Mallik Ghat today: not only is the tide running out, the ghat itself has run down and lost its charisma.
In the middle of this chapter of the Weybank, I have to be careful not to inadvertently turn this story into a Tourist Guide or World Traveller's Blog - you can find enough of both today in the internet. I also have to be careful that I don't get carried away with the history of India. In 1968 there was no internet, no "tourist bomber" airlines; tourists in Calcutta were non-existent , tourists in India were only the very rich pining either for the remnants of the Raj, the Taj Mahal or the exotic pull of Rudyard Kipling's story telling.
When the Beatles got fed up singing "Love , Love Me Do" and "She Loves Me" etc., they looked to India for inspiration/enlightenment
and they got all they wished for. Chuck the Guitar out the window - "Gimme the Sitar!";
"George, you got an Embassy or Woodbine?" -
"Sorry mate but I've given them up, I smoke the local stuff now, it even grows wild on the banks of the Hooghly (and it does), a few puffs and I learnt to play the Sitar backwards with fifteen fingers"
This message made its way slowly back to the UK and then the rest of the world. In 1967 the airwaves were filled with "If you go to San Francisco be sure to wear a flower in your hair" and the "Mama's & Papa's" etc.
By 1968 George's message finally got through: "F... SF, git yo'r asses down ta India ASAP: free 6, free Ganji/Mary Jane, free psycho trip, free accomodation (the Maidan or just where you feel like crashing), a guy called Hari Krishna even gives you orange robes to disguise yourself so that even the locals can't tell if you're either Hindu or Budhist - he even teaches you how to have sex with anything "
The youth of Europe and the US were inspired by Sgt. Pepper : "India Needs You" - there was only one problem but it was a major problem - how to get there without a lot of money?
Thus, we in 1968 aboard the Weybank (and the Indians too all over India) were spared the arrival of the coming flood which was just in the "thumb's up" stage of transport at Dover or Heathrow (the more kiffed). It took them at least a year before they eventually staggered into India but still managing to maintain their superior intellect (with the help of the Mummie & Daddie Bank which banked upon them disappearing for iternity - no such luck!). Why the Indians allowed them to roam around unmolested instead of kicking them straight away into the Ganges, I will never comprehend (possibly because the Ganges is a holy river and they didn't want to desecrate it?).
Now after explaining why India in 1968 was more or less tourist- and definitely "hippie" free, I can continue with my story but to do so I need the help of some maps so that you will be able later to know what I am talking about. The map below is an excerpt from a map which was drawn in 1893. You are probably thinking "why is he going back 123 years?" but the answer is that the map below has more relevance to the Calcutta that I knew in 1968 than does a map of Calcutta today.
The Hugli Bridge in 1893 was a pontoon bridge which in the mid 1930's was dismantled and replaced by a cantilever steel bridge now called the Hooghly Bridge. If you look at the blue expanse of the Hugli (now Hooghly) river you will see many ghats marked which you will not see on a modern map. Another major landmark which is no more by name is the Chauringhi Road - in 1968 this road was called the Chowringee Road (not much difference) but nowadays this same road has been built over with a fly-past road with a completely different name.
The whole of the lime green area is commonly referred to as the Maidan. At the top of it you can see from left to right in a row the High Court, Town Hall and Government House (now called the Raj Bhavan). Below the High Court in an area of the Maidan called the Eden Gardens is where the Weybank moored. The west bank of the Maidan has a road running along it called The Strand.
Fort William, as its name suggests was just that - a British Army fort.
Just below Ft.William on the east bank of the Hooghly you will find Prinseps Ghat which unlike the other ghats marked you will find on a modern map.
At the lower left of the lime green Maidan you will find St.Pauls Cathedral and just below and to the left you will find the Presidency Jail
St. Pauls Cathedral still stands today but in place of the Presidency Jail and vicinity , the Victoria Memorial was built.
Near the bottom left of the map you can see the Kidderpore Docks (Dock No.1, Dock No.2) and to the left on the Hooghly bank "P&O Co's Jetty" and "P&O Co's Premises" - the "Peninsular & Oriental Steam Navigation Co. Ltd."
Below is a painting of the Weybank on the Hooghly passing the Esplanade Moorings (which are just a little bit north of the Prinseps Ghat and to the left of Fort William) with only 100/150 metres to go before reaching her destination moorings just south of Eden Gardens.
Note the mud bank between the river and Terra Firma!
The picture above which was painted in 1908 by Frank Clinger Scallan is of the Garden Reach bank of the Hooghly in Calcutta. Sixty years later in 1968, the scene had hardly changed. Only the ships' construction had evolved through the years. Note the "company flag" on the boat in the foreground!
Below: A contemporary street map of Calcutta. The Howrah Cantilever Bridge, Victoria Memorial and Kidderpore Docks are marked in violet and the approx. mooring position of the Weybank in red. The Vidyasagar Seti Bridge did not exist in 1968. The thin grey lines generally running north/south are tram lines and one of them runs through the Maidan parallel to the Khidderpur Road.
Just so that I don't lose track in all the maps above and forget to tell you what I was really looking for in India - here she is :(unfortunately I didn't find her).