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Kolkata – The City of Contrasts, Chaos and Of Course Joy

Piu Sur

What could be a better way to celebrate the monsoons than be at Sasha along with Manjit Singh Hoonjan. It was a typical Kolkata adda that we are all so used to reminiscing about the charm and memories of a bygone era, the old Calcutta, its most loved icons − hand-pulled rickshaws, double-decker buses, yellow taxis, trams, the Howrah Bridge, Kalighat pats, bhars or kulhars, tea, adda, music, books, babus andbibis, gramophones, theater – all these subjects were central to the evening’s meet. It was a very culturally touching and nostalgic meet. We were all lost to the era of Kolkata we all grew up with. Time has not erased any of those beautiful sights and sounds of Kolkata that we are in touch with every day. Even when today, yellow taxis co-exist with Ola and Uber, we can never forget the golden past as the city changes each day to meet with new demands and challenges of the modern era.

Sasha has always been associated with the city’s rich cultural heritage, working with artisans and craft communities since 1978, to bring you authentic hand-crafted products and is proud of being a fair trade organization. The art of giving extends to more than just a few printed words. Sasha guarantees fair trade practices and supports the cause of learning from the past and blending it with the present in every product.

It was the right place to be in with Manjit Singh Hoonjan, who belongs to a third generation Kolkata family. His photographs speak of his romance with the city since childhood. It is only when you love the city that you can see what we cannot, running about each day, busy with life in general. The sensitivity with which he visually captures the fleeting moments is very unique. Talking to him as he presented his work was a thrill. It was however more interesting to know especially about how and when he clicked some of these photographs. As he narrated and interacted with us, he exposed us to photography which saw Kolkata in a very loving way, making the city very special for all who stay here and visit it. He brought out the history and detail of each place so vividly.  The diversity of Kolkata was beautifully represented in his works.

Starting out as a cultural and heritage tour, Manjit’s initiative has now added photo-tours. It has become the first photo tour company of Kolkata. Manjit says “I have been shooting since I was 8 years old. In a very clichéd way it had all started when my dad had gifted me an Agfa camera, a very basic black and white film camera. It was my prized possession.” For Manjit integrating heritage walks with photo tours was a seamless journey and one that has become very popular indeed. “When I saw it for a fact that people traveling in my tours loved taking photos, I married walking tours and photography and the result was the Calcutta Photo Tours.”

Calcutta Photo Tours follows an unsaid diktat: ‘make people Calcutta lovers’. Manjit wants to transmit his love for the City of Joy into the soul of every person he comes across. Kolkata is a city rich in history, besides being very photogenic and it is this very aspect that Manjit aims to bring out in his tours because he feels that the city has not been documented well.

The exhibition cum adda at Sasha brought all who loved Kolkata together enjoying talking about the city now and before. His lens did justice to each frame which he froze into a timeless classic. It merged with the ambience of the store and the mood set by the pattering of rain on the windows. It was just the right day and place for this wonderful adda and exhibition.