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Walking down the ‘Pet Street’ of Kolkata

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As a child my first tryst with freedom was when I recited Rabindranath Tagore’s poem ‘Bon er pakhi/ Khanchar pakhi’... Next came Maya Angelou with her ‘Caged Bird,’... my teens no more was the same again. Since then, even rows of herons, flying over my head, while I gazed at them from my rooftop garden, carried a different message..... that of borderless freedom. So it was quite obvious that I never attempted to visit Galiff Street, that hosts every Sunday Kolkata’s largest pet market, where birds and animals are sold in small, claustrophobic cages. Despite having a huge aviary at home in my childhood days, built by my mother, despite staring at gold fishes and angel fishes in a huge aquarium at my husband’s house and inspite of growing up with the best of pet dog breeds at home, I always knew they need to be set free. Whenever as a child I saw caged birds, I fet like setting them free and steered clear of a street that was in violation to animal rights

Indoor Bonsai flowering plants

But then I got to realise, my knowledge on Galiff Street was pretty biased. While going through the albums of a member on my Tree Group, I heard she buys the most exquisite plants and flowers at throwaway prices from Galiff Street. My friend also assured the flower market on this street was far from where animals and birds are sold. So I need not even cross roads with caged animals, instead I can enjoy a rainbow of colours and breathe in oxygen, walking down the ‘Plant Street.’

Selling the saplings

True to what she said, Galiff Street on the Chitpur end, is where the best of plants from orchids, to bonsais, to saplings of big trees, fruit trees, indoor plants, a plethora of cactii are sold. I instantly fell in love with the street, where vehicles stand still and plants reign. On one side are rows of night shelters built by the Kolkata Municipal Corporation to let the homeless stay at night, far from the fears of a lonely, defenseless street existence. Rows of plants greeted me, every hue, every form. I was on cloud nine and so confused about making a choice. It felt like if I could buy everything! The best part of the Plant Haven on Galiff Street is the price. If you are used to buying roses at Rs 100 per plant with the pot in any market of South Kolkata, you get them at just Rs 40 with the pot. Leave roses, move on to exotic cactii or flower bonsais. They too will not cost more than 100 bucks! Surprised? Should be, specially for those who are used to buying cactii at nothing less than Rs 300- 500 from the Park Street pavements!

Not just plants, Galiff Street also offers different types of clay pots, which are durable, seeds, saplings, different kinds of soils and fertilisers. In one word for a plant lover like me, Galiff Street is the best bet. Bidding goodbye to the plants was an uphill task, for both my hands were loaded with bags of plants I bought. My loot that day was colourful indeed.

Plants on sale