09 June 2009

The complete Kolkata-Experience

AK and I were in Kolkata earlier this month. Rather, we went to Haldia, and got to spend a few hours in Kolkata on our way back.

The other half studied in Haldia for a few years, and when an old classmate suggested a reunion over the long May day weekend, we decided to go. AK was meeting these friends after almost 25 years, and was really looking forward to it.

The first person he introduced me to was Sanjukta, and the very first thing she said to me was, "Hi, nice meeting you! Why have you stopped blogging?"

Now, that's what I call a fan following! There're a few travelogues from our whilrwind tour of the Patel points of Japan that are half written and awaiting completion, but I decided that after a longish break, I'd write a post for a new friend! Here we go, Sanjukta.

This was my first ever trip to this neck of the woods. And I really got to experience Kolkata in the truest sense. Every stereotype and cliche in place!

0900 hrs :
  • We started off from our hotel after a breakfast, with a tightly packed itinerary. On our way, as we stopped at a traffic light, we saw this group of people standing around a bus stand. I mused that it was rather an odd gathering for a Sunday morning. They looked like a typical group of office goers. Before the light could change, at some unperceived signal, the whole group of randomly loitering strangers fell into formation with a military precision, and, as if by magic, whipped out a whole bunch of red flags, and began to march, shouting slogans.
What luck, I got to see one of Kolkata's famous political rallies!

0915 hrs :
  • As we drove towards our destination we were held up by another rally, this one in full swing.
0930 hrs :
  • How could I even say I went to Kolkata without seeing THE landmark: Victoria Memorial.
1100 hrs :
  • Everyone of my acquaintances who had ever been in or lived in Kolkata insisted that I shop for bags and shoes at New market. And the other-half acceded to that request rather half-heartedly. Would you believe that every single shop was closed? There was some commtion nearby. There was that (by now) familiar sight - people with red flags.
New words added to my non-existant Bengali vocabulary: Hobe-na hobe na!

1130 hrs :
  • A few phone calls later, I'm back in action with a plan B for shopping... Ghoriahaat. Wait a minute... aren't we back in New Market again?? No?? But the shops are all closed!! Oh yes, I do see the Bhodrolok with their flags. Yes, I can chant hobe-na with the best of them, now.
1230 hrs :
  • Thank God, my old friend from college, Pinaki, is with us. He helps us find one or two stores that are open for business. And I do some nominal shopping. AK insists that he doesn't want to see a kurta for another decade at least!
1315 hrs :
  • Fifteen years ago, anytime our friends from college went out for pani-puri, Pinaki would go on and on ad nauseum about Puchkas in Kolkata, and how the stuff elsewhere was unacceptable. Ever since we got married, the other half kept insisting that the pani-puri at Kolkata were the best ever. I finally gulped down a few puchkas... and the great debate rests. They are supercalifragilisticexpialidocious!!! Woohoo....
1340 hrs :
  • Pinaki insisted that I really have to eat some 'real' Mishti-doi. I'm a convert!
1355 hrs :
  • After hunting all around Tokyo to find Netaji's ashes, how could I not take time see the house where was born in Kolkata?
1400 hrs :
  • All this time we were sweating profusely. I swear that the humidity in Kolkata is worse than Chennai. It was totally crazy. Out of the blue the sky suddenly went dark, the clouds totally obscuring the sky and the sun. And the streetlights started coming on in the part of town where we were.
1405 hrs :
  • The next thing I know, high winds are literally sweeping me off my feet (and that takes some sweeping!) There's a spectacular breeze that makes me forget I was sweating like a pig a few minutes ago. And of course dust storms.
1410 hrs :
  • And before I can more than blink at this rapid change in climate, it starts to rain. I 'd like to change that to, it pours. Visibility outside the car is a joke. Kolkata and Kalbaishakhi. I had to see it to believe it.
1530 hrs :
  • As we head towards the airport, we took the scenic route, so I could see Howrah Bridge.
1600 hrs :
  • As we try to get to the airport in good time, we see that roads are flooded.
1615 hrs :
  • And to top it all off, TRAFFIC JAM!!!
I have to admit that I didn't have the time or the appetite for two of Kolkata's famous gastronomic must-dos. Jhal-muri and Rasgolla (yes, I know. It's shocking, isn't it?)

But then I really do need to save something new for next time.


Ramya said...

Looks like you had a great day! I spent the first four years of my life in Cal and haven't been there ever since. Interestingly, N worked at Haldia for a while.

Joy said...

I have been to Calcutta twice between a gap of 15 years. Both time, the only thing that I remember is the traffic jam!!!

Sanjukta said...

Arun should have told me that you have started blogging. haven't yet gone through your post. Just haaaaaad to write to you that I just casually searched and found you again. Now I will read what you have written about us!!!

Tys on Ice said...

Finally u r back...and how!

Madhumita Pravin said...

What - no cutlets Floories and no time for Jhal Muri?! Ah the loss, the loss ...

kumari said...

I actually enjoyed reading through this posting.Many thanks.

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