"Calcutta and The City's Ants

After a 5 and a 45 minute flight we arrived to Delhi. Then we grabbed our baggage and after 3 hours of waiting, we were on the flight from Delhi to Calcutta.

The flight between Delhi and Calcutta takes about 2 hours. The agency’s driver took us up from the airport. We arrived to the Corporate Hotel and it was about 9 am when we got there. After a two hour rest, our local tour guide picked us up at 11:00 and we started our tour.

Calcutta the capital city of the West Bengal Province, is also the former capital city of India. The city was the capital until the year 1911 and is now the third largest metropolis of India after Delhi and Bombay.

In 1686 an English merchant married an Indian bride and settled at the three villages near Hoogly River. The locals who were against the English colonization, started resisting. They conducted night raids and killed the English. Although in 1757 the English took Calcutta back and built the Fort Williams, and made Calcutta the capital city of India.

Then the resistance movement began in 1911. Thus the English had to move the capital to Delhi.

Calcutta became the center for the war of Independence and many migrations took place. In 1971 with the tension rising between Pakistan and India, a new wave of immigration occurred. The last population count was conducted in 2001 in Calcutta. The approximate central  population in the city is thought to be 5,5 million but the general population of Calcutta is about 16 million. Unemployment, floods and starvation, ceased the incoming immigration rates.

82% of the population is Hindu while about %11-12 is Muslim. In West Bengal province %73 is Hindu while %21 is Muslim. The area which the Muslims are concentrated is between the Calcutta and Bagdogra.

The air pollution in the city is in extreme levels. Of course the most prominent factor in this is the vehicle exhaust systems. The traffic is in utter chaos. Once you open the windows, the horns and the traffic noise fills up the room. The most prominent transportation tools are the old and ruinous busses, rugged tramways and historical taxis. They are all the same brand, “Tata”.

There is also the rickshaw working with motors. These are called motoshaws. These are usually in green and yellow color. Apparently there are more than 100.000 rickshaws in the city.

The first rickshaw service in India came to be in Simla area near the Himalayas in 1880’s. The same kind of rickshaws were observed in Singapore as well. They arrived to Calcutta at the beginning of the 1900’s. At the time rickshaws were used by the Chinese immigrants for carrying goods. The rickshaw drivers were called rickshawallah’s. The motorickshaws are called the “ants of the city”. Rickshaws handle about 1 million of the transportation load of the city, daily.

Some of the rickshaws are on bikes, some are on motors and some are pulled by humans.

There is also a 32km subway line and you are not allowed to take pictures in the subway at all times.

The streets are very dirty and unattended. You can observe trash and construction wastes at every corner. Scrappy shops, apothecaries, street barbers are elements that create the silhouette of the city.

The income distribution is very unbalanced. There are thousands of homeless people. They grabbed a few blankets and called street corners their homes. Our tour guide mentions that people living on the streets are in greater number compared to the ones living in houses.

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NURHAN YILMAZ

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NURHAN YILMAZ

1951 İstanbul doğumluyum. Yıl içinde dönüşümlü olarak Sinop, Bodrum ve İstanbul’da yaşamaktayım.Küçük yaşlarda babamın mesleği gereği, Türkiye’nin pek çok farklı şehirlerinde yaşadım.