Popularly known as the ‘City of Joy’, Kolkata is one of the greatest cities in the East with a confluence of cultures spanning centuries. However, with a combined population of over 14 million in the city and its suburbs, Kolkata has often been vilified for chaos, congestion and also pollution. In the midst of all the city’s confusion, it may be possible to find calmness and solemnity if there is a will to walk its streets.
Walk tours are becoming more and more popular in Kolkata, thanks to young entrepreneurs who are proud of their city’s culture and heritage. Calcutta Walks is one such tour that is promoting walking in Kolkata. Walking festivals are a specialization of Calcutta Walks, which does social campaigns to draw city residents to the benefits of walking. “To understand a city, you have to go out and walk,” says Calcutta Walks founder Iftekhar Ahsan, quoting legendary American urban thinker Jane Jacobs.
Jane Jacobs Walk has become common in Kolkata, thanks to Calcutta Walks’ efforts to inspire the young generation to understand their community better through walking and mingling. “Kolkata is crowded, but it also charming,” says Ahsan. “The city has embraced millions of people in so little space. All these people have brought in their cultures, architectural affinities and street food styles,” he adds.
Both foreign and domestic tourists as well as city residents join the walk tours of Calcutta Walks every day. “The idea is to show Kolkata the way it is,” explains Ahsan. One of its tours take the walkers through the famous flower markets along the Hooghly river while another passes through the Chowringhee street that gave Kolkata the epithet of the ‘city of palaces’. The tours also include visits to the Park Street, a symbol of the erstwhile British Raj, and the Victoria Memorial, a monument to the EnglishQueen. The walkers also get to cook and eat traditional Bengali food on the way.
Though Calcutta Walks have cycling trips too, walk tours are its mainstay. Each tour lasts for three honours. “There is a culture of walking in Kolkata because of the proximity. Everything that people need is nearby in this city,” says Ahsan. Many in Kolkata believe the walks will help the residents, especially the young, to understand their city better.
Beginning this month, NMT Times will cover walk tours across Indian cities, to showcase how walking and cycling are integral to exploring heritage. If you do know about such activities in your city or would like to share information about them do write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org