Popular movies like, Yuva (2004), Parineeta (2005), Love Aaj Kal (2009), Kahaani (2012), Barfi! (2012), Lootera (2013), Gunday (2014), Piku (2015), Detective Byomkesh Bakshy! (2015) and Meri Pyaari Bindu (2017) have one thing in common. Kolkata has featured in all of them in one way or another. Different stories, and every film treated the ‘city of joy’, differently. But, whatever routes they chose to wend their way through the city, none could avoid weaving a specific location to the screenplay. One particular bridge, that served as an effective and evocative backdrop to many important scenes. Rabindra Setu or the more popularly called, Howrah Bridge.
Though trams and yellow taxis are special trademarks of Kolkata, the Howrah Bridge is a landmark that has become the very identity of the old city. Rightly called as the gateway to the city, this 78 year old cantilever bridge is one of the busiest bridges in the world, transporting approximately 150,000 pedestrians, and 100,000 vehicles on a daily basis. This gigantic structure connects Kolkata with the industrial town of Howrah over the Hooghly river. At the Howrah end is the country’s oldest railway station, Howrah Junction and the Kolkata end is adorned by the vibrant Mallick Ghat Flower market.
In 1965, it was renamed as Rabindra Setu and this name was kept in honour of the renowned Bengali poet Rabindranath Tagore. Though the reverence of the Bengalis and the city for the Noble laureate knows no bound yet the original name has stuck with all and it still remains popular as Howrah Bridge
The Howrah Bridge, at the time of its construction, was the third longest cantilever bridge in the world, but now, it is the sixth longest of its kind. The 71 ft wide bridge, is constructed without nuts and bolts, and was formed by riveting the entire steel structure. One popular quiz during childhood was, tell us how many pillars hold the Howrah Bridge and the surprising answer would be none. This fascination refused to leave me for long.
For the city and the people this bridge has several significances, but, personally, it holds a special place in my heart because a visit to this bridge during my childhood meant two things. Either we were going for a vacation and had to board a train from Howrah station. Or we were visiting “MamarBari.”( Nani-ghar). Both, equally exciting.
My mother’s maternal home was in a place called Belur, famous for the Belur Math, which is situated on the west bank of Hooghly river, beyond this famous bridge. So those days, as soon as our yellow taxi would board the steel structure, and the majestic river on both sides would welcome us with much provocation, the ecstasy of the fun filled visit would overwhelm us. We never called the river, Hooghly but, always referred it as the Ganga. The bridge would make a rattling sound as thousands of vehicles rushed past it’s chest, and the rhythm would reverberate in our young hearts. Of course with time that childish excitement diminished, but till date, whenever I visit the bridge a rush of young nostalgia still runs through my mind.
The glory and grandeur of the magnificent Howrah Bridge can be best viewed if one takes a ferry ride from Kolkata to Howrah. So anyone planning to visit the city anytime soon must include this also on the itinerary. This is worth a visit.
Note: This blog is a part if #BlogchatterA2Z challenge.