I pulled out these pictures from an old hard drive I found at the bottom of my drawer recently. It’ll be a cliche to say it took me back in time, but it did – technically by more than a decade – but visually more than that.
I shot these pictures while on assignment in Kolkata in 2005. It was during Malaysia Airlines (MAS) heyday and part of its route expansion included this capital city of Bengal in North-East India. I was there as part of a media entourage to cover the inaugural flight from Kuala Lumpur to Kolkata – a route no longer serviced by MAS.
Kolkata is one of those places where the utter chaos and disarray is in an odd way, distressing and intriguing at the same time. At that time, walking around Kolkata felt like I had stepped back in time by a few decades.
I’m not sure how it looks like today, but I’d sure like to explore the parts I missed out on the last time.
Poverty and scenes of squalor are common, as common as lavish homes, hotels and clubs. Both ends of the spectrum and everything in between are visible in this city which used to be a British trade outpost. Opium (derived from poppy seeds) was produced in Bengal, and British trading companies exported this via Calcutta (as it was known then) to China.
It was a lucrative trade for the British during the 18th and 19th century making Calcutta a busy trading and shipping hub. A lot of colonial architecture and structures remain, giving the city a historic look and feel.
Street scenes, Kolkata
Kolkata trams began operations in 1873