Knowing my obsessive fascination with food, B for Biriyani should have been the ideal choice. But I had too many choices again. Birla Planetarium in Kolkata – the largest planetarium in Asia and the second largest in the world, the historical Belur Math founded by Swami Vivekananda, the age-old Botanical Garden in Shibpur, Howrah, Bengal’s Baul music (folk) that unites Hindus and Muslims alike and famous places to visit like Bolpur (houses Visva Bharati – the university set up by Rabindranath Tagore) and Bishnupur (famous for Terracotta temples). But there were two subjects that defined Bengal for me – Byomkesh Bakshy and Berhampore.
Byomkesh Bakshy –
Created by author Shardindu Bandopadhyay, Byomkesh was one of the first and finest detective (though he preferred to call himself Satyaneshvi or the truth seeker) characters in Bengali literature. Accompanied by his best friend and writer Ajit Kumar Bandopadhyay in almost all the cases, he was unique in having a family of his own. The stories of Byomkesh were set during the time period of 1930-70 and the author managed to capture the vibrancy of Calcutta through his writing. While the television series starring Rajit Kapoor brought the detective closer to audiences nationwide, the curiosity about this character grew manifold when director Dibakar Mukherjee made a movie Detective Byomkesh Bakshy starring Sushant Singh Rajput in 2015.
Located 200 kms away from Kolkata, Berhampore – the first capital of India under British rule, is the administrative headquarters of Murshidabad district. This town is the main point of connect to the historical town of Murshidabad that is also pinned as a tourist place of attraction. Situated on the banks of the river Bhagirathi, the town has the rich history of educational institutions, one of which dates back to 1853 – the Krishnath College. It is one of the two places in Bengal where a textile college is situated.
The town has a rich cultural lineage through theatre groups like Prantik with Rabindra Sadan as the indoor cultural activity hub. Just at the centre of the town is Barrack square also known as Square field famous for its role in Sepoy mutiny (1857). This ground is witness to most of the fairs in the town – the Book Fair or Boi mela being the most famous. The town is also famous for bell metal (Khagrai Kansha), Murshidabad silk sarees and chhanabora (sweet).
Berhampore is accessible through rail and road from North and South Bengal. Berhampore court and Khagraghat stations are the stops to reach the town.
Stay & food –
While the town has innumerable options for stay, there are only a handful of three star hotels – Hotel Fame being one and a recommended option. Flavours restaurant at Hotel Fame serves a range of veg and non-veg food. Hotel Sunshine near bus stand can be considered as a good option for snacks. Nandan located in the heart of the town is a pure veg restaurant that has marked its presence two decades now.
The personal angle –
Born in Kolkata, my growing years were spent in Berhampore until plus two. I was that quintessential small town girl whose dreams of making it big took her to various metro cities across the country. The homecoming dipped from two/three trips to an eagerly awaited annual visit as I switched roles from that of a student to a working woman. Home for me always meant that room in my house where many a winter afternoon had been spent sipping coffee while reading Byomkesh Bakshy. Two years back, my husband and I decided to move back to Kolkata to ensure our new-born grew up amidst the love and affection of his grandparents. I had the privilege of spending quite a few afternoons in my house yet again. I regret is moments becoming memories now because Ma isn’t around anymore to recreate that magic.