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A Savage Encounter

This is a story of an artist and his city, Prokash Karmakar and Kolkata at the closing years of the 20th and the beginning of the 21st century. During the turn of the century and the end of the second millennium, he started to work on a series of twenty paintings, roving round the city of Kolkata .... Know more?

About The Artist

Prokash Karmakar has lived in the city most of his life. He is one of the great gifts that Kolkata has made to the mainstream of modern and post modern Indian art, during the second half of the 20th century and the first decades of 21st. From the early 1950s, he has been very active in the field......Know more?


Brief Biography
About the Painter









A Savage Encounter


This is a story of an artist and his city, Prokash Karmakar and Kolkata at the closing years of the 20th and the beginning of the 21st century. During the turn of the century and the end of the second millennium, he started to work on a series of twenty paintings, roving round the city of Kolkata . He worked camping at various places with his entourage of painters, poets and intellectuals and teaming streams of passersby. Some of them became inquisitive and interested onlookers while he painted the site and environment. He was in his early sixties when he began the series and grew in years as the paintings developed. When he started, the city was still known by its British given name ‘ Calcutta ’. By the time he ended, her old Bengali name ‘Kolkata’ became known far and wide.

Calcutta ’ or ‘Kolkata’ has always been a much maligned monster of a city! Rudyard Kipling in his in his ‘City of Dreadful Nights ’ says:

Thus the midday halt of Charnock – more’s the pity
Grew a City.
As the fungus sprouts chaotic from its bed.
So it spread.

Chance directed, chance erected, led and built
On the silt
Palace, byre, hovel – poverty and pride --
Side by side
And, above the packed and pestilential town
Death looked down.

During her three hundred and some odd years of history, three ordinary Indian villages of Sutanoti, Govindapur and Kolikata transformed into a polis gradually and became the British Imperial capital of undivided India , the whole subcontinent. In 1905 Bengal was divided causing widespread unrest. Unable to cope with it the British postponed the partition till a later date – 15th August, 1947 to be precise – and moved the capital on the sly to Delhi in 1912. Little did they know that thirty-five years later they would have to leave the country.

Karmakar has felt intrigued by the city of his birth. Strangers had looked at her, some had live here for long and short periods while others were just passerby in transit, and almost all had made unsavoury remarks. Citizens who live, love and work in the city also make unsavoury remarks.  Even those who become fabulously rich in this city are ungrateful and speak equally unkind words. Some of them treacherously siphone out their capital and run away to other urban centres.

Kolkata, Prokash thinks, has a strange malignancy that hooks those who come into close contact with her. She tends to leave a deep impression in their mind. In the end, the wound heals but there remains an itchy scar within the soul. It is a city that has been used, misused and abused by the aristocrat and the plebian alike. In turn, Kolkata has taken revenge by haunting and hunting everyone she meets, making no distinctions between those who are for and them that are against her.

Until very recently, it was commonly held that the history of the city began on 24th August, 1690. Some time before this, Job Charnock, the American agent of the British East India Company, was hounded out of Hoogly by the Mughal Governor of Bengal . Forced to abandon the factory, he and his men sailed down the river. He set foot at Sutanoti and eventually started a factory there. Recent archaeological excavations have altered that date somewhat. In the gardens of Lord Clive’s house in Dum Dum, at the Northern fringe of Kolkata, archaeology has unearthed urban settlements and artifacts that date back to a more ancient period. In spite of the change, her rise and fall in modern times is related to the chronicle of western dominance.

The story began with Vasco Da Gama. The Portuguese sailor-explorer found a sea route from Europe to India via cope of Good Hope. This started off, what a historian has called, the ‘Vasco d agama epoch of History’ of colonial expansion in the afro-Asian continents. A four hundred and fifty years of history that dates from 1498 to early years of post World war II.

In the area the Portuguese were soon followed by Dutch, French, Danish and English traders. The gradual advancement of Kolkata was related to the ascendancy of the British, in the race for supremacy, among European nations competing in India at the time. During this period, because of maritime trade, newly established ports gained in importance and older inlands cities were relegated to an inferior position. This is the reason why Calcutta (Kolkata), Bombay (Mumbai) and Madras (Chennai) prospered and modernized in comparison to older towns and cities.

‘Kolkata’ conjures up fear in the minds of people that acts as a repellent. To most people around the world it is a city of fifth decay, over0population and diseases. It is a city that is in constant need of Mother Teresa and her sisters of Charity!

What unpardonable ignorance! True it is a city of paradoxes. Presently an impoverished primeval chaos from whence there is a continual emergence of splendoured revelations of a disorderly ordered cosmos – creative excellence at its height in every field, not excluding the sciences and the arts. Some of the best minds of the 19th and 20th century lived and worked in the city. The theist would marvel and say, ‘the creative Spirit works in mysterious ways.’ Even at present some of the topmost sculptors, painters, printmakers, writers, poets, dramatist, historians, actor, filmmakers, critics, economists, scientists, doctors and engineers continue to work here braving heavy odds.

it is a city that can be compared to a hive. In it there are cubicles of semi-darkness and cabins of illumination. In the bleak regions people live in the ghettos of hopelessness. They slave it out in the port, large and small factories, shops and construction sites, serving in establishments and households of the rich and middle classes, servicing machines, tools, cars and two-wheelers, doing other back breaking work throughout the day and parts of the night. Around the cluster of combs of working bees, congregate the various strata of the middle ordered segment and at the top, there are the tiers of aristocracy who are privileged to access the chambers of honey.

Kolkata has areas of slum neighborhood like other sprawling cities of the world. Beside them live the rich, the industrialists in spacious villas, tycoons and media barcons in their garden houses. The traders, politicians, glorified and petty clerks, teachers, preachers, police and army personnel, prince and peddlers, pimps and whores, small time criminals and trigger happy gangsters live side by side in great style or miserable poverty. Some are forced to squat in tumbledown crumpled huts beside open drains smelling of stench and decay or in plastic tents on the pavements, while other stay in magnificent modern or architectured colonial houses, palaces, the fort and quarters for armed forces, sky sweeping apartment buildings, cheap to moderately expensive housing complexes. The living lodges of the populous areas stretch from the city centre in every direction to the suburbia and beyond, overflowing into the countryside. This whole horizontal thrust of urbanization is encroaching into the villages, disrupting and overthrowing rural communities, filling up large tracts of water bodies and marshy land and paving up the way for future environmental disaster.









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