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Jane’s Walk Adda Report… the way forward.

29th June, 2013
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Calcutta Walks would help all to take the stride towards making of a brighter Kolkata.

Here in Kolkata, people always hang out with friends and have this one common essential session called adda. It’s a word that has two meanings – a. a regular place where you often meet, sit and talk and b. the activity itself. And boy, don’t Bengalis love their adda! Keeping that in mind, on 31st June, Calcutta Walks team held a full on adda session at the Portico Room, at the Taj Bengal, Calcutta’s premier 5 star hotel. The purpose of this get-together was to honor the wonderful achievements of Jane’s Walk and think about future agenda that could be undertaken for the improving life in our beloved city. A room full of Calcuttans can never be mute and so not was this – Iftekhar, the chief of Calcutta Walks, remarked the success of Jane’s Walk and expressed his gratitude towards everybody who became a part of this great measure. Many of the walk leaders were present along with many participants, well-wishers, businessmen and city-planners. Denise Pinto from Jane’s Walk, Toronto, Canada joined us via Skype and enlightened us all on the works and efforts of Jane Jacobs, the great American urbanist. For those who do not know, Jane had no formal training in the field of town planning and yet stood up to architects and builders merely by virtue of her ideas which were laced in common sense. She was instrumental in preventing a lot of wonderful neighborhoods and localities from being bulldozed. She emphasized on active citizenry or the direct involvement of the citizen of a city in shaping it. The whole idea of Jane’s Walk Calcutta (named after her) was to gather as many Calcuttans as possible and make them appreciate and feel involved in the different interesting neighbourhoods of the city. An inspiring short video was also presented that spoke of the life of Jane Jacobs and her trials behind her success. Walk-leaders such as Shuktara Lal who led the Theatre  Walk, Prof Akhil Sarkar of the Sovabazar Walk and Bonani Kakkar who showed us the East Calcutta Wetlands shared their bit of experience and how they felt the scarcity and need of such endeavors. Mrs Kakkar who is also the director of PUBLIC, an NGO supporting the betterment of Kolkata, elaborated the significance of the Wetlands and the ecological importance of such areas, “another problem with the citizen like us is that we don’t know how to mend a problem in our area. We don’t know who to call, what to say or where to lodge a complaint in a corporation.” she added, “my organization has made some booklets where you will find all the information regarding such troubles.”

 

The crowd was exuding enthusiasm as they started discussing some alarming issues that bug the roads of the city. Pollution, rubbish, narrowed footpaths and etc are some of them. Everyone put forth their opinion and tried to arrive at a solution. “A small step can mean a greater leap” – proved to be the key-mantra. Ifte addressed everyone to stretch their helping hands in their own way to help eradicate such nuisance. If one person spreads the word in their circle or neighborhood, it can yield greater results. A simple act of responsibility can evoke a sense of active citizenship among others. Planting trees, cleaning rubbish are some basic ways but more such resolving ideas should be thought of and executed. We can gather people of our own localities and inform them about the ideas and chalk out a plan of action. However, we need to keep in mind the offshoot of such agenda and hence, work wisely. Help from the local municipal corporation can be sought and environmentalists or experienced people must be consulted before any implementation.

Kolkata Police and Kolkata Municipal Corporation is to be approached for help or they must be informed about any problem or any agenda of its eradication.

An evening of Adda transcended to be a greater occasion where the face of a cleaner Kolkata was being planned by her very own citizens. Amid chit-chats and light amusements, a noble feat had been accomplished. A crowd where both Kolkata’s veteran and young populace was at hand, the Portico Room of Taj Bengal became a canvas where a bright landscape of Kolkata was being tinted. At the end, it proved to be a delightful congregation, more importantly a promising one. Here’s Ifte’s version of the story:

