Monday, 30th October 2017

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11.02pm, Howrah Bridge: It is one of the busiest slices of the city with a reported daily traffic of 1,50,000 pedestrians and 1,00,000 vehicles. But this time of the night the iconic bridge is peeled down to the bare essentials. And so is he, our Mr Nameless.

If on a winter's night a traveller...

...goes out walking along the streets of Calcutta, this is how the city will reveal itself

By Upala Sen and Moumita Chaudhuri
  • Published 19.01.20, 1:15 AM
  • Updated 19.01.20, 1:15 AM
  • a min read
  •  

Every passing hour peels away a layer of light and noise, warmth and security, civilisation and humanity even. And all that remains is a debris of lowered temperatures, absence of means, resigned spirits, resilient spirits, enduring spirits. Upala Sen and Moumita Chaudhuri went out with photographer Pradip Sanyal and these are some of the images they brought back

Pradip Sanyal
Photo Credit: Pradip Sanyal
8.23pm: Central Avenue Prayag He is sitting like a statue on a plastic sheet on the pavement; one shawl tied like a turban, another one wrapped around himself. A pair of black chappals at an angle beside him. He speaks little and in Hindi, gives away no personal detail. But when asked which part of the winter night is most unbearable, he mumbles, “All of it. But when it rains in the wee hours and there is a breeze too...”
Pradip Sanyal
Photo Credit: Pradip Sanyal
9.08pm: Girish Park Kishen The young man with the mobile phone and the rest of the group comes from disparate places — Dum Dum, Barasat, Belghoria, Basirhat — to sell second-hand clothes. The bazaar comes alive at 2 in the morning. Wholesalers arrive, purchase, later mend and sell. The cold is no deterrent? “It is our rozi roti...,” he says with a shrug.
Pradip Sanyal
Photo Credit: Pradip Sanyal
8.30pm: Central Avenue Meera Das She arrived from Bihar after she got married more than two decades ago.The street has been her address all these years. Pointing to her bedding, a jumble of discarded clothes, the widow says, “The government never bothers about us — winter or summer. But I am no beggar. I work for a living.”
Pradip Sanyal
Photo Credit: Pradip Sanyal
8.34pm: Zakaria Street Asiya, Afiya, Anam The three sisters are engrossed in serious play on a pull cart. Their bit-sized woollens scattered around, a serious snub to the lowly mercury.
Pradip Sanyal
Photo Credit: Pradip Sanyal
12.43am, Park Street Crossing: Beyond this point, all merrymaking begins.
Pradip Sanyal
Photo Credit: Pradip Sanyal
11.12pm: Howrah Station parking lot 600-plus trains. One million passengers. One of the busiest junctions of the country.
Pradip Sanyal
Photo Credit: Pradip Sanyal
12.34am: New Market The old boast goes: New Market retails things that elude human imagination. No one said anything about human necessity though.
Pradip Sanyal
Photo Credit: Pradip Sanyal
9.35pm: Hatibagan Crossing The women of the street complain bitterly about police needling them, the lack of night shelters, the constant demand by supposed government agents to examine their Aadhaar card and ration card, all the while going about their daily chores and domesticity. One of them is seen cooking rice. A fair-sized rat scurries past the pot, but what of it?
Pradip Sanyal
Photo Credit: Pradip Sanyal
9.10pm: Ram Mandir Pardesi Das The diminutive tongue-tied mobile-fixated teenager stands out for his oversized blazer. Where did he get it from? "From the rubbish heap," mumbles the orphan who works as a chaiwallah's help. He also has on a dressy shirt, jeans, a stud in one ear, a kada and a chunky watch. "All these are my purchases, from my earnings," he says. The cold seems to pale before his blingy sandals and youthful exuberance.
Pradip Sanyal
Photo Credit: Pradip Sanyal
9.30pm: Sovabazar This stretch is a stone's throw from Sovabazar Rajbari, at once a landmark and also emblematic of the north Calcutta babu culture. There is a house opposite a park and at first glance it appears that its facade is growing clothes, schoolbags, quilts, toys and whatnot.
Pradip Sanyal
Photo Credit: Pradip Sanyal
10.36pm: Burrabazar Ramji Paswan and Baleswar The younger man, Baleswar, is doing all the talking as both share one roti and a gelatinous mass that is a sabzi gone cold. He says, "Raat din bahut thanda hai. Roti khilao, phir baat karega... It is too cold, be it day or night. Give us some food and then we will talk."
Pradip Sanyal
Photo Credit: Pradip Sanyal
10.51pm: Outside the GPO on B.B.D. Bagh Kya naam hai? "Rahul." Pause. Rahul kya? "Das." Pause. Long pause. "Waise to hum Yadav hai."
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