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Walkability Study of Calcutta Maidan

Walkability Study of Calcutta Maidan

A Jane’s Walk initiative supported by Calcutta Walks

Also see: Jane’s Walk 2013, Calcutta

“The tiger-haunted jungle which cut off the village of Chowringhee from the river was cleared, and gave way to the wide grassy stretch of the Maidan of which Calcutta is so proud.”

Calcutta Old and New, H E A Cotton

Green and Red Frames. Left: Green for the endless stretch of Maidan. Right: Red for horse dung

Green & Red Frames. L: Green for the endless stretch of Maidan. R: Red for horse dung

It was a story of red and green frames, green was for thumbs up or like while red was for thumbs down or dislike. Sounds easy, not exactly!!!

Walability study of Calcutta Maidan, Group Photo (Photo Courtesy: Calcutta Walks)

Walkability study of Calcutta Maidan, Group Photo (Photo Courtesy: Calcutta Walks)

About a dozens Calcuttans, along with a couple of foreigners, struggled to decide what to like and dislike in their very own backward.

Walkers along the Red Road

Walkers along the Red Road

An initiative of Jane’s Walk, the walkability study of Maidan was organised by Calcutta Walks, a city based walk tour operator who also supports the blog you are presently reading.

Named after Jane Jacob, the US born Canadian journalist, author, activist and urban thinker, the Jane’s Walk have been a regular feature in all the major cities of the world in the first weekend of May ever since 2007.

It was also Calcutta Walks who first introduced the Jane’s Walk in Calcutta by hosting a series of walks in Calcutta in the first weekend of May 2013. (Jane’s Walk 2013, Calcutta)

Through the Calcutta Maidan

Through the Calcutta Maidan

Although Jane’s Walk is an annual event, but several other activities are held throughout the year all around the globe, including pilot activities and walkability studies.

The Maidan (literally meaning field) is a vast stretch of open field measuring 1283 acres. Strangely the maidan was never conceived as a park but as an open area adjoining the Fort William for strategic military purpose. After the devastating defeat in the hands of Nawab Siraj – ud – Daulah in the old Fort William (present day GPO) in 1756, the Britishers built their new fort with an area of one kilometer radius free of settlements and vegetations.

Beneath the statue of Micheal Madhusudan Dutt

Beneath the statue of Micheal Madhusudan Dutt

The Maidan, often referred as the “lung of Calcutta” is probably one of the largest open space in any urban setting and is larger than the London’s Hyde Park and New York’s Central Park.

Today, a property of the Indian Army, the Maidan is no longer free of vegetation but permanent construction is still prohibited and several sports club run from makeshift wooden structures.

The walk to study the walkability of the Maidan started from the Police Memorial on the northern end of the Maidan. Iftekar Ashan of Calcutta Walks introduced the walkers, with a diverse interest ranging from history to ecology and from botany to town planning.

Mounted Police, Calcutta Maidan

Mounted Police, Calcutta Maidan

The concept of the green and red frame was also introduced. A pothole on the pavement was the first shot, obviously shot through the red frame. The walkers headed along the tree line Red Road, which definitely came within the green frame.

The walkers followed the mud trail along the Red Road and someone suggested the necessity of a paved foot path, but others objected, suggesting it to be kept in the wilderness, as very few pedestrians use it. Arguments and counter arguments followed and it was soon realised that the selection of the green and red frame was not an easy task.

Cadets of Territorial Army

Cadets of Territorial Army

The walkers made their way inside the Maidan and walked passed men engaged in physical exercises and group of young men playing cricket and football. The walk continued, passing mounted police on horse back and through a flock of goats.

The walk continued with the botanist identifying the trees and the zoologist spotting the squirrels. The historian was not far behind, as he spoke in lengths on the statues and the memorials. The sport enthusiast spoke on the legacy of Calcutta football and about the not so popular sports like rugby, which is also played in the Maidan.

The walkers headed southwards toward the Victoria Memorial, with the Chowringhee skyline on the left, passing past marching cadets of the Territorial Army.

Cake Wala's Box, Calcutta Maidan

Cake Wala’s Box, Calcutta Maidan

A mobile confectioner with his trunk full of pastries and cream – roll was definitely a welcoming sight for hungry souls walking for well over an hour. Pastries and cream – rolls flew off the shelves, or rather trunk, in no time and it was unanimously decided to put the goodies in the green frame.

A wondering cha – wala was the next halt and as concerned Calcuttans, we decided to carry the used plastic cups away, but it was not so for every body and the Maidan was littered with plastic cups and other non biodegradable objects, something sadly came within the red frame.

Soon the walkers hit a paved road within the Maidan, triggering an argument about its necessity. The walk continued along the paved road littered with horse dung.

Panoramic view of the endless Calcutta Maidan

Panoramic view of the endless Calcutta Maidan

The walkability study walk of the Calcutta Maidan finally ended at the North Gate of Victoria Memorial, with promises to make it a regular event throughout the year covering different regions of Calcutta.

  1. rajmita
    December 11, 2013 at 12:50 AM

    wow.. its a cool walk and educating enough with exchange of ideas from all walkers and nature too!.. the red-green frame idea is also unique but as said “not an easy task”!! thanks rangan da for this eye opening walk. can anyone be a part of it?

    • December 14, 2013 at 11:14 PM

      Rajmita the Jane’s walk is an international event and held in all major cities round the globe. This was actually not a official walk.

      The first weekend of May the Jane’s Walk will take place, so wherever you are try to find out a walk and participate.

  2. December 13, 2013 at 8:59 AM

    Good educational tour kind of thing. I wish to participate but I need to coordinate my travels. Thanks for the info.

    • December 14, 2013 at 11:17 PM

      Dear Indrani this was really educative, some thing learned not from books but from the real world.

      There are always such activities in Calcutta, do inform me about your next visit to the city, I will try to work out something for you.

  3. May 8, 2016 at 12:00 AM

    Interesting post… we need more of these walks, as Indian cities are some of the least walk friendly….

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