On December 8, 1930 three young Bengali activists Benoy, Badal and Dinesh cloaked in European clothing, entered the Writer's Building in the former Dalhousie Square and assassinated the Inspector of General Prisons N.S. Simpson. Though, this incident was just a tiny speck in the storied history of this central district of Kolkata, it proved significant enough to create a ripple effect that enhanced the Bengali’s role in the collective fight for Indian independence, which is the reason why the place is now known as B.B.D. Bagh - in honor of the three freedom fighters that also died that fateful day.
Historic colonial buildings depicting the best of British architecture are wonderfully maintained and are in full display in this square littered with street activities and rambling foot movements. The aforementioned Writer's Building, the Royal Exchange, Lal Dighi, St. Andrews Church, The General Post Office and Telephone Bhawan are just some of the must-see structures that would entail you to post it on your Instagram and caption it with #greatArchitecture
On a sunny but cool morning during our first official day in India - Aileen and I wandered aimlessly at the chaotic streets of Kolkata often finding charming nooks and crannies here and there to our delight. A short cab rider later took us to B.B.D. Bagh which reminded me of the similar looking colonial dotted streets of downtown Yangon.
Crossing the streets avoiding the iconic old-model taxi cabs of Kolkata almost instantly brought me 50 years back. The whole district screams of decade-old throwback inhabited during the day of a massive workforce that congregates to work on the many government and private company offices, all armed with modern gadgets and technology-savvy minds.
The rest are street food vendors, ear-cleaning touts, shoe cleaning touts, gold and silver touts and all types of touts who will try their darndest to bother you - but once you politely shoo them away they will give you a sincere smile in return.
Despite the swarming activities that may appear revolting to someone who grew up in a highly developed and less populous European city, I find B.B.D Bagh more reserve than the other parts of Kolkata that we explored. I guess coming from Manila there aren't much of a contrast - except during the night when we passed by BBD again towards Howrah bridge, I swear about not witnessing that massive of an exodus of commuters before - who like us are also headed to Howrah train station.
We regret passing up on scores of street food stalls that when we ended up on another street we cannot locate a single diner place. We asked the locals who pointed us to different directions until we managed to find one lone restaurant beside another old building.
While waiting for our food Aileen fell asleep for a few minutes while sitting down. Sleeping at the airport the previous night I felt tired already. Maybe this is how Kolkata crept up on me. It absorbed all my senses into a state of lull, while it pleases it with new discoveries and fascinating first hand observations of an entirely new culture, it beats me to the point I apathetically muttered to myself "This is just our first day".
Finally, when the food arrived I awoke from a half slumber and so was Aileen and we were greeted by the jovial server. I realized I should never fear nor surrender to the somnolent nature of continuous travel. This is India, Kolkata - the people here, the history teeming here, the culture oh so colorful here, the delicious food - there are many good things to experience. Benoy Basu, Badal Gupta and Dinesh Gupta may know that very well. To the point of giving their lives for fellow Bengali to appreciate all of these in total freedom.