top of page

A Kolkata Diary by Sarah Das Gupta

Trams packed with passengers, bags, animals, babies

Women clutch bunches of green spinach, spices,

garlands of white flowers.

Cows amble lazily across the lines, among

the rickshaws, then out of sight!

Scooters with smart young men and pretty girls

weave their way through traffic like bright, fluttering birds.

Lorries, vans, carts moving, then once more static.

From roadside temples, incense wafts through

morning fog.

From mosques, Imams call the faithful to evening prayer,

In New Market’s labyrinth of alleys the scents of sandalwood

and coffee drift,

Through the bright bangles, eager buyers carefully sift,

Jewellers’ shops gleam with rubies, gold and pearls,

Secret caves from fairy tales, of Arabian Nights, of

Indian princes,

Through the crowds are glimpses of a golden horde of

mangoes, spilling out of wicker baskets.

Oranges shine, bright beacons in the growing gloom.

By the Hooghly, ghats lead down to the fast-flowing river.

The city poor shiver, washing clothes and bathing at dawn.

In festivals, clay images of the gods themselves slowly sink,

Severing the human link with Man, now left to quietly mourn

Until Durga, Ganesh, Lakshmi, return next Autumn to be re-born.

On the green space of the Maidan, countless cricket matches are underway.

Wearing ‘whites’, boys knock balls for six or amid loud cheers they

take a wicket

Monsoon rains flood the city, streets become brown canals of

floating rubbish!

In every quarter, rickshaw wallahs plod through waist deep


The streets are home for many. Clay ovens puff out chocking smoke,

As coal or coke cooks staple diets of rice, dal, aubergines or okra. .

Death here is no Western-style taboo, no polite euphemism

will do.

Corpses are carried through the streets on bamboo stretchers

white with flowers.

At crematoriums or openly at the burning ghats funeral pyres

burn for hours.

A wonderful city but one of extremes,

a city of nightmares, but also of dreams!


Sarah Das Gupta is a retired English teacher who taught in UK, India, and Tanzania. After a serious accident, she was hospitalized for several months. At that time she began writing. She is currently learning to walk again. She has had work published on online magazine sites. She currently lives near Cambridge, UK.



Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page