Greetings fellow Calcuttans,
Since we met I have had a wonderful trip to China to see the Silk Road city of Xian and the terracotta soldiers buried near it. Great fun but couldn’t wait to be back to our crazy city and continue to strive, to seek, to find ways of improving life in Calcutta.
Just to recap what we spoke about when we met and how some things have progressed so far.
Attendants at the adda included:
Mohan, Taj
Seema, Taj
Dominic Lee, Tiretta Bazar aka Old Chinatown
Ananda Lal, JU
Shuktara Lal, Theater
Bonani Kakkar, PUBLIC
Pradeep Kakkar, PUBLIC
GM Kapur, INTACH
Sumit Roy, Red Curtain Theater Group
Karo, Telegraph
Kamal Banerjee, INTACH
Mrs Singh, Heritage School
Bobby
Neela Majumdar, Earth Day Network
Samit Roychoudhury, The Great Indian Railway Atlas
Prof Akhil Sarkar, JU
Rangan Dutta, Blogger
Raj Bhattacharya, Itachuna Rajbari
Krishanu Dutta, Calwalks
Ekta Sharma, Crafted Knots
Neil Law, Rajarhat Eco Park
Rahul Mall, Studio Pomegranate
Prasenjit Sharma, Calwalks
Ifte, Calwalks
– We saw a short 15 minute presentation on Jane Jacobs and her basic tenets.
– Chat with Denise Pinto adding some points and very appreciative of Calcutta’s efforts to organise it on such a big scale.
– Walk leaders shared their experiences of the days.
– Unanimous question. What next?
Calcutta Walks pledges to:
  1. Organise Jane’s Walk every year, once a year at least. We may even do a winter edition if possible.
  2. Initiate the plaques campaign to install them wherever there are none and set in motion promotion of lesser known tourist places. For eg, Satyajit Ray’s House, Gauhar Jaan’s House, Birlas Gaddi in Kali Godam and so on.
  3. Sponsor the play based on Jayant Kripalani’s New Market Tales that Sumit Roy of The Red Curtain Theater group will help put together. Sumit will provide more details of how we’re going about it. Done. The play was staged on 27 June 2013 at Gyan Manch, Kolkata.
Rangan Datta, whose wonderful blog is on all things Calcutta, little known and rarely appreciated, was requested to continue writing on the city. Calcutta Walks supports the blog.
GM Kapur of INTACH told us that Chinatown revival is on the cards with the help from Singapore Government. Calcutta Walks pledges to help curate a photo exhibition of the Chinese in Calcutta at the Toong On Church to help revive the place and generate funds for the community members. Maybe soon or later can also have an entry ticket to the place once there is a sufficient amount of stuff to show inside. Mr Rafeeq Elias, of the Legend of Fat Mama documentary fame, has agreed to provide his images and videos.
Ananda and Shuktara Lal will help Calcutta Walks devise a walk / tour on the Theater Story of Calcutta building upon what was done in Jane’s Walk but adding more matter and bringing it up to the level of other Calwalks tours.
Karo may write about this session in The Telegraph and support this small movement.
Raj Bhattacharya of Mylestone Holidays is also very excited about actionable things to do in the city. He has been promoting the heritage Rajbaris on the outskirts of the city which have been converted into hotels / guesthouse.
Rangan Datta and Pradeep Kakkar enlightened us about the initiative Garbage Free India which was active in Russel street. Calcutta Walks proposes that we unite all the cleanup initiatives in the city (including Jungle Crows) under a banner called the ‘Calcutta Cleanup Campaign’ which already has a huge following on its Facebook Page and deserves to continue in various ways including:
I. Regular cleanups by citizens on the streets. Irrespective of the media coverage.
II. Campaign to install usable and longer lasting street signage as well as waste bins.
III. Conforming of hoardings with the surroundings. Especially in front of heritage buildings.
IV. Painting of old structures – through corporate sponsorship if possible.
Neil Law has already set forth activities for residents of the city in the wetlands as well as the Eco Tourism Park in Rajarhat. Can also arrange for kayaking, cycling, zorbing, kite flying etc in the wetlands or the eco tourism park.
Mudar Patherya, who led the Rabindra Sarobar Walk says:
“Those who were with me on Jane’s Walk through the Sarobar resolved to do something to save the trees that had collapsed after the thunderstorm in April. This is the result: for probably the first ever time trees are going to be medicated, re-erected and put back into the ground. Time: Sunday morning 9am onwards. Crane comes in at 11am. Jane’s Walk did it!”
Isn’t that amazing. Feel free to join in.
Calcutta Walks thanks everyone involved and hopes we will all respond to this post with actionable things to do and adopt a personal project if we haven’t already to improve the image of our beloved city in the eyes of the world. And most of all to justify living in this amazing metropolis that has given so much to all of us.
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Posted by Iftekhar Ahsan Ifte's passion for trespassing is second only to his love for this city. Life is an adventure for this true romantic, for whom the predictable is abhorrent. His antennae tune in to all that's 'forbidden'.

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12 Explorers in the team
778 Books in our library
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36,887 Walkers
40,652 Kilometers walked
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