This Travelogue is the account of two wanderers one that returned to the place of birth after a long time and the other of a person who has never traveled this far before.
I and ADY went to Kolkata for KC's Marriage and we had 2 days to ourselves we thought among the rituals.
Day 1: Flight at 10 to Kolkata. We take a cab to airport (No... we didn’t take Meru and don’t ask me why).
At the Airport you pay double the price for a six inch sub and cappuccino (No... we couldn’t bargain...Hell). The flight we took and a window seat just above the wings. ADY wouldn’t stop clicking everything one could see out of the small window. Hyper bored in a 2 hour flight, I ventured into entertainment with "Adventures of bounce" in ADY's mobile. Suddenly the mike screeched and captain croaked and we are cruising at 800 km/hour over Bhubaneswar. In half an hour we reach Kolkata. Both our luggage bags were eagerly circulating the ramp (shouting 'pick me up'). We come out of airport and are warmly welcomed by Arijeet (local guy who never went local) and off we go in an OMNI to KC's place. It was quite hot out there. When we reach there, it felt like home and I felt like sleeping but something better was waiting ... lunch!
After a wholesome Vegetarian Bengali meal, we were escorted to the Guest House were we met friend and our Yoga Teacher and her family. We had no time to rest but get ready for the Marriage "Baraat". I wore the traditional dress "Kurta" with much difficulty and I was ready for the show. At 5 we are waiting down KC's house lined up for our ride to Bride's place. (A place called Kakinada which was 42 kms from Dum Dum in North Kolkata). The ride was a rocky ride combined with heavy traffic. Gave us all a headache! Eventually we reached the place and off we go to cruise right over the show. We were served snacks at 8 and dinner at 9. The Dinner had all Non veg delicacies which none of us could have. After dinner we were exhausted. We returned to Guest house and crashed into our beds for a good night's sleep.
Day 2: Windy Day, so we venture out in the morning to KC's place for a homemade breakfast and home-stay's feel. With a set of "Luchi" and "Alu curry" and some sweets we were more than full. We asked every helpful soul - perhaps where could one roam around in Kolkata? ADY did manage to write some places on a piece of paper.
And off we were to Science City. 4 years of Software work experience did leave the quest of science in us. As we cruised in a black and yellow ambassador ( aka Taxi) through the Eastern Bypass Road towards the City of Science, ADY thought to herself, how could one see so much traffic the day before and none the next morning?
The weather was sunny and awesome. As we dropped out of cruiser, we were greeted by the mighty Green Dinosaur which stood tall in front. With much excitement we go in to begin the day. And we see a Cable-car designed to tour you through science city. ADY compared it to Singapore's system and I all I had to say was "Wake up".
Then we go to entrance and take tickets to "Space theater - Life of the Corals" well sounded good to me. But before its show time, we saw time machine, mirror maze and models of PSLV and GSLV rockets and we took our share of pictures with it. After the advent of space theatre, it’s time to munch some food, so we hop over to find the "vood court" eh sorry "food court". The misspelled could go as far as this that the menu read "Vonda" for Bonda and "Boda for Vada". After much disagreement we converged to eating the one and the only "egg roll" and guess what ADY didn't like it (Grrr ... Q: how could anyone not like egg roll? A: she is a woman and hence she is unpredictable)
The we are out of science city to our next destination - the famous "Victory Memorial" and before one enters, there is an array of hawkers selling all a hungry soul needs. (Wait, that’s what I thought before the ADY tried it). We ate "Bhel puri" and barged into the Victoria Memorial. Off into the pebbles we walked, the eyes went blink-blink and the cam went click-click. The splendid Monument did seem to attract us for that time! When we enter, there are artifacts in glass houses (lots of them) and slowly we climb the stairs towards a royal balcony. The view of the garden from there is spectacular. Felt like having a nice ginger tea there (there was no selling there but ...) It was dusk already and we had more places to cover. So we head out a see a circular dome shaped building. This is the "Birla Planetarium". Of Course we didn’t enter there (we already had our dose of science for the day) but instead strolled over to the "St Paul's Cathedral", the famous and elegant church. After a dose of silence and prayer, we come out and its photo time.
Click each other in different angles. Then we must eat something. What will it be this time? As you would have guessed it was “Pani Puri"(aka puchhka) and you are right again, ADY didn’t quite like this one as well. Divide of the north and south I thought and moved on.
It was getting darker and I was getting scared (reason: The next destination was "shopping"). To add to the scare, ADY declares that today one should see all available items and tomorrow the buying will be done. With much guts I support ADY in the noble cause and we head towards the market. On the way was the not to miss cake-shop "Kookie Jar" where we munched on chocolate pastries and mixed fruit pudding (yum!). Then we walk and we walk ... crowded streets and tired feet. I happened to realize my school was right over the next lane. The famous "Birla High School" was right there but ADY showed no interest, so we skip the sitting and move towards the first market "The Vardaan Market". I tell her about the variety and splendor of clothing one gets there in so much less prices. ADY is excited as the market approaches. Suddenly we realize it is closed on the day (on account of weekly holiday... what the?). To kill the disappointment we go over to the hawker next door and buy the famous "Ghoogni". After so much of eating, it was time to drink some water (but you wouldn’t get one when you need it). After receiving some considerable threats of thirst from ADY I rolled over and agreed to buy a bottle.
Ahead we go and reach "Park Street" and over the lanes to "Esplanade" and "New Market". A 2 hour round terminated my legs with pain and rust and nothing quite happened to ADY (The "Women" being). It was 8 and we must return... but wait what about dinner... yeah Chinese dinner! "Peiping" one place where I have been many times only caused me more disappointment with the food we order - tomato soup, red-sauce chopseuy and red-sauce gravy baby corn (yikes!). Somehow finished it and went ahead to catch "Kolkata Metro". From Esplanade to Dum Dum we had to stand as there was no place. Once Again ADY compared it to Singapore and I was quite irked!
