TODAY -

Kolkata, the Roshogolla City
1st November is West Bengal State Day

S Balakrishnan *

 Roshogolla
Roshogolla



Kolkata for me is Roshogolla City; not City of Joy nor City of Hope but City of Roshogolla! It is rasgulla here, there and everywhere in the city. If one is not careful one might step on a roshogolla.

But unfortunately I could not taste the omnipresent roshogolla as we were on a short stay in the city. I am doubly cautious while travelling, lest the tongue spoil the stomach and the itinerary as well.

As one with sweet tooth, I had to fight hard to control my desire. Thus I became a Buddha during my stay in Roshogolla City. Alas, Kolkata is famous for street food.

It was in 1698 that Job Charnock of East India Company (EIC) took on lease three hamlets – Gobindapur, Sutanuti and Kalikata – for Rs. 1,300 per annum from Sabarna Ray Choudhuri. EIC’s factory in Hoogly had been ransacked by the Nawab army, hence the lookout for a new location. EIC was granted the diwani of Bengal on 12th August 1765, thus bestowing judicial and revenue-collecting powers on the Company.

Eight years later, in 1773, Calcutta became the capital of British India and remained thus till 1911. With the establishment of capital city, there was no looking back for Calcutta.

It became the City of Hope for the whole of Eastern India, and The Jewel of the East for the British. From the British vestige of Old Calcutta it grew to become New Kolkata and further as Greater Kolkata, spread over 1480 sq. km (London is 1580 sq. km). Calcutta changed to Kolkata in 2001 according to Bengali language pronunciation.

It is clear that the name Calcutta must have originated from the hamlet Kalikata or from the Kali temple at Kalighat. But a humourous story goes like this – a British asked a grass-cutting woman the name of the place. She thought he was asking about the grass and replied “kal hi katta” (cut only yesterday).

The English man mistook it for the name of the place and said aloud “Oh, Calcutta!” and it stuck. Calcutta is bang on the Eastern bank of River Ganges (Hoogly); from here it flows a further 180 kms downstream to meet the Bay of Bengal.

There is so much to see and enjoy in Kolkata that it is difficult to list here. Needless to say, the 2150-ft-long unique Howrah Bridge (Rabindra Setu) is the star attraction. It serves around one lakh vehicles and 1.5 lakh pedestrians daily. Oh, well, the tram competes with this Bridge, because it is only in Kolkata where you can enjoy a tram ride in India.

Durga Puja celebrations and Kolkata are synonymous. So much so that in 2021 UNESCO granted World Heritage Site status to the city’s Durga Puja celebrations. Besides the puja pandals, one must also visit Kumartuli locality where the graceful idols are made.

My connection with Calcutta goes back to 1950 when my father worked there for a year or two; but that was before I was born. Wonderstruck, I used to repeatedly see the few photos taken by him there and a booklet of picture postcards of Calcutta City and Darjeeling Hill Station.

  Inside a tram
Inside a tram



The tram photo was of special interest to me. Some 30 years later my appointment letter to a Central Government post in Port Blair came from the Eastern Regional Office in Calcutta.

When my second transfer from Cuttack was due, I was wondering if I would get a chance to live in Calcutta; though not very particular I was just curious. But I was luckier in being posted to Gangtok.

With a final transfer to my home state in Southern Region, the Calcutta connection got severed and my desire of living there to enjoy ‘Babu Moshai’ Bengali culture never materialized; nor my desire to gulp down as many roshogollas as possible in the City of Roshogolla.


* S Balakrishnan wrote this article for e-pao.net
The writer is from Chennai and can be reached at krishnanbala2004(AT)yahoo(DOT)co(DOT)in
This article was webcasted on October 31 2023.



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