Breakfast at the Tolly

Breakfast at the Tolly

Strangers in search of Old Calcutta, rarely get beyond the monumental British town, with its abundant Victoriana, or the temples and tiny alley ways of ancient Kali Ghat or where Mother Teresa ministered the poor. This limitation is not the visitor's fault for he/she hasn't yet discovered that the best way to discover old Calcutta is over breakfast. Breakfast at the Tolly to be more exact.

How can you be in Calcutta and not take a picture of the Howrah Bridge.
[How can someone visit and not take a picture of the Howrah Bridge.]

The Tollygunge club is pretty much an establishment in Calcutta and is over a century old. Members tell me it has stayed pretty much the same except for the fact that the Calcutta Metro ate up some of its land. Tollygunge Club was a place where British planters and merchant princes once relaxed.talking about the price of indigo or Miss Wrangham's engagement or the shocking case of William Hunter and the three mutilated maidensn, among other things. The British planters and merchant princes have long gone leaving behind mostly rich Indians who can be found loitering around the grounds in their polo t-shirts playing golf. The club-house is a former indigo plantation house whose plush refurbishment owes more to globalized corporations than the Raj. The fact that club stands pretty much unchanged since the end of the 19th century is thanks to one eccentric Englishman by the name of Robert Hamilton Wright who managed the club since the 1950s. The Club is a glorious oasis of golf runs and bridal paths, away from the chattering masses of Kolkata.

Breakfast at the Tolly

Breakfast at the Tolly

To be honest with you it is the tales of the breakfast menu that brings me to the Tolly this clear morning in July, the colonial remnants I described earlier act merely as a setting for what should be a most satisfying breakfast. A crisp copy of The Statesmen arrives along with a pot of Darjeeling. I pour myself a cup as a pair of Japanese golfers tee-off "fore" and the ball is hit some distance away. They walk forward enthusiastically as the caddy waddles behind with a smile hunched under the weight of a large load of golf equipment. Everybody knows about the Bengalis love for talk especially about exalted topics. It usually a careless chatter about anything from Dosteovsky to the vagaries of Indian cricket selectors. It usually involves some amount of talk about cricket, football, Calcutta, food and always a footnote about the songs of Tagore. Conversation permeates over the breakfast table, somethingabout how the Jews of Calcutta were the first to introduce rickshaws from the far east to Calcutta and hence India. Interesting but since I have nothing to add I nod enthusiastically as I steal a spoon of cornflakes into my mouth. The crowning moment of morning has arrived on a porcelain plate - scrambled eggs, hash browns, sausages, fried tomatoes- and my knife and fork are put to work. Conversation is replaced by the clatter of cutlery as toasts are devoured whole. That is what you call a breakfast - an English breakfast for sure - but breakfast at Tolly is somewhat special it is a Calcuttan breakfast if there was such a thing. Not to mention all that cost me a meer Rs 55.

Breakfast at the Tolly

P.S Thank you for your well wishes - I'm feeling much better now thank you

Roadside Romeo

Meena Kadri (a.k.a Meanest Indian) a flickr contact of mine in collaboration with Ahmedabad sign painter Yasin Chhipa is holding a flickr exhibhition on the peculiarities of English in India.

In her words

‘Visitors to India are often surprised at the amount of English one encounters – in the street, peppered through Bollywood films and even in remote locales. Here, I used the colourful sign-writing tradition of India to capture the flavour of this localisation of the global spread of English.’

So "do the needful" and "have a dekho".

Jaundiced Eyes

"All seems infected that the infected spy, As all looks yellow to the jaundiced eye"~ Alexander Pope


I should have been enjoying a chat, a beer and a bite to celebrate my 21st birthday, at the Red PianoRestaurant on 'Bar Street' in Asia's newest tourist haven in Siem Reap, Cambodia….instead I find myself in a nursing home, somewhere in Khar, Mumbai, with a needle sticking out of my metacarpal vein on my right hand, feeding me a mix of dextrose, saline and a yellow colured Bcomplex fluids.

Don't worry it is not all that serious….. The doctors think it is Jaundice….Hepatitis A to be more precise - most probably caused by arather stale and cold idli-sambhar I consumed 2 weeks ago, in a roadside restaurant outside Mumbai international airport. Factoring all these things I don't foresee seeing much sunlight in thecoming months. At least the Cathay Pacific doesn't penalize passengers for rescheduling their flights, bless them. Nurse, please up the Hydrocodone in my IV fluids please.


All pictures from my K70i

Corrugated metal sheets stained in Blood

The crumpled piece of yellow and black corrugated metal sheet is stained in blood as shards of glass lie scattered all over the pavement. This November night though pleasant and cool in its exterior has been stark witness to a sinister crime. The only mistake committed by the victims was that they happened to be sleeping on a pavement. The young immature "allegedly" drunken joy riders have struck again, hurling their fast car, fueled on a deadly mix of alcohol and petrol into Mumbai's innocent poor killing them instantly.

