Kolkata – Been There

Kolkata, the city with six seasons

The New Market, where this rickshaw is carrying a passenger in the rain, was built in 1874 as a place for the British to shop away from the "natives". It holds some 2,000 stalls and remains a popular place to shop, despite the growth of air-conditioned malls.

Photo by Jon Nicholson

Kolkata – Been There

Kolkata, the city with six seasons

In West Bengal state, of which Kolkata is the capital, we claim to have six seasons: winter, spring, summer, rains, autumn and late autumn. Probably no other Indian region bothers to differentiate climate in such detail. Out of these six seasons, the rains are the most welcome.

Sheema Mookherjee
Sheema Mookherjee Travel Writer

To apply the mere geographical term “monsoon” to this season would amount to blasphemy. In Bengal, it is called “barsha”, a word that brings with it the rolling of thunder in the skies and the parched earth turning a magical green overnight.

People celebrate the end of the hellish, sweltering summer and welcome the renewed fecundity of the land with a romantic intensity. The gargantuan River Ganga splits up into a vast delta at Kolkata and its surrounds, draining into the Bay of Bengal and giving the city an umbilical link with water.

To negotiate the city during rainstorms means braving mud, slush, knee-deep water logging, traffic snarls and drains blocked with litter. But that is the physical. My spirits always soar, with the help of many a familiar monsoon verse, away into the ethereal realm of newly-washed tree tops swaying above the concrete clutter and the cool caress of the damp breeze carrying a whiff of wet earth.

Inside, people sit and work. Or chat. Maybe we welcome barsha in Kolkata because it is the best time for “adda”, the Bengali term for the conversation, reminiscing, analyzing and joking that we all love over endless rounds of hot drinks.

When you cannot go out because of the rain, what better thing than to sit for hours with friends?

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The Nonapukur Tram Workshop, where these workers are enjoying a break, is an essential part of the...

The Nonapukur Tram Workshop, where these workers are enjoying a break, is an essential part of the Calcutta Tramways Company (CTC). The CTC has a heritage that goes back to 1880, with electric trams starting in 1902 (making it the oldest in Asia), but half its fleet is out of operation due to funding shortages. Photo by Jon Nicholson

Jon Nicholson

Jon Nicholson

Nikon D3X

Aperture
ƒ/8
Exposure
1/4
ISO
100
Focal
35 mm
Flash
Yes

The Nonapukur Tram Workshop, where these workers are enjoying a break, is an essential part of the Calcutta Tramways Company (CTC). The CTC has a heritage that goes back to 1880, with electric trams starting in 1902 (making it the oldest in Asia), but half its fleet is out of operation due to funding shortages.