Yesterday I read this article. Buffalo boy’s Calcutta crush!
It took me on a nostalgic journey of Kolkata. Yes, this city is too lively and very warm. Even a non Bengali like me is made to feel at home. Any Calcuttan would speak highly for this city, but it’s me a non Bengali, who’ll be telling what this city really means and why its so enchanting.
Dominique Lapierre gave this city the name “City of Joy”, such an apt name! The passion in this city is remarkable. When you start living here, with each passing day the city starts growing on you. So many times I have taken a tour of this city on foot or used any other public transport that I could manage to get.
This is a city where you find old merging into new in a very balancing manner, be it with the buildings, monuments or even people and its culture. Roam around the heart of the city and you find skyscrapers, but you do find the old vintage buildings at regular interval. You have the age old 5 star Hotel, The Grand, built during British Empire, and you also have the modern architecture hotel, The Taj Bengal. Rabindra Sangeet is still the most popular music being taught in very second household. And you also have musicians coming up now singing this same Rabindra Sangeet, changed to suit the new generation. Debates on the subject if this is correct carries on, and believe me; both sides are too passionate, like a true Calcuttan, when debating on this subject.
College Street, one of my favourite places and here you find the famous Coffee House. Any die hard Calcuttan is too emotionally attached to the Coffee House. You visit the place and you’ll find many old people sipping coffee, yes many of them have been doing this as a routine from their college days! They all swear by the coffee served here. It’s a place where you feel free to talk loud or sing, play a guitar at your own free will or just sit for hours reading a book. I am told, the menu card, its still the ancient one being carried on, and the walls, filled with scribbling, telling so many love stories. Coffee House has not been touched by time!
If Coffee House of College Street is the get together joint of Kolkata, the other without any question is the Flury’s situated at Park Street. Flury’s do make quite a big hole in your pocket, but same like coffee house, it too has its own fixed clientele. The ambience inside is just the opposite of Coffee House, its quite peaceful. The cream coffee here is quite irresistible, and ofcourse the original aromatic Darjeeling Green tea, beside definitely the cakes!
The walk down the Park Street, Camac Street, Esplanade, yes you do discover the old “Calcutta”. Park Street is Kolkata’s high street. It still gives you the feeling of being in the western world. It’s the glitziest entertainment area of the city. The streets are buzzing with activity with British era restaurant mixing well with modern ones like Mac and KFC. What to say about Maidan! Nothing can beat a walk across this vast area of greenery, sit under a tree and watch the world go by. And if you want too see the real Kolkata, feel the chaos of this city, then take a walk down the Chowringhee. A good place to buy from street vendors, you get everything, and also get a feel of the Victorian architecture. Victoria Memorial, Jorasakho, Rabindra Sarowar, Kalighat temple, the Ganges ghats, Tram rides, Howrah Bridge, New Market, Gariahat, list is endless, so many places which is unique to this city & keeps this city full of life.
If you want to really live this city, make sure to experience its culinary path. This city serves what I call as soul food. Peter Cat Chelo Kebabs, different rolls at Golpark and Park Street, Momos at Elgin Road, Golgappass at Victoria and Lindsay Street, Biryani of Arsalan while chicken chaap from Shiraaz. Not to be missed, the China Town of Kolkata, Tangra for exclusive Chinese cuisines. Don’t miss their fried prawns; I am missing them now while I type! The mughlai cutlet at Fine Arts academy, meal at Aheli, and the list is endless!
“City of Joy” – yes the name fits perfectly. With all its drawbacks, with all the beating it got in these last few years, its still brings a smile unknowingly when you are walking down its lanes. Yes, I confess, it has more life than even my birth town Shimla, it accepted me as it has always done with all non Bengalis. And like a true Kolkatan, oops sorry, Calcuttan, I would say – “I’ll be visiting Cal soon!” – It’ll remain “Cal” for Calcuttans always!