According to PTI

Six persons, including two children, were killed and eight others injured when they were run over by a car on Carter Road in Bandra, Mumbai, in the wee hours today.

The incident happened around 3:45 am, the police said, adding that the victims, construction workers from Tamil Nadu, were sleeping on the pavement when a Toyota Corolla mowed them over.

"Three youths have been arrested, of which two, including the driver, tested positive for alcohol," Additional Commissioner of Police (West region) Bipin Bihari said. The accused were returning from a private party, he added.

A case has been registered against Aliston Pereira, (21) who was driving the car, Calvin (18) and Jacob, all residents of Bandra, at Khar police station.

A five-year-old boy and a seven-year-old girl, three women and a man were among the dead, while six men and two women were injured, the police said, adding that the injured were admitted to Bhabha Hospital in Bandra.

I feel stronger about this story than I usually would. A few days ago I happened to walk pass the encampments where these migrant workers from Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu lived. I took this picture of this young girl calling out to her kid brother. I cant help feeling haunted by the fact that the girl in the picture and her brother could possibly be dead. I only hope and pray that they are not among the casualties.

School is Out


A soft shadow falls on the uneven granite pavement as a small boy in a sky blue school uniform runs by. His mother walks behind him trying to always keep her son in her line of sight, if he runs too far she calls out to him in a slightly agitated tone and he stops, looks back smiles and runs on. The mother follows her body tilted slightly to her side under the weight of her son’s school bag, water bottle and tiffin box. These are but moments seconds in minutes, minutes in hours but the amazing thing is what I cannot explain to you in over a hundred word this frame which nothing more than 1/250th of a second of all that happened can tell all.

School is out

School is Out

[Notice the Pokemon bag and water bottle.]

[Off to the Autorickshaw across the street]

All picture taken on Carter Road as you may have guessed.

To be felt and not to be seen

Seeing by touching and feeling.

Hands stretched out these boys make their way through the corridors. I'm sure they feel my presence, they feel the shift in the air column and they hear the shuffling of my feet. Through experience and from the signs I’ve dropped they can probably guesstimate someone twice their height is crouched on the floor on his knees and is leaning forward in a rather awkward angle and they have no reason of telling why. I’m yet another obstacle in their path but than again experience has taught them to overcome such obstacles with a smile and they do

Imagine living a day without seeing, imagine someone has fastened an oval bandages over your eyes the kind that ophthalmists favor so much. You go about your day exploring how loosing one of your senses affects your life in unpredictable ways. I would imagine your day to be a kind of sensory travel which would test the limits of the visible. Once you’re on your morning train to work – mostly a circumstance of the kindness of some stranger. I’m sure you’ll inhabit a world very different than one you are used to the underlying irony being nothing is quiet changed except for the temporary loss of one of your senses. May be your commute will sound quieter than usual may or even sound empty, or even quiet. May be you’ll hear the distant whisper of Gujurati men swapping stock tips or the tinny echoes of distant voices of your local radio station or the occasional ringing of a mobile phone. I’m sure in fact the compartment is packed but the morning office crowd isn’t in the mood for conversation. To the blind man, the mute crowd is undetectable. As a photographer so often there is so much more to be felt than there is to be seen and it then becomes your job to translate what is being felt into what is felt through your cameras. May be being blind is when your whole world is to be felt and not to be seen,

A couple of months ago I got the opportunity by some coincidence to wield my camera at a blind school here in Mumbai.

Outsite lies the World
[Outside lies the world;When you are blind you take refuge in familiarity of your surroundings]

[Bombay is pretty much a hellhole if you are bind - the lack of pavements, undue obstructions on roads, unleveled roads, open manholes/gutters - all serious hazards. Then again of flip side it is still possible for someone visually challenged to commute from Virar to Worli everyday all thanks to some facilitation by some kind strangers along the way]

The Crossing.
[Though I've nothing against the Mumbai Traffic Police - but I think in this picture the presense of a camera galvanized this mamu into action.]

The Road is never Easy
[Obstacles everywhere you turn]

[They still manage them with a smile]


India Writing
points me to great story in this week's Outlook [here]

Nidhi Kaila’s organisation Esha (, which works with visually-impaired children, has come up with innovative little schemes - like Braille - embossing visiting cards on order for a rupee a card, or audio-recording a book of one’s choice for one’s drive to work. It’s not just about helping the children to earn some money. It’s also about making sure that one does that extra bit to show some sensitivity for the visually-impaired.

There is more on the story here. If you can help please do.