s, my friend was narrating her childhood experience of Kolkata as a city to me. Her father was in the air force and that led to her changing cities very frequently. She used to live in Barrackpore, a small Air Force town around 27 km from the main city of Kolkata. As a child, she was fascinated by everything that Kolkata had to offer to her – the city lights, large bookstores, fancy multicuisine restaurants, christmas celebrations and parties all year round. Park Street, a jostling lane with everything a city has to offer is crowded anytime of the day. We walked around Park Street together and explored the city through the childlike eye of my friend.
It was December and though the evenings were cold, the afternoons were really hot. We wore shorts in the day with tank tops and simply put a jacket over in the evenings. This left an unexpected cold in our legs but the constant movement gave us enough heat to continue our nomadic exploration in the city. For now, our jackets were in our hands, we had sweat seeping through our tank tops, but we didn’t mind.
The Oxford bookstore in Park Street is one of the oldest bookstores in the city. It has large wooden walls, full stocked bookshelves with books from all around the globe and a never dying, oozing smell of coffee which keeps the reading owls awake. My friend had visited this store as a child and she had really wanted a book which her father refused to buy for her. She completed her childhood wish and bought a book from the store now. Park Street thus represents the child who wants many things but cannot get them all. It is a metaphor for unfinished business in the city where an adult keeps going back to seek something that their childhood could not give them. Kolkata is a colorful, vibrant dream set in stone in the concrete jungle surrounded by buildings and a loud bustle of constant car honks.
As we walked on the street, we crossed an ancient house with Kolkata written on it. The house was vintage and was enveloped by a scaffold of trees. There was a purple vintage car parked inside with an unrecognizable logo which was hard to recollect. It must be imported car from another country. If this was a movie, the house would definitely belong to an old Marwari businessman. The scene around us quickly changed from a huge lane filled with old buildings, to a bustling street with modern ones.
We walked around different restaurants on the street, and noticed the world’s food diversity wrapped across this one small street. The place looked like a fantasy dream with “Choice” written in every street, every shop, and every product there. I knew I could come here 20 days a month and I’d still have more places to explore. I had my first trip based argument with my friend in Park Street. She wanted to eat at an Indian restaurant and I wanted to eat Japaneese, we went to both. The perk of having a lot of leisure time in the city is that you can explore the multiple choices that are given to you. That’s when I realized that cities are like unexpected rainbows that appear without any rain, the ones that children see when they look at a white beam of light from the ruler. They represent the beauty in something unexpected, a chance encounter, of finding a new restaurant in a hidden alley or of finding an introverted stranger in the city who opens up to you.
We were walking on the street and we encountered a group of people dressed like Lord Hanuman. They had painted themselves orange and had tails connected to them. They were going to perform a play. On the same street, there was a man selling paan in a variety of flavours. His shop had a picture of Lord Hanuman and he devotedly prayed to the passerby play actors. Watching this first hand, felt like an amalgamation of a dramatic experience. It felt very fulfilling in a strange sense.
It was evening, the honks had grown louder and people were visiting park street in their element and camouflaging with the expectations of city life. There were lights all around us. Since, it was Christmas, the entire park was covered with lights and had an event show planned. It was getting cold, and we put on our jackets. The famous yellow taxis in Kolkata were flooding the streets and there was a Badshah concert happening at a restaurant nearby. We had enough for the day, starting with Flury’s, an old bakery in town and ending with knowingly missing a Badshah concert which was easily accessible to us.
We We had been exploring Park Street since morning and there had been a rush of emotions ranging from – fascination, contentment, excitement, feeling like we could never get enough of the place to actually having enough of it to return home full of light. Whenever you go to a city, you carry some of the sparkly, glitzy, individuality in you, which the city presents to you through it’s vibe. I had explored the essence of Kolkata through the bustling Park Street in a day.
Also Read – Simply College Street Kolkata