Kolkata – A Memoir
If there is a Nobel in “Bakchodi” he deserves it for sure.
It’s been almost 3 years since I have visited the city of joy, Kolkata. I didn’t get much time to explore the city back then because I went there for a friend’s wedding. Excitement was at its peak because it was a Bengali wedding and that too in Bangla land. A friend whom I met on Orkut first and then ended up being friends for life was getting married.
The journey from Delhi to Kolkata was a comfortable one thanks to Rajdhani Express. It took nearly 16 hours to reach Howrah station and once I deboarded, the stench of fishes filled my nose. That was the sign I have reached Kolkata. I felt welcome to this city, which lives in the present but has its roots in history. I had about 4 days to explore as I reached Kolkata on the wedding day itself.
The expedition across the town began with Alipore; I first heard of the place in a Chetan Bhagat novel (I am mentioning Chetan Bhagat here to tease Agnivo, because he hates him to the core). I took a yellow taxi, the signature symbol of Kolkata, and asked the driver to show me around on our way, even if detours are required. I got to see Howrah bridge, Victoria Memorial, Eden Garden, Race Course. It was in Kolkata, where I first saw ladies filling petrol in vehicles at a petrol pump.
The wedding ceremony took place in Chandannagar, some 100 odd km from Kolkata. A small town, Chandannagar, was all lush green, bristling with some Portuguese colonies, an old church and the mighty river Ganga, or Hooghly as Bengalis call it, flowing on its side.
The entire wedding procession was smooth and something worth remembering for the rest of my life. The concept of having some real close people with you on the most important day of your life is what I liked about Bengali weddings. There were a few family members and really important friends from both the sides. I felt so important. The hospitality was great and the food was awesome. The wedding ceremony was small unlike what we have here in Northern India with so much revelry, show-off and atrocious amount of money being spent to impress people who don’t matter the bride or the groom.
Post wedding night (Basor) was spent with the bride and the groom, drinking, chatting, playing cards as we were supposed to stay back for the Bidaai for the next day. The next morning, we decided to explore Chandannagar. Boudi’s uncle was extremely keen on showing us around and we decided to walk around the town. We clicked numerous pictures and experienced the calmness and the peace that the place offered. The church was one of the finest examples of architecture that I have seen in my life. Later that day, the Bidaai ceremony took place and we were on our way to Kolkata clicking pictures, chatting and sharing the experience with my friend’s dad.
Once we were back, it was Kaal Ratri for my friend, where he and Boudi were not supposed to share the same room. It was one helluva ritual. He was thrown out of the house and was supposed to stay outside the whole night. That is when we planned to experience Kolkata. We took a taxi to Esplanade and walked around. We were searching for a bar and I don’t exactly remember how but we landed up at Roxy cinemas and bar. I faintly remember, we were taking services of Google Maps installed on a friend’s Nokia E71 and that was the nearest option available. The moment we open the gate of the bar, we saw ladies dancing and smoke hovering around the whole place. We got scared like shit and ran away.
Instead, we decided to spend the time at the Hotel Park, on Park Street. During the course, we tried Phuchkas (Gol Gappe, as we call it here and Paani Poori as they call in Mumbai), some bhelpuri and some fried food. The best part of it all was that all this happened at around midnight, yet the city seemed alive like it was evening. We tried our hands at some night photography, got all sloshed, came back to our service apartment and slept.
The next morning, we decided to go to Liluah, another town, about 50 km away from Kolkata, to meet the Mr. Uday Bhan Singhji. He holds the record of having highest number of jeeps with him. His whole place was full of jeeps. Some in working condition that left me and my friends drooling. You could spot jeeps in every corner of the area where his house is built. It was an absolute honour to have lunch with him. Also, in the evening, he took us for a jeep ride to a Ramakrishna Mission Temple. The ride was fantastic and the temple was again a beautiful architecture. I absolutely loved it.
Then on our way back, we faced massive traffic jam, all thanks to Kolkata’s narrow streets and the disorder the people are already used to. But there was order in the chaos – something I loved about the city. The wedding reception was scheduled that evening and we reached the venue extremely late. We dressed up hurriedly and attended the reception, again some great food with some great company. Next morning, I had to leave for my college in Allahabad.
I requested uncle to drop me to till Howrah station and asked him to show me around on our way. He graced my request and showed me the architecture of the colonial era, their beauty heightened by the taxis swarming around on the roads, the trams, metro stations and much more. It felt like we are in some other era. He narrated the history behind each and every thing. We took the Howrah bridge and finally reached the station and then I had the worst train journey of my life.
Well, that was in short my experience in Kolkata. I intend to visit the city again and experience it. I want Agnivo to show me around because he is like a walking-talking encyclopedia of Bengal (He likes to call West Bengal as Bengal, so be it). Hope my wish comes true soon. May be later this year, as I have been invited to another wedding there! 🙂
DISCLAIMER – All Images Used In This Post Have Their Respective Copyrights.