Sunday, April 3, 2016

Kolkata: With Joy to Adobe of Peace

Taking leave from my routine job and Mentor India work, I was in West Bengal for close to 9 days and got a chance to experience bong life a bit. It took no time for me to take note of ambassador times here. Hindustan Motors may have shut down, but the legacy of their yellow taxis don’t seem to die. I guess, it’s the same with colonial British establishments. Where in earth can you take a tram to handpulled auto to shared auto to ferry to yellow ambassador taxi to 1980’s Tata bus to anywhere you want to reach! Here goes my travelogue:

Kolkata or Calcutta is surely city of joy. I had boarded flight to Kolkata from Bangalore with a disappointment that I missed being at India Pakistan world T20 match happening at Eden Gardens & my hotel, Eagle Palace, being in Esplanade {took some time to digest that central Kolkata had a unique name christened by British}, was at walkable distance from the stadium! But a friend can turn disappointment into excitement. That is what exactly happened after I made friends with my co-passenger Nabarun! He was shifting his base back to his hometown and we had long conversation on socio-political-historical-cultural aspects of Calcutta. Such a delight! And the best part came when he dropped me off to my hotel in his ambassador. Thank you Nabarun!
A photo posted by Jaideep Rao (@jaideeprao) on
Post checking in, I took a walk to Eden Gardens to meet my friends, Supraj & Aditi, who were there in attendance. I could spot numerous hawkers, roadside eateries, those selling milk & dhoiyi (curd or dahi), and ofcouse sweets- rosgullas to sondesh! It was evident that city had many in below poverty line. But I could find the old charm and happiness here.

Next morning, we took a 2.5 hrs train to Bolpur from Sealdah. We took an auto to place which I always wanted to be- Shantineketan, the university town established by Gurudev, 1st Indian to win Nobel, Rabindranath Tagore. Shantineketan is as beautiful as Tagore’s speeches or poems or thoughts. First we had breakfast in a hut where they served luchi, gugni, bread, butter and chai- amazing! Before taking a walk in spacious plush green beautiful Viswa-Bharathi University campus (that is post 12.30 pm, entrance only in afternoon for public), we explored very knowledgeable museum and Uttarayan complex-which had combined entry fees. Tagore’s letters, his awards, his article snippets and his poems played in background- make the museum special. Uttarayan complex has a garage and residence of Tagore- Udayan, Konark, Punascha and Udichi. These houses are marvelous with big windows, spacious rooms, ventilation, red oxide floors and beautiful gardens- a poet’s retreat!

Post lunch, we explored Bhubandanga bazaar which sold handicrafts to artworks and post that boarded train back to Kolkata. Same night, I had an overnight train to NJP, aka, New Jalpaiguri station, which is 3 hour away from Darjeeling. Road to Darjeeling and things I did in Darjeeling is in a separate blog post here.

Primary reason for this trip was Sandakhpu trek, which is oldest trek in India and highest peak in West Bengal. Trek is a journey in itself and surely deserves an exclusive blog post!

After I returned from NJP to Kolkata, I had 3 hours before I caught my flight to Bangalore. Making most of it, we took a bus to Dalhousie from Sealdah railway station. Dalhousie is close to Esplanade and it has trams running on the road which is quite a sight. We enjoyed walking from Dalhousie to Fairy jetty across colonial Writer’s block. We took a 5 INR ticket “Launch” or boat to Howrah railway station overseeing marvelous century old Howrah Bridge built across Hooghly river, distributary of River Ganga! It was lovely to see so many passengers use the waterway to reach their destination. From Howrah railway station, I headed towards airport dropping in Haldirams on the way. Despite hot & humid weather of Kolkata, I enjoyed being and travelling here & will look forward to come back to explore more!

{Thanks to Team for allowing to go on a vacation. Special Thanks to Supraj for making this happen. Thanks to Akash Chopra, Saikat Pal, Manthan Shah, Rakesh & Sujay da, Pranjal Parashar, Shishir Sachdev, Vamsi Krishna Manchi and  Malav Shah for making Sandakphu special. Thanks to Sabry Ali for that lovely evening conversation}