Since its birth, this tumultuous city has been the target of derogatory descriptions. Robert Clive , who converted Calcutta into the capital of the Asian British empire, called it “the most wicked place in the universe”. Gunter Grass has been the most scathing of all: in his novel The Flounder he describes it as “…this crumbling, scabby, swarming city…”. But after writing his bitter commentary, Grass himself came to live in Calcutta for over six months. I have visited the city twelve times and have always felt at home.
Renamed Kolkata in 2001, this chaotic city is India’s cultural and intellectual hub, strangely Marxist while bureaucratic. For many firms it is called the “no-go zone”, but with its expired colonial style, Calcutta maintains the charm of the old India.