‘Boi Para’ is the endearing nickname coined for the iconic College Street Book Market. This 1.5 km long stretch in the Northern fringe of Kolkata, wears the proud badge of the largest second-hand book market in the world and largest book market in India. However, if you have been there you would know it is so much more.
Boi para is rather an emotion. A symbol. A symbol of resilience, that has withstood the wear and tear of time and changes. A symbol of silent yet sure victory of paperbacks over soft copies, the smell and touch of books over the convenience of the technology powered suaver kindle cousins. Boi para, for me is an anti-thesis to the fast-paced, mass produced world. It has decided to slow down, to pull off from the race, to savour the glory and accept the failures and gracefully maintain its own niche that is irreplaceable.
A little factual history
Lord Wellesley first introduced the construction of planned roads in Calcutta. It was under him that College Street formerly known as The Great Arterial Road found its name in 1817!!
The inception of the name ‘College Street’ goes back to the time when The Hindu College was first established by David Hare at around the same time.
Stretching (approximately) from Ganesh Chandra Avenue Crossing in Bowbazar area to Mahatma Gandhi Road, the Avenue has been a sit of Kolkata’s intelligentsia since the preindepeendence era.
What to expect
Publication Houses, big and small, the numerous small bookstores, some with cemented and permanent construction while others makeshift with bamboo, canvas, tin sheets, some of the most iconic Educational institutions like University Of Calcutta, Calcutta Medical College, Presidency College, Sanskrit College, Hare School and Hindu School and equally famous eateries like Coffee House, Paramount Sherbets and Syrups and Putiram, zillions of books and oodles of charm.
What is most evident is the constant buzz, hum, honks, shouts all around on a regular day. Shopkeepers who keeps calling out while others who give a damn, pedestrians who nudges you past hurriedly, tourists with surprise and disbelief in their eyes and ofcourse the locals, it is a biodiversity hotspot indeed!
My tryst with Boi Para
My first encounter with College Street was only after I myself got into college. Buying books, chartpapers, practical notebooks was just another excuse of finally being able to find myself there! It was a rather thrilling and empowering feeling to be honest.
However, it was during my residency days in Calcutta Medical College, that I got to know this area much better, explored it and fell in love with.
It has been quite a while since then. Until recently I went back with some work and a plan to relive the memories. Walking down the narrow bylanes, having chai from the favourite little known teashop opposite my college to the mandatory visit to Putiram and Coffee House, it was a glorious rendezvous.
Sharing snippets from the day
Do share your thoughts.
Lots of love