Among other impactful features of our City of Joy, with her teeming millions, Sudder Street, stretching across the very heart of Kolkata, is a place of immense significance. Its name has been marred by acts of atrocity and conjectures on countless occasions, but amidst the frantic chaos, Sudder Street lies bare with dreams and the lost sunshine of old Calcutta.
A few minutes away from the bustling crowd of Chowringhee, is a diverse confluence, with a fabulous flea market that serves as a reminder of the 60s and 70s hippie movement, when young westerners used Sudder Street as their base camp before the road led to Nepal. From the sprawling Fairlawn Hotel with its vintage audacity to bored chaiwallahs, Sudder Street has a very cosmopolitan ambience. There are numerous cheap hotels which are backpackers' haven. People of several nationalities converge here and add to the melting pot, thereby giving the dusty lanes an exotic touch. Within such a colourful hub of people from varied social, ethnic and religious backgrounds, it is inevitable that a number of cuisines would surface. Raj's Spanish Café offers Italian, Mexican and Spanish food and is famous for the coveted fried ice-cream. Blue Sky Café, Bawa Walson Spa'o'tel and the classy Gaylords are among the most sought after restaurants of the area, by Indians and foreigners alike and the food they serve, well... One should go there to discover the rest!
Apart from Fairlawn's history of its distinguished guest's list, Sudder Street tells a tale of the 1992 Anglo-French film, City of Joy, directed by Roland Joffé, starring Patrick Swayze, Om Puri and Shabana Azmi, shot in these very alleys. Truth be told, this is a place where the transparent walls of the class and creed conscious society shatter unconsciously; it is one of the few places in India where you can find the rare sight of a Bihari vendor engaged in a fluent conversation with a British man.
Sudder Street thus lies on an expanse of nostalgia. During dusk, lose yourself to the eclectic crowd, the funny and trippy wall graffiti and, if you're fortunate, a couple of guitars strumming to songs of an unknown language.