For anyone who’s seen the paradigm shift of analog to digital photography, the name Bourne & Shephard can’t be new. The oldest photography processing studio in India and one of the oldest across the globe, established in 1863 by Britishers in Calcutta. Which kept up with its good work even after drastic deterioration in customers year after year and decade after decade. The world was happily drifting towards digital with new and even cheaper digital professional and non-professional cameras, but they kept on battling.
On 16th June 2016 which was 176 years after their establishment, the team behind Bourne & Shephard finally decided, it would not be feasible to carry on. What’s heartbreaking is, there was not even a soul present to bid goodbye to the finest studio of 19th as well as 20th century barring the team of people who capsuled in time and stayed with the studio.
This was certainly a step back for art/photography lovers but the real blow came for them 25 years ago, when they lost almost everything in a fire. All the precious prints and negatives that would have been worth a fortune today, were burnt with almost all the 4 storeys of the building.
That being said and done, Calcutta has a lot more to offer. Not just from historic point of view, but literary, culinary and lot of other fronts too. I have been to the city a number of times to see and understand it closely. It is different from Delhi/Mumbai metro lives in my opinion. This is really what i would call crowded, the people here are humble, cultured and honest. Thanks to the leftist government rule for 26 years. The city is still very cheap, a lot cheaper than a number of b towns too. Still ahead of its time, the proof of it lies in the metro network when the capital was not even dreaming of a metro 2 decades ago, the city was already riding on one.
There is a lot of old-world charm here too, Trams were an erstwhile mode of transport which were initially in only 6 cities of India. At present Calcutta is the only city which has them and so is the double-decker buses. The rickshaw is unique where a man pulls them and does not ride it like a bicycle and is probably the most expensive mode of transport for a short distance.
Every Indian is crazy about cricket but there are only handful places with the craze for soccer, with teams like Mohan Bagan and Mohammedan Sporting which are the oldest surviving clubs of India and are more than 125 years old. Calcutta has equal crazy for Cricket, in the months of leagues, big displays and projectors are installed on streets where people can gather and enjoy matches. My Grandfather was an avid soccer player who has represented India on national as well as international platforms, that is what gave me information on the clubs and game even as a kid.
The Howrah and Hoogly bridges are iconic to the city’s image and they even got me caught by a cop when I was clicking pictures of them as an impatient kid, sticking a camera out of my cab. Who knew I would be stopped on the bridge and interrogated for taking some beautiful pictures. The only thing I had running in my head back then was, “I don’t want to miss my train, let me go”. Twenty minutes into the conversation and they realized I was harmless and I was let off. Luckily the cabs go till the platform on Howrah station and I managed to get my train.
I left the city with the thought of Nobel laureate Amartya sen in my head, who coined the term, “The Argumentative India“, I guess he had a Kolkattan in his mind.