E is for Eden Gardens – the mecca of cricket, Ecopark – the biggest park in India situated in New Town- Rajarhat and Entally – one of the oldest localities in Kolkata, but for me E is and will always be the heart of the city –Esplanade.
Situated in central Kolkata, this is the area from where the first tram and then the first underground metro started. It is also one of the busiest areas with 2 to 3 lakh vehicles passing during the rush hours each day. Esplanade has a bus terminus near Shahid Minar from where buses connecting spots within the city as well as places within the state begin their journey. Walking down the streets give a feeling of the bygone era. Most of the vintage cinema halls like Metro, New Empire and Lighthouse have been mostly replaced by multiplexes and malls. The pavement has branded showrooms on one side while street hawkers selling a range of items on the other. It is difficult to walk through the crowded place with thriving business on the street side stalls.
Quite a few friends of mine were confident about D for Dacres Lane – another old world food paradise housing Chittoda’s famous Mutton Stew to be the featured header today. Few other options that came up were Dalhousie – the office para in Kolkata, the historic Dakshineswar Ma Kali Temple, Bengalis favorite beach honeymoon destination Digha and wildlife rich tropical forest covered hills Dooars/Duars in North Bengal. But the two subjects that make it to my coveted list today are topics extremely close to my heart – Darjeeling and Durga Puja.
The queen of Hills has an appeal unmatched to any other hill station. Home to the third largest mountain Kanchenjunga, the city can reached from New Jalpaiguri station/ Siliguri by rented car or the Himalayan range Toy train.While the view of sunrise at Tiger Hills is something beyond the world, the city also has the famous LLyod’sBotanical Garden and Zoo that is home to quite a few endangered species like the Red Panda. The mix of people from Bengali, Chinese, Anglo-Indians, Nepali to Tibetan brings about a unique mix in the cuisine. Noodles, Momos, Thupkas and butter tea are few of the famous dishes here. A speciality of this is place is Alu mimi which is basically Wai wai sprinkled over dum aloo. Darjeeling tea is famous all over the world. The open area mall has a number of shops delighting the tourists. The local market has an amazing collection of woolen clothes which are of great quality yet affordable. The place has the Government tourist lodge along with budget to luxury resorts as stay options. An ideal day at Darjeeling should begin with breakfast at Keventers, lunch at Kunga and dinner at Glenary’s.
When I mentioned ‘C’ being the letter of the day, my sexagenarian father announced – it is going to be either Cha (tea) or coffee. That is how addicted I’m to both these hot beverages – coffee for winter and tea for the whole year. But that’s for another day. From the legendary Coffee house on the paradise of book lovers – College Street (also known as Boi para), the royal Cooch Behar palace, the famous Chau Dance of Purulia to the historic Calcutta University established in 1857, I had quite a handful of options. But what made to the featured section today were two parts of Kolkata discovered during two entirely different phase – Chandni Chowkand China Town.
Chandni Chowk –
Situated in the central part of Kolkata, this place is primarily famous for two things – the gigantic Chandni market and old world restaurants. Chandni market is the hub for any kind of electronic items. From table lamps to cctv, everything is available here. The roadside hawker stalls as well as the shops have stocks of electronic items, specially Chinese ones that could give any conglomerate a run for money. Despite a booming e-commerce sector, the market has neither lost its charm nor appeal. However one definitely needs to brush up on their bargaining skills before venturing out to buy anything from here.
This area is also house to a lot of eateries – Sabir’s hotel being the most famous among them. Their vintage mutton rezala to be eaten with roti/Naan is still irreplaceable.
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 Bakshyand 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.
Bengal or West Bengal as it is popularly known is one of the states in the eastern part of the Indian subcontinent. While selecting the theme ‘A dollop of Bengal’, I hadn’t thought of the unbelievably wide range of categories that define the state. So when I started jotting down the words that started with the first alphabet A, I realized the list was only getting bigger. Nobel prize winner Amartya Sen, award-winning actor and director Aparna Sen, scientist Acharya Jagadish Chandra Bose, novelist Ashapurna Devi , singer Arijit Singh and the heritage monument Adina Mosque in Malda amidst a list of never-ending names. So I chose two subjects that define the quintessential Bengali essence.
The Oxford dictionary defines it as a place where people gather for conversations. In Bengal what this stands for is a place where people meet for passionate arguments (sometimes heated as well) related to anything under the sky favorites being politics and the downward spiralling of the state. These addas can be spotted at a range of places varying from the tiniest tea shop to a quiet corner of the road to the pavement of someone’s house. Intellectuals have termed this as brainstorming sessions of many a plot and movement alike like the famous addas at Calcutta Coffee House.
The topic for Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge this week is Alone. What this basically means is capturing objects that appear to be alone or lonely. Through a set of three pictures, this is an attempt to capture the diversity in emotions associated with being alone.
The first picture is that of a lone monkey on the terrace of a neighbourhood house in Berhampore, India. With severe deforestation caused by high-rise buildings, the species have no option but to come to human habitation in search of food. The despair on its face owing to such a helpless and hopeless condition is heartbreaking.