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Kolkata city, West Bengal, India

Phina So
March16/ 2019

After writing about Guwahati, the city of Assam state of India, this blog I write about my trip to Kolkata city of West Bengal, a state that is so close to Bangladesh. Like my other previous blog posts, I write about places that I visited along with some information, photos and experiences I encountered.

The hotel that I stayed is The Corner Courtyard, a little charming historical boutique hotel. From the outside it does not really look convincing. However, once you enter inside, ‘grandeur’ is the word that comes to your mind. Chairs, tables, walls, door holders are all stylist and perhaps are at least one hundred year old. Most of them are golden color. You feel like you go back to a hundred year earlier.

The little restaurant inside the hotel (Photo: SO Phina)

On Feb 13th, I went to Seagull School of Publishing where I met Naveen Kishor, a legend of Indian publishing. The school offers a three-month course of publishing where students have opportunities to engage with publishing professionals. I’m personally on a mission to help two passionate Cambodians to attend the school.

I met Naveen in Cambodia back in 2016 where he was invited to be a mentor for Cambodian Living Arts’ cultural leadership program. We’ve been in touch since then. In 2017 when I founded the first Khmer Literature Festival, I also invited Naveen to be a speaker on how to sustain a publishing industry. Though finally he could not make it, he still sends video of his speech. I translated the text into Khmer for the audience. It was a privilege for me to be there and meet Naveen again.

Kampu Mera Books next to the booklet of Seagull School of Publishing (Photo: SO Phina)

Seagull Books is founded by Naveen since 1982. There is nothing like this place before. I feel in love with its decor immediately. I took many photos right away. Books from many parts of the world have been translated into English, published, and sold worldwide.

A book of poetry, this beautiful sofa, and a cup of tea or coffee and you will forget everything!! (Photo: SO Phina)
(Photo: SO Phina)

After spending the whole morning and lunch at the Seagull School, I left for the Victoria Memorial Hall, a grand marble building built in early 20th century. There is a huge park surrounds the building. It is not just a memorial but also a museum and a tourist attraction in Kolkata.

The Victoria Memorial Building from the East (Photo: SO Phina)
Inside a taxi in Kolkata (Photo: SO Phina)
This shop has been selling Paan for 86 years. (Photo: SO Phina)

On 14 February, I did a little adventure. After leaving the Seagull School, I went to meet a ma’am Aditi Ghosh, a Linguistic professor at the University of Kolkata. With some guidance from Sayoni, a staff at the Seagull School, I traveled via Kolkata Metro. Mtro staff were very helpful. When asked for direction, they always paid attention to me and were kind. It is really cheap too! From one station to my destination costs only 5 to 10 rupees which is about 500 to 1,000 KHR or even less. It is always crowded.

After a few stops, asking a few strangers on the street, a hop on a local Audios with two other strangers, a bit of walk, and another hop into an old elevator, I finally met Prof. Aditi at the Linguistic Department of the University of Kolkata. She then took me to many places introducing me to many local landmarks with its history. There were so many universities in the area. Whenever she took me inside a university, she introduced me as a Cambodian delegate.

Prof. Aditi Ghosh and her assistants at the Indian Coffee House.

There are so many memories to write down. However, I have to admit that I could not write all of those here. I will leave it here again and write more when I can. When I travel I really enjoy my adventurous nature. Though many people advised me not to really show that you are new to the area, I could not help it. I will lost my way. I really need to ask people direction and need their help. Fortunately, I only met good people, curious people, and kind people.