In the West Bengal state of India lies Kolkata (Calcutta), a large metropolitan city with an old trading history. It was once the capital of the entire country, and was a place for the wealthy and the noble. It was also a hub for everything that was new, including the borrowed British architecture. Today, the specific Kolkata lifestyle is represented on several coordinates.
The Kolkata people, although accepting of foreign influences (visible in certain clothing items, the music they listen etc.), are still very fond of what is traditionally their own. They ensure the persistence of the old clothing styles of the region, the ways to cook, to wear jewelry, to party at festivals and so on. Also, you will notice a specific style in the way the streets are, or the homes. Even the means of transportation are an homage to the old local ways.
Eclecticism is a good word to describe this city. One way in which it’s manifested is through the architecture. Historical edifices and colonial ones are mingled with modern shopping centers. Also, being a multi-ethnic city, Kolkata is home to so many cultures, but it’s not exactly a melting pot, as each culture has kept its on specifics instead of borrowing and turning into something else.
The Afghan culture is well represented in Kolkata. The Afghan community here is a very new addition to the city. First of all, it brought its specific cuisine, with dry fruits and loads of spices, all new to this area. This minority has retained its traditions, yet became very attached to India. You may recognize the Afghans by their white garments and their long shirts especially.
Food-related customs are important for the Kolkata lifestyle. Food makes people come together. You will see many such gatherings in coffee houses or restaurants of all kinds. The Kolkata lifestyle also puts an emphasis on local handicrafts. Artisans make masks, tiles, brass items, embroideries and fabrics. These objects are not only sold as exotic souvenirs, but are actually used by locals in their daily lives or at special events. The people here also like to take part in all kinds of activities that involve the community, from national festivals to book fairs and from art exhibitions to traditional drama. The theater represents an essential cultural institution, thus perpetuating the ancient Indian love for the dramatic arts.
As expected, music and dance hold a central position when we speak about the lifestyle here. People love to express their joy and, after all, Kolkata is translated as “the city of joy”. Besides the folklore, which went beyond the Indian boundaries and is now known to the world, the youth are also fond of modern dances. The Kolkata spirit has filtered well the foreign influences. It is a lifestyle that is deeply rooted in and focused on the local culture.