Kolkata is also renowned for its fashion designers. Look for garments by the promising local Sabyasachi Mukherjee, who is taking Kolkata's fashion industry to new heights (there's an outlet at 37/1C Hazra Rd.; tel. 033/2285-2381). Another name to reckon with is Anamika Khanna, recognized for her flamboyant fashions for both men and women. If time is short, drop in at 85 Landsdowne Road (tel. 033/2486-2136), a one-stop shop stocking all the major Indian labels like the two mentioned before along with others like Kiran Uttam Ghosh and Ritu Kumar. However, if you're looking for something very ethnic and traditional, you should head to Shamlu Dudeja's workshop (4/1 Alipore Park Rd. near Taj Bengal; tel. 98-3002-6288; call for appointment). With a team of rural women (SHE-Self-Help Enterprise), Shamlu has successfully revived the art of Kantha embroidery, making it into a much sought-after craft both locally and abroad. Smaller but also worth visiting are Women's Friendly Society (29 Park Lane; tel. 033/2229-5285) and Good Companions (13 C, Russell St.; tel. 033/3292-9612) for hand-embroidered linen from the villages of West Bengal -- both can be done when you head out to explore the New Market or if you are staying at The Oberoi or Peerless Inn. In fact, a few steps from here will also get you to the government-operated Central Cottage Industries Emporium in Chowringhee (7 Jawaharlal Nehru Rd.; tel. 033/2228-4139 or -3205) where you can pick up a wide range of Indian curios, along with everything from saris to silk carpets. But the place to visit if you are madly interested in textiles is Darshan Shah's brainchild Weaver's Studio (5-1 Anil Moitra Rd., Ballygunge Place; from Garihat road, take a left at the Industrial Training Institute; tel. 033/2440-8937; www.weaversstudio.com). Other than a fabulous resource center for all kinds of Indian textiles, thousands of hand-printing wooden blocks and books, you can also watch the intricate processes of weaving, printing and natural dyeing, which makes the final shopping aspect very special, if not altogether enlightened (note: You can only visit the factory by appointment). If scouting around The Park, visit Bengal Home Industries (11 Camac St.; tel. 033/2282-1562) or Sasha (27 Mirza Ghalib St.; tel. 033/2252-1586) for Bengali handicrafts, In the same area, hop into Dolly's Collection of Earthcraft (18J Park St., next to Petercat) for natural products -- a hole in the wall but with some simple and sweet items like mats made out of banana fiber or tiny terracotta turtles with cocky grins. You can pick up a wide range of Indian curios, along with handlooms and handicrafts, from Dakshinapan (2 Garihat Rd.), an open-air shopping complex (on the same lines as Dilli Haat in Delhi). It's a great place to browse, and while there, you absolutely must pop into the 20-year-old Dolly's Tea Shop (G62, Dakshinapan), which has become an institution by itself. Other than having a cuppa, you can also purchase excellent quality tea and as Dolly herself will tell you, "India has the best tea in the world, so why look elsewhere?" Hugli (Hastings Court, 96 Garden Reach Rd.; tel. 033/2489-2104) and Khazana at the Taj Bengal hotel are two good options for handicrafts as well; although the prices are high, quality is excellent. If you feel you can lug some heavier stuff back home, drop in at Minnoli (Karnani Estate, Unit G-I 209, AJC Bose Rd.; tel. 033/2289-1307), where owner Sharad Narula shows his obvious passion for antique furniture. Proud of a collection that includes everything from silver spoons dating from the first World War to 60-year-old glass lamps, Minnoli encapsulates the very spirit of Kolkata.
Inevitably, Kolkata is also home to one of India's best bookstores, Oxford Bookstore (17 Park St., Kolkata; tel. 033/2229-7662 or 033/2217-5266; www.oxfordbookstore.com), which carries a good range of local and imported periodicals, books on India and Kolkata, and fiction. Another shop worth investigating is Family Book Shop (1A Park St.; tel. 033/2229-3486 or 033/3290-6003); it's tiny but has an interesting upstairs section. You can also try Crossword on Elgin Road or Starmark on Lord Sinha Road.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.