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College Street

August 4th, 2012 | dustin

College Street, Kolkata is a couple of blocks of mythic proportions; it comes up in virtually any travel forum about the city [of Joy], and it characterized my earliest imaginations of the place. College Street. A place where you could find any book, if only you had the time, patience, and gumption to find it. A noisy street. (Don’t stay in a hotel near College!) A continuous literary experience constructed of hundreds of informal spaces, cobbled together, stacked on top of each other.

While the actual College Street does, in fact, meet many of my previously-constructed-constructions, I must admit that it feels only slightly amped up from our day to day experience walking around. We live within walking distance of the famous bookselling venue, and our area blends seamlessly into it. While perhaps our individual block lacks that volume of retail, and that volume of foot traffic, as you move north and west, everything becomes higher density. People begin moving their wares, their stuff, their workshops (their welding) onto the sidewalk and into the street. So no, College Street was not a shock. It was a highly logical progression of retail, vendors, pedestrians, and traffic.

That being said, I wasn’t terribly inspired to go to College Street. But, it being only blocks away, we felt somewhat obligated to see it. And I, having had the weird moral compulsion to read Joyce before returning o school, decided to combine a little bit of this with a little bit of that, and turn our half-hearted tourist venture into something vaguely productive.

And so I was roused from my face-down-into-the-mattress-nap by a freakishly energetic Dustin, who was miraculously not worn out by the day’s first excursion.[1] Lured out of bed by the promise that we would take a bus rather than walk, I trudged along diligently dazed, only to find myself moments later in a rickshaw that dustin had procured.

This was our first rickshaw experience (and we were going to College Street). We’ve been living here a month, and suddenly we were transported to Tourist: 101. But let me explain. When rickshaws are being pulled by barefoot human beings, they simply do not make all that much sense in terms of efficiency. When they don’t have covers (as ours didn’t), they don’t keep you that cool. When you sit up there, you kindof feel like a jerk knowing that some one (one single man, sans shoes!) is wearing out his feet just so you can rest yours. Well, anyways. It did afford us the rare, lofty elevated street view. Which was appreciated. And of we overpaid (by how much? Hard to say precisely).

Ok. So there. We were at College Street. Which is mostly, by the way, oriented towards standardized testing and computer how-to’s. But, shifting through all that you can certainly find beat up copies of Fright Night and new copies of The Dubliners. And David Copperfield. So. Much. David. Copperfield. (And Tagore, obviously).

Feeling proud of my procuration and wanting to continue with our whole ‘new-experiences’ theme, we elected to walk down (what we assumed) was a street parallel to College—which would, theoretically, drop us off right back at home. Not so. Not so. Took us way out of the way, under the train station, through some crazy semi-permanent vendors (ok, the usual fare here, but still. New crowd, some new things. For instance, we discovered the luggage-and-umbrella-vendors, which were highly clustered).

Anyways. Dropped us off atop the pedestrian bridge we usually take to the grocery store, which was quite nice at night. You can check out Dust’s pic’s. For once we had our camera(s) and weren’t feeling too shy to snap a couple.

And that was Wednesday night, August 1st. I swear to god, it was about 5x more interesting and 20x more crowded than both this text and those pictures make it seem.

August 1, 2012

  1. [1] I’m not going to say that I put an excursion-cap on our days, but after going out once, I am invariably exhausted for hours. If I go out early, and then make it out again for dinner, I feel exceptionally proud of my endurance. The heat, the humidity, the whole getting-from-point-A-to-point-B, the interviews. . . the heat. The humidity.

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