I made a trip to Calcutta from 24th-26th Jan mainly for my visa application and also to attend the wedding of a friend.
I used to live in Calcutta during my first job (1999-2000) and it was a mized bag going to Calcutta again.
Try as I might I can never make sense of Calcutta nor make up my mind about the city.
On one hand you see filth and squalor. The grime sticks to you every hour you spend outdoors and the streets are overcrowded.
On the other, the city has a charm of its own. Just walking up and down the pavement from Rabindra Sadan to Esplanade and back you meet such a different cross section of people that it blows your mind. I love just walking around, haggling with the street vendors and buying stuff I am probably never going to use 😀
This time I had some time to kill before I collected my passport from the consulate and decided I shall hunt for a Briar Pipe and spent much time walking around, asking about where I can find it.
After a couple of hours of walking around, during which I found out assorted pirated pornography CD vendors, miniature handcrafted bongs (pun not intended) and pipes and about ten different varieties of BB guns/pistols, I finally followed a solid lead from the Bong (pun again not intended) Vendor into New Market located near Esplanade (or ‘Splanede as a Kolkata resident refered it to).
After some walking around and evading umpteen saree, salwar and gift shops selling porcelain curios, I finally managed to find an old fashioned Tobacconist shop called “TC Dutt – premier tobacconist and toys”.
They had a display of a large collection of pipes and cigarette holders from all over the world. I bought a Briar Pipe made of Burma Teak and some other gift items for my co-workers at dimdim ( I am leaving India soon and this seemed like the perfect place to pick up some going away gifts).
As is my habit I struck up a conversation with Mr. Dutt Jr. the grandson of the shop’s founder. We talked about pipes, tobacco blends and the death of the pipe smoker as most people switched either to cigarettes or gave up smoking.
In a blatant move to wring out some nostalgia discount, I told him a made up story about how the pipe was to be a gift for my grandfather who was a captain in the british army (this part is true. but my grandfather was a non-smoker and died three years ago).
Anyways we chatted about stuff and he ended up giving me a 30% discount on two briar pipes and two pouches of tobacco.
All in all that was the highlight of my stay at calcutta this time. I do feel a tad guilty about ripping Mr. Dutt with the cock and bull story about my grandpa, but I think it was worth it.