India's second-biggest city is a daily festival of human existence, simultaneously noble and squalid, cultured and desperate. By its old spelling, Calcutta conjures up images of human suffering to most Westerners. But locally, Kolkata is regarded as India's intellectual and cultural capital.
As the former capital of British India, Kolkata retains a feast of colonial-era architecture contrasting starkly with urban slums and dynamic new-town suburbs with their air-conditioned shopping malls. Friendlier than India's other metropolises, Kolkata is a city you feel more than simply visit.