Sunday, 19 November 2017

Balmer Lawrie & Co., Clive Street

Calcutta’s central business district around Dalhousie Square has two things in abundance. One, Scottish firms set up during the Raj, but now continuing under Indian management, and two, heritage buildings, belonging to the aforementioned Scottish firms, approximately half of which are in a woeful state. If one were only to look at the names – Mackinnon Mackenzie, Turner Morrison, Shaw Wallace, Graham, these are all Scottish names. The Scots were the merchants of the Raj and they made their fortune in the imperial capital. What sets Balmer Lawrie & Co. apart from the rest is the fact that it has survived and prospered much better than its neighbours. The head office on Clive Street (now N.S. Road), therefore, is also one of the best maintained in the Dalhousie area. The legendary Calcutta firm has a rich history filled with many fascinating stories, beginning with how the firm got its name.


Monday, 6 November 2017

Taj Mahal by Moonlight: A Magical Experience

Had it not been for my friend Krishnendu Kes of Maavalan Travels, I would never have gone for the moonlight viewing of the Taj Mahal. India’s number one tourist attraction, its most famous monument is open every day of the week, except Fridays, from sunrise to sunset. But on nights when there is a full moon, and two nights before and after, a special nighttime viewing of the Taj is permitted, for a very limited number of people. But the reviews of this seemed mostly to be negative and there was not a single decent photograph of this on the entire internet. This blog even mentioned that getting a decent photograph of the Taj Mahal by moonlight was almost impossible. So, in spite of being in Agra for the full moon, I had decided to drop my plans for the moonlight viewing until I had a word with Krishnendu, who assured me that not only was the experience magical, but also that he strongly recommended it to all his foreign clients. But, it was already late, the number of tickets were limited, and the tickets could only be obtained from the ASI office on Mall Road in Agra. I did not have the time to get the tickets and wasn’t even sure they were available, but Krishnendu arranged for tickets for the following night’s viewing to be delivered to my hotel! And just like that, I was off for an experience that few people will ever have.

The Taj Mahal by moonlight. Canon 5D Mark IV + 24-105 IS II L @ 55mm. f/8, ISO 100, 80-second exposure.