Tuesday

Calcutta -City of joy revisited


Calcutta evokes memories of English breakfast, club culture, gentlemanly people, good food and of course Mishti doi - the unfailing delight.

I was a tad sad to see a decrepit airport which must have seen better days am sure. It felt like the airport belonged to another era- caught in a time wrap. Last I knew Calcutta was still a bustling metropolis of India so why was its airport so not in tune with the times?

Our welcome and adios for this trip began and ended with Kolkata- we went on to Darjeeling, Kaziranga, Meghalaya-Sillong, its interiors and back to Calcutta. The imprint of colonization and the ensuing western culture is most overtly seen in the East of India. From building exteriors to museums and colonial homes to the way people dress on weekdays and Sundays – very charming.

In Kolkatta (todays name for Calcutta) the joy for me was the food! I discovered puchkas and jhaal muri outside Victoria which were very different from the pani puri and bhel puri of Bombay. Took me a while to appreciate the unique taste as it has a generous helping of mustard oil which is alien to me. Had phenomenal breakfast one morning at Balwants dhaba next to a gurudwara- the most amazing katchoris (stuffed dal small pooris) with aloo sabzi which were mind blowing awesome! Tea was served in earthen small pots –kulhads. Just for the unique experience this is a must visit place. We also visited the old coffee house on College street- my god it was a world from a past era - you gotta be there to experience it! We had a fantafabulous lunch in Bhojohori Manna and I could have gone to heaven right away! The raw mango pulp juice I had there along with a unique ice cream made from the first molasses of sugarcane - awesome! As you can tell- it was a non ending feast of delightful food journey there! How can I miss mentioning Flury’s. A sweet, clean, good food institution (over 100years old) – we packed stuff from there and brought back to Bombay and gorged on it. Despite the huge fire that engulfed the old Flury’s building it was up and running within 24hours of that horrid day

One sight that left me half smiling and half sad- we were waiting in traffic for the lights to turn green. At the same lights, scores of people all bundled behind a rope with a young man in uniform (traffic related) shrilled his whistle ordering them to cross the road by dropping that rope – humanity surged forward as if in a race! Parallely an announcement over the loudspeaker instructed them when the lights turned amber - “dooooon't crooossss the roooaaaddddd…” the rest I couldn’t catch as we had moved on

The high point in this Calcutta trip was the game we got to see between my favourite KKR team and next favorite DC team in an electrifying huge stadium of Eden Gardens. It is no news how Dada is revered here in Calcutta, but omg only if you are present in Eden do you know how big a God he is here! I absolutely think he was our best captain and had to go thru unnecessary tests all his life proving his worth! What a match it turned out to be! An edge of the seat game which KKR won – no articulation of those emotions in the stadium can do justice to the community feeling and sharing of joy and happiness when Dada Ganguly won the game! With adrenalin pumping, Calcutta dancing on the streets with joy after this brilliant victory, we made our way into the jam packed streets singing Korbo, Lorbo, Jeetbo as we made tracks into the night happy with a satisfying day behind and knowing the sunrise ahead would be amidst the monks and monasteries of the Darjeeling hills awaiting our arrival:)

13 comments:

rajindermakkar said...

My, u really took me down memory lane - Cal is where I metamorphosed into whatever I am today! If I'd known 'bout ur trip cud've given u some inputs to add to your grand experience!! Glad u enjoyed!!! Raj

Shweta said...

O God! U saw tat match LIVE:)!! Lucky lucky!! We saw it together with the gand and were we all sitting tight because of our superstitions n not moving for fear of kkr losing!! :) what a match indeed Mee- glad u got to see it live. Dying to hear all abt ur holiday- wkend?:)

john said...

Mee did u make it to mother Teresas grave? Would love to hear abt it. And ofcourse all your travels too. Hope to see you soon.

Anon said...

really enjoyed the piece on cal
did u know i was born there?
adip

ALLEX said...

great post... vivid description of the city in which I have been bought up.... wherever we may be, the culture and ethnicity of kolkata still attracts .... simple living high thing and enjoying all small momemnts of life, thats what is bengal all about... i am sure u must have enjoyed chop, singhara, and munglai paratha also.... if u were nonveggie, then i would have suggested you to try fish fry as the fishfry that u get in kolkata , cannot be compared with any nonveg snack.... dakeeneshwar temple and ganga ghat are some of the nice places too chill out... i so very miss that city

Anon said...

Hi Mee!
East of India is where I haven't been at all. Heard a lot about Darjeeling & 'Kolkata' from Bong friends. Your description proves it is a nice 'Khao piyo' place. Is it not full of sweet Rasogullos & Sandesh? I always visualise it to be all sweety sweety like their language & names. Will surely visit the City & experience its joy.
Kaumudi

Payal said...

This is lovely!! So well written. The vignettes take me back to Cal...now I'm homesick all over again!!! :((

I see you got to experience Flury's and bhojohori manna :)) ...I agree...food in Cal is simply divine!! And the phuchka!!

And yayyy!! You went to Balwant Singhs!! Do you know my house is on the same road?! :))

I have never had the traffic signal experience before tho...but I must admit it sounds exactly like Cal to me :D

Looking forward to the next post

Mahua said...

Beautiful piece. Loved reading it. Every lane, by-lane, para (as in muhalla), market, shop, eating place, homes i have visited there came back to me in a flash. Cal revisited :)

GreatEscapes said...

lovely post! brought back some nice memories & i totally agree on the bit which describes the imprint of colonization.

Its a foodies paradise, and your descriptions of what you savored hmmm i need to head to the kitchen.

I was looking for the mention of the tonga's but the traffic signal made good :)

Anon said...

Simply love your writing. I feel I am traveling with you
Seema

Mee said...

@Raj -Nxt time for sure will check with you:)

@Shweta- wat a match indeed!:)

@John-I had been to the grave many years ago

@Adip-didnt have a clue:)

@Allex- went to khamakyama mandir- will post on it soon

@Kaumudi- definitely worth a visit- the East:)

@Payal- thanks for all your tips- remembered you vry oft:)

@Mahua- thanks for your tips too:)

@Greatescapes- actually didnt see a tonga thr (even not around victoria!)-now tat you mention:)

@Seema- glad you are enjoying the posts:)

muse said...

The only zone of India have not yet visited and my do you make me want to do Cal!!

Mee said...

@Muse- you'll love it thr honest. Ancient, archaic, quaint, modern, contemporary -you find it all in this city of joy:)