Tuesday, March 14, 2023

Alluring Kolkata


A view of Hoogly
The magic of Kolkata never diminishes no matter how many times one visits the city. My association with the town has been forged over three decades but never have I experienced a dull moment in the city. One of the prime ministers had termed Kolkata as a 'dying city' but far from it, has surged several folds since then. I will recount some of the unusual moments that I got to experience which include the nostalgia of some earlier memories that had faded with time.

The new bridge on Hoogly

A morning walk to Middleton Street, Victoria and nearby parks like Elliot Park, Ho Chin Minh Sarani, Shakespeare Sarini and Minto Park, which I have done countless times stirs up some lovely memories. The enormous palatial houses built during the colonial era like Kankaria House with sprawling green gardens rub shoulders with the towering edifices of Tata Steel and Virginia House, the headquarters of ITC. The street vendors have lit up their stoves for the preparation of egg rolls, luchi and dum aloo, the fragrance of which starts filling the air. The greatest dichotomy is to see the US Consulate office guarded with uniformed men has an address of Ho Chin Minh Sarani ( the leading communist)!

A scene of morning Adda on the Theatre Road
Cross over Camac Street to enter the Shakespeare Sarani ( erstwhile Theatre Road) where once one of the greatest theatres ran packed shows. On a weekend morning, one can see literally dozens of groups in all age groups who have brought their folded chairs discussing animatedly the current politics. ongoing exams or movies, Virtually any topic under the sun is discussed with savouries like dhokla, fafda, samosas, jalebi, and kachoris being downed with endless streams of kulhar -chai* (the earthenware disposable glass). These are termed " Addas" where the intelligentsia brainstorms and are a must witness at least once when in the city. A little further is Minto Park where one can see people exercising and enjoying the fresh air from the nearby lotus pond( called as Pakhur in Bengali).
The legendary tram at Garihat

On this visit, I travelled to a busy suburb Garihat, known for its huge market for shopping, but with a different agenda. I walked to the 'tram depot' where several trams more than a century old still plying on a few routes were parked. They evolved from horse-drawn trams to steam trains from early 1880 to 1904 when the electric tram got introduced. I boarded the one which was on the Esplanade route and the thrill of riding to Park Circus was akin to a five-year-old on a train ride. 

Inside the Kolkata tram
The rickety tram stops whenever one waves a hand showing the friendliness of these great people. The 20-minute run will go down the memory as one of the most unique experiences.
An array of Sandesh at Nepal Sweets

There are literally hundreds of sweet shops with names like Balram Mallick, Haldiram. Nobin Chandra Das, and some hidden gems all over the city. One such gem is Nepal Sweets on Elgin Road which makes the unique Rose Sandesh, Nalin Gur Sandesh and Kesar Pedas. The sweets in Kolkata need several posts to flavour just a few delicacies. 

Pakuria Salasar Dham temple
Among several temples and places of worship like Kalighat, ISKON and many more, I got to see Pakuria Salasar Dham on the western end of the city. Located on the road that connects the city with a modern bridge, it is very beautiful with a peaceful environment. Many devotees come here to seek the fulfilment of their wishes.

On the way back, the road was slightly crowded and a unique style of overtaking that I witnessed, was the waving of red cloth from the window by the vehicle intending to overtake, A brief halt by the side of the mighty Hoogly was mandatory to soak in the beauty of the old Howrah bridge and the new one.  The sight of small boats cast alongside adds to the beauty. The glowing solar panels on the boats were an indicator that the city is not dying but changing with the modern times like many things one sees here. It was a trip where I was rewarded several times with new discoveries.

PS- All pics are mine