It may have changed its name, but for many Kolkata (formerly Calcutta) still conjures up images of squalour, poverty and urban disaster. Too few bother to discover its enchanting colonial beauty, the energy and humour of its people and the charm of the city's distinctly Bengali soul.
While the teeming humanity, chaotic streets and crumbling colonial heritage are all too real, Kolkata is also acknowledged as the cultural capital of India and its friendliest metropolis. It is also home to India's heaviest concentration of political activists, poets and artists.
The city undoubtedly has its share of problems - chronic labour unrest, population overload, political ineptitude, environmental degradation and traffic snarls that bite. Yet time and again entranced visitors tell of its beauty and the dignity and altruism of its people.
Facts for the traveller
Off the beaten track