The local Kolkata Municipality could save thousands of rupees by not bothering to paint any road markings, as they do not appear to play any part in the daily lives of local residents making use of the potholed riddled roads of Kolkata. Where there are 3 demarcated lanes, 9 times out of 10, you will find 5 + vehicles abreast, and the term vehicles is used lightly, as this covers the broad spectrum of the renowned 3 wheeled tuc-tucs, tricycles bearing all means of trade for the day, from live animals to mounds of foliage, the everyday sedans, bright yellow taxis with absurd metalwork guards protecting their tail lights, buses with their resigned passengers, motor bikes and anything else that has wheels. The cacophony of sound reverberates from the incessant hooting, which eventually just becomes white noise. It appears that if one driver is a nose ahead, he has the right of way, and will force his way, with hand on hooter to within a hairbreadth of passing traffic. But out of all this chaos, must be some order, as somehow it all works. Saying that however, the panel beating business must be one of the most lucrative, as every single vehicle appears to have had some kind of facelift to its body work.
The whole city however, could do with a facelift, the appearance of lack of maintenance, dust and grime, broken pavements, pot holed roads, half completed and half demolished concrete block buildings line the roads, with refuse strewn every which way – just a general feeling of not caring. The people get on with their daily lives despite the squalor, and it must be true that if you see the same crack every day, you eventually stop seeing it. Children squatting in the gutters, bathroom ablutions taking place out of buckets on the side of the road, a couple of workmen appeared to be trying to attempt some maintenance by painting roadside railings, which were still covered in dust with the original paintwork rusted and peeling.
One job which would not be an envied profession in this town – would be that of an electrician – as the spiderweb of electrical cabling would be a challenge to any spider who wove the most intricate of webs.
A couple of landmarks on the airport route are the large Marriott Hotel, a massive new hotel being constructed by the ITC group and the biggest surprise of all, a replica of Big Ben. There are pockets of the city where some of the residents have tried to improve their living standards, with brightly painted and decorated building facades which stand out against the otherwise grey and smoggy backdrop. Despite all this Kolkata has a nervous, addictive vibrancy and I think it may snow in the city today – as my taxi driver actually used his indicator.