January in Calcutta, makes every Calcuttan go berserk with activities. The primary reason being the beautiful cool winter weather. Among a number of events that are dished out to the city dwellers, winter exhibitions of handicrafts, leather goods, food fests attract large crowds.
The biggest crowd puller is The Statesman newspaper organized Classic and vintage car rally. Perhaps, you may be aware of the fact that Calcutta at one time was the citadel of British power or India under ‘Raj‘ mantle in her pre-independence clothing before 1947. Many parts of this 300 plus years city, have old buildings, arched walls, huge iron gates, big sprawling areas with lovely gardens, quite similar to buildings and architecture that you can see in Europe and England. The ‘Rajas’ and ‘Maharajas’, the elite businessmen along with the commoners of that time also used to roam around the city in motor cars that were also of that age. The people of this city make an annual promise to showcase and drive around, one Sunday in January those beautiful vehicles built some 50 plus years ago. The cars come with their polish, shinning in the winter sun, painted wire wheels, the bygone era horns blaring, to let today’s x-generation know of their august presence. The starting point is usually, the Eastern Command army stadium near Strand road, beside the Hooghly river. Everyone, children, men, women, in their winter dress, all visit this gala event and stay till noon and beyond to witness the stately ladies whipping up the dust and with turned wheels present themselves to be inspected, and desired…they look incredibly beautiful!
You can have a quick look at all the cars, in rolling state as they made their way from the Eastern Command stadium:
Although today ‘Calcutta‘ is known as ‘Kolkata’, let me use ‘Calcutta’, the old name as we are flipping pages of a history book and virtually touring the cache of antique cars. Like everyone else, I was excited too, to join the revelry with a heart full of car love. I spent 4 hours to see it all. Let me take you down this wonderful memory lane where you will see the cars of a bygone age… and trust me, some of them look so pristine, untouched by the ravages of time; you will feel as if they just drove out of the showrooms, moments back.
All that is missing are men in black suits and deerstalker hats, and ladies in those flowing vintage hats set at an angle to protect from the sun. I salute the owners who have maintained their old mechanical beauties with fascinating care.
As I was driving back home after meeting a slice of history, my thought ran around these vintage marvels. Comparing the cars that ran around me, the one I was driving, how different they are now..the advances the technology made..hardly I had turned a corner, an earth-shattering deep roar ripped my thoughts. Was it a Chopper ? or was it a jet fighter but the sound seemed to come at my eye level…and then my wing mirror told it all, a flash of red, and seconds passed when I stopped for the traffic lights… pulling beside me was the low slung, 21st-century sports car – the Ferrari 458 Italia.
The deep throb of her exhausts sounded like Bon Jovi singing… what ironic, the engine roar brought me back to the future, telling me you are in 2016 and not in the 1930s’, the red messenger disappeared over the bridge.
Well, I hope you enjoyed these vintage masterpieces as much as I loved writing about them.