Tuesday, June 29, 2010
I get to travel a lot because of my job profile. But this trip was different.
The plane is taking a longer time to land. It is going around in circles. Our captain has announced turbulence due to lightening. I am seeing scared faces around me. Our plane is 4th to land in a sequence and we have to kill time mid-air before the rest of them land. As the plane starts to descend, we loose sight of the foggy amorphous clouds. I peek from my little enclosed window on the wings to stare at the strange city we are descending on – Small houses, A Long River, Small Water Bodies, Huge Green Playgrounds. I smile! After 6 long hours of flight, starting from the West, touching base in the South and then finally flying to the East. Yes Finally. I disembark saying - Hello Kolkata!
Every bit of the city reeks with a flavor of culture, art and literature. It is the 150th Year of Tagore’s Birth. Every monument that you see is a testimony to the Colonial times. The architecture is so beautiful and stunning that it is as if the time has stood still. Some of the relics of revolution and freedom struggle still stand strong. The breeze on the banks of Ganges slowly hums in your ears and plays with the loose strands of your hair. One stands on the Banks of the calmly streaming Ganges and wonders how beautiful the river looks on the backdrop of the setting sun- as if the sun has burst into several shards of sparkling pieces that now afloat on the river. The Howrah stands tall and looks misty on a cold rainy evening. As if challenging the existence of new bridge.
Small canopies float on the steadily drifting water, carrying people from one shore to the other. The quintessential Boat men clad in their Dhotis and red Gamchas push the boat off the jetty with a rover and embark on a pleasant journey. The water is pale blue, similar to the color of the skies. You start wondering if at a distant point - the Ganges meets the sky mixing the hues of clouds in the river. In the night time the lights are aglow in the whole city making it look even more resplendent.
Transportation here is easy and cheap. I used to wonder where all the Ambassador cars went from India. I have my answer now! All the yellow taxis in Kolkata are yellow Ambassadors. I had heard about trams but never seen them as they were discarded in Mumbai long before my birth in 1983. I was both amazed and amused with a child like alacrity when I saw trams carrying people around. Reminded me of sequences from Full house shot in Florida. Like Ahmedabad you find the green and yellow CNG auto rickshaws. Then there are also human rickshaws but as an outsider you don’t opt for those. You can easily make out the dialect as it is very similar to Hindi and Marathi pronunciations. Just a lot of “O’S” are added. Like SONDESH and RASHOGULLAS. Beautiful Bengali sarees and cotton kurtis are the things to shop for.
Here the Policemen are clad in White uniforms. Traffic seems to be congested due to narrow roads but the air around is fresh. Several small man-made ponds catch your eye. It reminds me fairly of my own city Thane. The staple food here being pond fish and rice, they are reared in these ponds. The puchkas are very much “like“ panipuris but still very “different” from them. The nightlife is not much active here. But the food joints are superb especially the China Town. You should also try biriyanis, mustard fish preparations, ellesh, prawns and other fish curries. One cannot really claim to have visited Kolkata if he doesn’t have the exquisite sweet preparations like all types of Sondesh, Phirni, Abhar Khabo, Mishti Dohi etc. Nothing tastes better than a Cha in small earthen pots on a rainy evening.
The people in Kolkata are as sweet as their delicacies. They love to show you around the city. The Maa Kali temple, Victoria House,Museum, Howrah Bridge and New Bridge etc as very beautiful places. A tour in the buggi makes the ride even more thrilling. Kolkata has a massive football following and you can see the city is clearly geared for the current football season. There are large expansive grounds where young “Ronaldinos" are enjoying their football in rains.
My work here is done…The plane is leaving Kolkata ground. I wave away to this very Celestial City in my own country. I will cherish you in my thoughts Kolkata – I promise as I take off for home!!
I would like to quote few lines from Tagore’s Gitanjali that spell out my KOLKATA EXPERIENCE the best!!
I have had my invitation to this world's festival, and thus my life has been blessed. My eyes have seen and my ears have heard.
It was my part at this feast to play upon my instrument, and I have done all I could.
Now, I ask, has the time come at last when I may go in and see thy face and offer thee my silent salutation?
- Rabindranath Tagore