Finally we reach Dum Dum Station and we roll out with a gush of other passengers and we walk and walk to realize that we don’t know the way back home (A little Columbus was born in us ...); with some experimentation we reached back where we started from. End of Day 2 (whew!)
Day 3: The sun was shining when I woke up, ADY was almost ready and I was still lazing around. Found my feet still in place and so I decided to get up and get ready. Off we went to KC's house for another round of exquisite breakfast. After which the day begun. In Metro we rolled went over to Esplanade and caught a cab to en-circle "2nd Howrah Bridge" where the famous movie "Yuva's" fighting scene was shot. We were right there measuring us against the bridge.
The Second Howrah Bridge and The First Howrah Bridge
Done with it we came to visit the "1st Howrah Bridge" and this time's transport was through Hooghly River in a cruiser. So walk over through many ferry stations crossing stations like "Eden Gardens" and we reach Babu Ghat and we wait for the cruise to arrive. It sure did arrive in shackles but the ride was good. We glimpse the Howrah station in red before coming back to the ghat. From there we do a lot of walking, we crossed Millennium Park and come across many government buildings (don’t ask me what they were). We were also surprised to find a Restaurant that said "Permanent Restaurant" (wonder what that means?)
Then we scroll over by Netaji Indoor Stadium and Eden Gardens. This fills ADY with joy from her childhood. For the love of cricket, we stare at the stadium where lot of renovation is going on. Finally we walk back to Park Street. Long walk and it was time for Revenge (Yeah! payback time to ADY), before she got tired of walking and started cursing me, luckily we reached the place. We also sighted "The Tram" which disappeared over the bushes (In theory Trams are slowest moving vehicles in Kolkata but this one was different ... so I will call it "The Unicorn Tram"). Lunch time and we are selecting restaurants in Park Street. We barge into "Kwality" and order a wholesome north Indian meal - butter nan, kulchas and panner butter masala and tutti-frutti (aka fruits salad with ice-cream) for desert. After finishing it, we caught a cab to "Agro and Horticultural Garden" which was supposed to have great flowers.
Apparently it didn’t and neither did we get a return cab. With much effort stopped a cab running in opposite direction and made him go over to our next destination "The Birla Mandir". We reach there and at 4 and it are yet to open. I wanted coffee and so we go over to Haldiram's 3 floor restaurant. After crossing every item on the ground floor from one end to another, at the last counter I ask for coffee and he tells me it’s in first floor. We had to come back all the way back through other menus to reach first floor for coffee. I had cold coffee and ADY picked up a strawberry shake. To our amazement both weren’t good and very sweet (by this time we both had developed our affinity towards non-sweet items due to over eating of sweets in Kolkata). We came out at 4 30 and stood in line to get darshan of "God" in Birla Mandir. After waiting in the queue for 15 minutes, the guard at entrance tells cameras not allowed. I lost patience and came out and asked ADY to continue. ADY with her skills at negotiation convinced the guard that we couldn’t afford to go back after coming this far (I was quite surprised that the guard believed her lies!), so I got a permit inside and we went inside. After darshan of all Gods, we came out, a free tram passed by us which ADY clicked. (ADY somehow was fascinated by trams but never rode it ... next time maybe).
It was again getting dark and I was scared to take ADY back to shopping but I did. This time Vardaan marked was open but ADY didn’t like anything (nothing changes overnight I told myself!) and then went ahead to new market. Surprisingly all the items that we tagged yesterday was not to be found today (where did it all go... where did they all disappear?). The answer is we were on the wrong end of the market. Finally we found shops and ADY bought lot of stuff with a single swipe of her card. After that we returned the same way back home and oh boy tired we were! After a long chat we dozed off.
Day 4: Woke up, got ready, finished breakfast, went to the famous astro guy and wrote our predictions (wait for my next post to know more on Astrology). I was the interpreter to ADY, and I translated whatever came to my mind. The astro guy wouldn’t know Hindi and ADY wouldn’t know Bengali. After that we went to best sweet shop around the corner where ADY packed up sweets for back home. Back at the airport, ADY was ready to go home. Nice trip we had we told ourselves before breaking into barriers.
I head back to the Guest house for KC's marriage reception. Yoga teacher and family off to Sunderbans couldn’t make it in time back for KC's Wedding reception. So at reception I clicked away moments while watching India-Sri Lanka 20-20. Then I go off to my Uncle's place from Dum Dum to Garia (The entire distance of the newly extended Kolkata Metro ... and boy it was good). Back to Uncle's it was home. After some talking and drinking, I and Rohit (Uncle’s Son) roll over to play-station 2 and I played need for speed split screen. Under effect of Vodka, couldn’t quite see where I was driving though! And after that WWE- world wrestling and it was fun. Before going to bed... long day I thought.
Day 5: Day of my departure, 4 hrs to go before I can start for airport and I have to meet my friends and relatives back near my home in Kolkata. Rush hour as I rush through old streets kicking up old memories. After spending time with friends, I rushed back to Uncle's place for an exquisitely prepared lunch from my Mami "Pulao, paneer and Gajar ka halwa". After hogging I rushed to a cab and reach the airport. Boredom starts here (perhaps if you have pulled through this longer reading then you have pulled through well!). After a boring flight journey I return back to Bangalore.
Day 6: office day and routine life... (But a cycling tour was coming up the next weekend! Tour report to be posted soon)
At Last, The Characters:
KC - Kritadhi, the groom
I - Sashi ( wanderer 1 )
ADY - Dhivya ( wanderer 2 )
Yoga Teacher - Laxmi