An absolute whirlwind of a trip, a weekend trip in which I managed to fit in quite a few of the things that I had always wanted to do. A trip to Kolkata, one of the most cultured cities in our country.
As I made my way from the airport to the Oberoi Grand, I was quite impressed by the city and its infrastructure. The city was clean with flyovers making the commute fast and hassle-free. I figured that the flyovers were blocking those parts that may not have been very clean but that was fine. I caught a glimpse of a mini Big Ben and was told that the city boasts of a number of such replicas of world-famous monuments including the Eiffel Tower.
A quick lunch at the hotel and I was ready to roll. The first stop was The Oxford Book Store with its huge collection of books and more books. I was in no rush and took my time browsing around, looking at the various bookshelves, loaded with all kinds of books. Some books had that sweet, musky smell, some had that smell of paper and ink, it was heaven!! Finally, I picked up a few of the ones that I was looking for. That done I crossed over to go to Flury’s, the famous confectionary in Kolkata, a must-do for every visitor to the city. Located on Park Street since 1927 it is a place where you can catch up with friends or be on your own and devour their assortment of cakes, pastries, cookies, sandwiches, quiches, puffs, patties, croissants… endless options, not to forget the breakfast.. a gastronomical delight!!! I spent a relaxed afternoon there with a friend catching up over coffee and a slice of this delicious almond cake.
This was followed by a quick visit to the majestic Victoria Memorial. Though I couldn’t go inside I couldn’t help admire the way the monument and the lush greens outside had been preserved. Most impressive. Then there was the quick stopover at the Princep Ghat along the banks of the Hooghly River, a calming, soothing stopover. The beautiful Ganges, the sunset, all very magical and serene. History says it was built in 1841 in memory of an Anglo-Indian scholar by the name of James Princep.
And then came the icing on the cake, dinner at 6 Ballygunge Place. Absolutely authentic, lip-smacking Bengali food. It started with a Green Mango drink made from raw mango ( tasted divine !!!) followed by fish fry, prawn curry, this amazing mutton dish and then the dessert … Mishti doi and a jaggery ice cream. My senses were protesting, I was eating way too much but just couldn’t stop!!
Day 2 began on a relaxed note with a morning at the hotel spent reading and writing with all intentions of hitting the gym but the prolonged breakfast ( my all-time favourite meal!!) in solitary splendour made sure that I went nowhere near what is called a gym!! So much for carrying my gym clothes!! Then in keeping with my routine, I visited a gurudwara, Gurudwara Sant Kutiya, a peaceful, sacred place on Harish Mukherjee Road. By the side of the gurudwara is Sharma Tea House, well known for its tea and piping, hot snacks. Got to try the kachori!! Then giving in to the urge to visit a book lover’s paradise I decided to visit College Street and found it to be one. I dragged a protesting husband too with me.!! What an absolute delight of a street.Little, little shops, kiosks all along the street with all kinds of books!! And booksellers who could put any authority on books to shame with their knowledge and information about their books. They surely know what they are doing!! This was followed by a drive through the city giving me a glimpse of Bada Bazaar with its old almost falling apart structures but with an old-world charm about it and not to forget..Howrah.
In the evening I got an opportunity to attend an authentic Bengali function, a dear friend’s 50th-anniversary celebration. An evening where the sarees, the jewellery took my breath away! The evening ended catching up with friends at the hotel bar.
And Day 3, the grand finale was an early morning visit ( thanks to this dear friend who took the trouble of driving us there) to Dakshineswar temple, the Kali temple and Belur Math, the headquarters of the Ramakrishna Math and Mission founded by Swami Vivekananda. The early morning, the serenity, the peace, the beautiful Ganges!! Not to forget the flower sellers outside the Dakshineswar temple!! Shop after shop selling flowers of different colours, shades and hues…..red, pink, white, yellow!! A visual delight! ( if one ignored the overflowing dustbins!!)
And then on the way to the airport a stopover at Misti hub, a mithai lover’s paradise. The sheer variety..shondesh, chom chom, roshogulla, rasmalai, payesh and my favourite kheer kadam.
The City of Culture, the City of Joy with its various joys😊😊