I have some fabulous do-able resolutions this year and one of them involves blogging more regularly and within a week of returning from a trip! Although its been more than a week, I'm allowing myself a grace period of a month this first time around! So, here goes :)
My parents and I attended a close friend's wedding in Calcutta and the wedding festivities were filled with so much love and laughter. So this blog post is for my darling Devika and Charlie - here's to a year full of travel and new beginnings!
Calcutta is quaint and beautiful; and just like Bombay, the city has a distinct character. The air is warm and crisp; the people are quick and busy and the architecture is Victorian British.
My favourite street is Mirza Ghalib Street. I saw tiny music shops and second hand bookstores. They were selling turntables, Kishore Kumar and Wishbone Ash LPs and Mills & Boons collections for a real steal!
The city's commercial property has the most beautiful vintage signage and hoardings. Most of them have a letter partially hanging out or completely missing.
Because of its quaint characteristics, I find Kolkata stuck in its own time capsule.
Park street is the go-to place for fancy food, the Oxford bookstore and jazz bars.
Everything in this city is blue and white. From the street lights to the painted side walks, from the hoardings to Mamta didi's clothes! Apparently, it's her two favourite colours!
While we walked around park street, ate croissants at Flurry's and Chello Kebab's at Peter Cat, the familiar smell of fishes and fishermen by Prinsep Ghat was my favourite sight to see.
Howrah Bridge is magnificently beautiful, and one of the most iconic man-made creations in terms of structural development in India. Upon driving by the station and onto Howrah, you can find the big iron bars holding strong and withstanding everything that the city has endured. Metaphorically speaking, it holds the city together; it's tradition, politics, culture, literary influences and food.
My dear friend Sonali showed me and my parents around during our first two days and we explored all the markets and visited Victoria Memorial too.
The city has many complexes of markets in different corners of the city. New Market, AC Market, Vardhaan, Gariahat and Dakshinapan Market are just a few of them. Some are great for jewellery, beautiful bengali fabrics, shawls, bags and big red bindis. They sell artificial hair too!
Victoria Memorial was absolutely stunning. I was blown away by the architecture, size and beauty of this iconic landmark of Calcutta. The British may not be India's favourite but they left behind some pretty fabulous architecture and I sure am grateful for it.
To get in, the ticket counter only sells entry passes at certain hours of the morning and evening. If you're lucky, you could even get a pass for their temporary exhibit.
ps: Photos aren't allowed so I sneaked a picture of the inside dome and that's all I have of the interiors.
Most people drive around the city with a sense of urgency. Haggling, screeching and yelling; is not just a routine but a way of life.
The streets are filled with street food vendors in white dhotis, crisp blue cotton shirts and a Nehru cap. They sell Jhaal Muri, Paapdi Chaat, Chilla and Victoria Vadas. The Vada seller even has a laminated photo of Prime Minister David Cameroon trying out his infamous vadas with the pudhina and garlic chutney.
This blog post would be incomplete if I didn't talk about the cutest ambassador taxis! The gear springs from behind the steering wheel and the roofs are low with floral patterns and Amitabh Bachchan stickers.
Something funny caught my attention - the city has signboards that say "No Spitting - Rs.100 FINE" and surprisingly, it works! The city is cleaner than it has ever been before (according to my appa). Every street corner has Mamta didis hoardings and signage about fines!
One evening, Niharika, Ashwin and I drove around Calcutta looking at the old architecture, new shops that have come to replace the old and had the most delicious afternoon chai at the Calcutta Stock Exchange. The tiny lane leading to the stock exchange has a little shop selling the BEST khullad chai and malai toast!
And when all the fun was over and it was time to say good bye, I had the most wonderful last night with my Nina, the beautiful reflection of the city lights on the Hooghly river and a long drive on Howrah Bridge.
I'm definitely coming back some day. To visit Shantiniketan, watch a match in Eden Gardens and go on another journey in the black and yellow taxis.
Until then, aami tomake bhalo bashi, Kolkata <3