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Female construction workers paving the way to the future Mega-City.

The suburbs of Calcutta are going through a major expansion. Every time I visit the city I discover a new highway, a new real-estate development, a new "technology park", a new "business complex". A friend of mine took me to this area during my last visit. Where used to be mosquito lervae infested ponds and bushes, there is a major highway being built right now flanked by billboards of inevstment opportunities in the "Future Mega-City". I rubbed my eyes to make sure I was not Aladdin. Here is a little tribute to the women who are making this investment dream for many come true.

Theme: Kolkatar Raat Din (Nights and days of Calcutta)

This feature will be an attempt at creating a "balanced " portrayal of the city in which I grew up and left sixteen years ago. I have been visiting Calcutta every year or so over the past seven years. I see rapid change in certain aspects as well as stoic stagnation in others. "India is full of contrast" is perhaps the most over-used cliché, but it is true, and very few cities are as conflicted as Calcutta and very few people as idiosyncratic as Calcuttans. The state of West Bengal has been run by the Marxist parties who have recently discovered the wisdom in "market economy". There is a palpable wind of change in the city. The buying power of the middle and upper-middle class has significantly increased while there is still a significantly large section of people who live in dire poverty. In this city, people still fill up stadiums to watch a five-day cricket match, mourn if Brazil does not win soccer World Cup, march in herds with their red flags protesting Western "imperialism", spend the entire day in "Coffee House" solving all the problems of the World, spend fortunes in buying the latest "in" gadgets and clothes at the fancy malls, live and cook and copulate in their squalid tents next to the garbage bins, beg on the streets, go to the plush Nightclubs dressed to the nines in Western fashions. A gin and tonic in a fancy bar costs 10$ (US) while people begging outside for 2 cents is not an unusual sight. I hope these pictures bring out some sense of the place.

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Additional Photos by Prantik Mazumder (prantik) Gold Star Critiquer/Silver Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 123 W: 27 N: 219] (1136)
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