Sultry August night. Not even a whisper of a breeze. The bell at St John’s had just struck twice. The city is finally asleep. 2 am in Indian yogic science is the beginning of the Brahma Muhurta. Auspicious time for religious practices. It wasn’t either lost on me that this is also when supernatural activities peak.
Our guide and others in our group have gone ahead and turned the corner. Out of sight but I could still hear their rapidly fading voices. The street light directly overhead was playing tricks making it difficult to get a proper focus on the dimly lit but magnificent old Town Hall across the road. By that time I had ruined a dozen shots. To my left the deserted road stretched out to Strand Road and the river beyond. To my right the empty mass of tar teed onto Council House Street at foot of the massive western gates of Raj Bhavan.
Beyond the barred gates the driveway gradually blended into the neon tinged mist. The famed British lion atop the gate guarding the emptiness all around. Empty, except this aged and desperate photographer.
A few drops of rain. I was immediately concerned about my camera. Looked around. There was a big tree behind me leaning over the fenced off Vidhan Sabha compound. I stepped back in its shade. Temporary respite from the drizzle and the street light was cut off as well. Perfect for focusing. Dark, soft pitter patter of the rain on the leaves, eye on the view finder, zoomed in till Town Hall filled my frame, read out said ¼ th second exposure, deep breath, arms steady, finger on the shutter and… I froze! A nudge on my arm and a throaty wheeze. In that fraction of a second I died a thousand deaths. All those Ghosts that haunt central Kolkata came flying in to swamp me into oblivion.
Not sure what exactly happened in that next few seconds that lasted a millennium. To be honest not even sure if I hadn’t wet myself. I guess I screamed in a choked sort of way and jumped. When sanity returned I figured out that I must have woken up the old beggar sheltering below the tree. Whatever, dropped all plans of Town Hall by Night and jogged away as fast as my arthritic knees would allow! I am a brave man and I can tackle Ghosts but what if a Poltergeist came in?
Anthony Khatchaturian takes groups on a 3.5 hour night walk around the most historic parts of 350 year old Kolkata. He sweeps away centuries of grime and dust to reveal fascinating nuggets of unknown Kolkata. We started from New Market at 11.30 pm. We wove through bustling central Kolkata just about preparing to wind up for the day, emerged into quiet open roads lined with centuries of history, looped around the present seats of governance and authority to arrive at Gate 4 of Writers Building at 3 am for a concluding tete-a-tete with Sir Warren Hastings arriving in his horse drawn carriage.
But a lot has happened in between. Read on for the details.
Irrespective of whether you live at Kolkata or visiting, I am sure the walk will reveal aspects of the city you weren’t aware about. And if you are really lucky, tales of your tryst with the resident Ghosts would make you the center of attraction at many parties! Like it’s happening to me…Now!
Route we walked - Click to enlarge.
Walked the 4 km route over 3.5 hrs at a leisurely pace. Fascinating glimpses into unknown gems of this city's history. And as a long term resident of Kolkata, I thought I knew everything that was to be known!
Even the Ghosts did not disappoint, well…sort of!
What did disappoint is the garbage strewn around, defiled street furniture, occupied pavements & all manner of wires hanging loose. As a resident of Kolkata it pains that we can’t we keep our city clean.
Kolkata Ghost Walk, West Bengal, India.
2o August 2016.
Walking with the ghosts to Kolkata's famously haunted houses! Well, even if the ghosts prove ellusive, there is that fascinating glimpse into unknown bits of the city's history.