Famed author, Günter Grass once said – “Kolkata is like a piece of shit on the face of this earth.” No one in this city will probably take this in a bad notion as we think what he said was entirely his own feelings. Quite naturally a person ignorant of India and its cultures will probably never understand this city. Or maybe it’s our mistake that we couldn’t show him the brighter side of things here.
A lot of my friends tell me that this city is chaotic, probably not feeling to be as straight faced as Günter Grass. Yes, Kolkata is chaotic, dirty at places, yet it’s the City of Joy. The city we all love.
One of those friends of mine from foreign land was in the city after much persuasion from my end. I showed him the city through my eyes. After two days of roaming and merry eating, he said “This wasn’t enough. I have travelled the world. Stayed in top cities but never have I felt so connected to a place.” I felt proud that I could change atleast one guys feeling about the city, but trust me it’s not my credit.
I didn’t make the Victoria Memorial look so brilliant in the dimming day light. I didn’t make the Vidyasagar Setu look like a stretched like arm from the Princep Ghat. I didn’t make the amber bathed streets of the night so inviting. It was all there. No one ever noticed.
Why blame the outsiders? How much do we know the city? Saying “I Love Kolkata” doesn’t help much if you haven’t seen the best of it.
I invite you to go on a trip with me to the best of places that the city have. I’m sure you guys are aware are these places but take the trip to know inviting it can be.
Start with a trip on the Circular Railway that runs by the riverside of the city. Start from Majherhat station to BBD Bag Station. Best time to do have a ride is early evening. Stand at the western gate of the compartment to enjoy the best view of the full orange sun going down on the lesser populated side of the river. Enjoy as the train strides towards the green path and takes slight turns. My first time I felt that I’m lost. I’m lost for the good. I’m lost to see a better place.
Then take a ride from Gariahat on the tram to Esplanade. This is the longest route where the silent creepers of the city travels, yet the most interesting. You’ll love the ride as it travels along the hundreds of cars as they cross the city’s major junctures of Kalighat, Rashbehari and Chetla, the fast paced streets of Mominpur reaching the slow but chaotic Khidderpur. Don’t forget to stick out your nose and take a deep aroma of the numerous farsans available. Then comes the greener part as it approaches the Maidan from its south western side where the greens and the high bridges crisscross each other. It gives you a feeling that the nature and architecture compliments each other. Then as it gets full on onto the Maidan crossing red road it reminds of the multiple films that are shot on this scenic locations. You’ll love it when it splashes the dirty water from the puddles near its tracks.
If you are hungry after travelling then don’t forget to catch a breadth or two as you sip onto the nimbupani from the street vendors of New Market. Or try some Chanachur from the Nehru cap clad hawkers of Russell Street or even the kebabs from Astor Hotel or even the famous Chicken Roll of Nizam’s. You are bound to feel like an emperor. Set yourself into the trance as you go inside the Tantra at The Park Hotel or simply enjoy a drink with good music at Someplace Else. For dinner, try the Chelo Kebab at Peter Cat or some of the Chinese delicacies at the Tung Fung or even a full platter at Mocambo or at Bar-B-Q or at Moulin Rouge. The choice is yours, how your taste buds are tickling.
Wake up late on Sunday and have the hinger Kachori at Maharani near Deshopriya Park. Have the biriyani and Halimfrom Arsalan or Zee Shan at Park Circus. Try the Bengali Platter at Bhajahari Manna or Tero Parbon or even at the mightier Aheli at Peerless Inn or Elgin road’s Oh Calcutta! Don’t forget a sandesh from the Sen Mahashay or a rasogulla at KC Das, which melts in your mouth, to end your course.
Visit the auction houses of Sudder Street or the old gramophone market on Boubazaar and get in to the nostalgia. If you have the love for the lesser intelligent beings then go to the Pet market at Ghallif Street. Or the College Street for the intellects is also an option. If you simply love to shop go to the Gariahat or New Market, even the Fancy Market or Mehra Building for the tech freaks to lay hands at the latest Gizmos.
Early evening momos at the Humro Momo, Mughlai at Anadi’r Cabin and Parota aar Kosha Mangsho at the Golbari or the late evening Fuchka or Bhelpuri at Vivekananda Park is not that great in terms of calories you consume but really well for mental satisfaction and off course your taste buds...
Enjoy the Fountain of Joy or a exhibition at the Art Gallery. Meet up and chat with old friends at the Nandan complex or even at the Indian Coffee House. If you are having a dinner out then don’t forget Beijing in Tangra. Specially with their Lemon Chicken and the rare wines, they’ll mesmerize you to the fullest. The age old Waldorf can also be a good choice for a cosy late dinner.
Hop off a late night metro ride as you feel proud or the engineering marvel the city could achieve well before the others as you feel fresh to welcome a brand new week. Off to office, off to a days work in search for another dollar. But little here and there at the city can surely help you cope with the pressures well, leaving aside the fact that you tend to love the 300 years old Tilottama a little more.