Friday, December 16, 2011

Vacation in Calcutta: Changing Landscape

I returned from Calcutta to Bangalore this week. Each time I visit Calcutta I feel the old Calcutta I grew up in has moved a few more inches back to make way for a new Calcutta. Most old buildings have made way for new apartments. The ones that have not received the interest of promoters are begging for repair to resist the effect of time. Their owners don’t repair them - either because they are not financially sound enough or because the buildings are let out, in parts, to multiple tenants who have not revised their rents for decades.

These buildings are generally sprawling with large verandas. They present risk to pedestrians walking under them. Some buildings have cautionary boards on them and the rest leave the pedestrians to their fate.

A little away from my area a ruin drew my attention. It is a heap of debris, remnants of an old structure under demolition now. At the middle of the ruin stands a grocery shop which has somehow escaped the demolition drive.

I asked how. The building belonged to a widow whose children are settled in the US. The widow owned several buildings which she willed away to charity organizations some time back. One of them she donated to the healthcare wing of an organization which is supposed to take care of her in return until she is alive.

The building with the shop within was also her property. It will be replaced by an ashram. The building, like other old buildings, had lot of tanents. While the other tenants accepted the financial compensation the promoter offered them to leave the building, the grocery shop owners (four brothers) refused to accept the payment and demanded a shop in the same position of the  ashram instead. The promoter refused and the grocer brothers went to court, halting the demolition drive. This is the story of any changing landscape.

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