The Paris Of the East.

29.03.2011-

On the first day itself, the city of joy- Kolkata landed the four of us in the crowded lanes of Strand Road, Chaurangi, Bara Bazaar, and Phal Patti. It was a tiring experience altogether but imagining myself as an anchor on one of the travel shows on TLC helped me survive. On our way ‘around’, we indulged in sweet watermelons, experienced bumpy rides in the BURSTING city bus and more.

30.03.2011-

Happy Anniversary mom and dad!

Kolkata is a city adorned with old yet beautiful and tall buildings and a different weather every day. The first day was hot with hot local winds bruising our bodies. But the second day experienced a complete turnover. 30th March, 2011 had a pleasant weather with cool winds and grey clouds ready to pour.
The metro is an extremely convenient way to travel through Kolkata. A rupees four ticket for two people and only a few minutes will take you to every major area of the city. We went to markets namely Esplanade, New Market a.k.a. Stuart Hoggs’ Street and Lindsay Street. These were all inter-connected. We passed the “Slaughter House” but failed to gather enough courage to go in. We moved on. Surprisingly, we didn’t see a single fish since we stepped in Kolkata. Not one in two days! Not even sea-food. All we could see were egg rolls and this rolls and that rolls and egg rolls again and more rolls kept rolling along! Anyway, after the exhausting six hours of walking, lunch break excluded, we went to our abode, kept the stuff that we had bought and then my sister, mom and me proceeded to ‘College Street’ to buy novels. To our surprise, majority of the stalls were shut down because of the Indo-Pak cricket match. Kolkata’s spirit towards the match was overwhelming. The streets were lined with Indian flags, orange and green lights shone overhead, and people were glued to a single TV screen. In fact, one became witness to excited roars and firecrackers every time the Indian Team scored. It was an experience that can’t be described. Oh by the way, for the first time in Kolkata, we ate fish and rice for dinner…not bad!

31.03.2011-

We woke up in the morning, geared up for another day on foot. We got ready and headed for Esplanade. Our next stop was Victoria Memorial. It is a beautiful place – amazingly serene! It is surrounded on all sides by sprawling gardens, tanks and lakes and oh-so-many trees. We went round the memorial playing witness to its fame and beauty . We entered the building made of marble and saw originals by M F Hussain and Sunita Kumar. We saw various snapshots of Mother Teresa and also went into the chambers housing various weapons, portraits, original hand-written letters and memos, artifacts, medals, clothes, furniture, hair, sacred texts and much much more. It was a visual and mental treat.
From Victoria Memorial, we proceeded towards the lanes of Gariahat and after that, the mesmeric architecture of  Birla Mandir left us spellbound. Unfortunately, photography was prohibited inside the temple. However, we managed to capture a few exterior shots. From the Mandir, we took a cab and went to China Town. It was pretty disappointing as there was nothing much to see. Since we all were famished, we decided to try the famous ‘Beijing’ restaurant of China Town. We all treated ourselves to Prawn Fried Rice and Crab Meat in Spinach…yum! yum! Having had dinner and being tired enough to retire for the day, we retraced our steps to our room and planned the day after.

01.04.2011-

Today was a day full of dirt , sun and sweat. We started our day with College Street where we bought several books. After College Street we decided to go to Belur Math only to find that the timings of the Math were 04:00 p.m. to 09:00 p.m. (We reached the place at 02:30 p.m.!) We couldn’t go back because the Math was very far from our area. We had planned to go to Dakshineshwar Kali Temple too since it was just across the Hugli river, but it shared the same timings with the Math. Thus we went and sat down on the windy harbor waiting for our watch(es) to strike 04:00.
Finally we entered the Math‘s premises – Beautiful! Unfortunately, ‘Photography was strictly prohibited’. The exterior of the Math was achingly beautiful. It was in stone, with intricate carvings and beautiful idols and we saw Swami Vivekananda’s room with his belongings. After having seen the Math we went across the river to the Kali Temple. The number of pilgrims exceeded a good 500, all waiting in a single line to pay homage to Goddess Kali.
Thereafter, we went to Esplanade to feed ourselves. Having done so, we took a metro to M.G. Road, went to our rooms and did the most amazing thing ever – SLEEP!

02.04.2011-

We started our day on foot. At first we went to the Marble Palace but one needed a permit from the office of tourism to get in, which we didn’t have, so we continued towards Tagore House – Jorashanko Thakurbari. On reaching the red mansion, we signed the visitor’s book and ascended the stairs. We saw the poet’s robes, his art, the paintings by the members of his family. We took a tour of the bungalow and also saw his car – a black 1933 Humber 16/60.
From the Tagore House, we proceeded to College Street again to buy three more books (the names were already decided upon). However, we found only one and that too after much bargaining. Tired of the heat, we ate cool cucumbers and juicy watermelons (in no other city could you find fresher fruits selling at such cheap rates at regular intervals of the streets. Tourists on foot can never go hungry!) and went back to our rooms to have lunch, after which we went to Alipore Zoological Garden which was a disappointment since half of the cages were empty. The same breed of animals/birds were kept in several cages stationed at different locations. Nevertheless, it was a real treat to watch the white tiger, the Indian lioness, white peacocks, elephants and the cuddly and hairy Himalayan Black Bear. I cannot forget to mention the White Stork who, as soon as we reached its territory, started jumping. It can’t be described in mere words. It was a real celebrity!  From the zoo we took a bus to Esplanade and went to SreeLeathers and Khadim’s to do some leather-goods shopping after which, we (tired souls) went back to our room, packed our belongings for our 3 day trip to Shillong and went to sleep. Oh by the way, CONGRATULATIONS! India won!

03.04.2011-

We had to depart for Shillong that day. I woke up at 06:04 a.m. only to discover that mom and I were feeling weak. My head was throbbing due to the accident that occurred on the previous day (Yeah, Yeah. I banged my head  hard in the zoo. I didn’t see the rusty metal rod coming!) We reached the airport in good time. Our flight was scheduled for 11.35 a.m. However it was cancelled due to some technical faults. Ironically, even though all of us were ‘harassed travelers’ (as my sister put it) , we still had a big smile on our face because we were so excited (My sister and me, that is). We, then, were boarded for a Kingfisher Red flight. I completely enjoyed the flight, unlike the other three. They found it boring; they didn’t have anything to do, unlike me. I was reading one of the books we bought.  The flight, however, was till Guwahati only so we had to hire a cab to Shillong. What a tiring journey but satisfactorily scenic.

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The Paris Of The East – KOLKATA
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