My thoughts on A2Z Challenge 2020

When I signed up for the A2Z Challenge in 2020, life was chaotic and turbulent. With the Covid-19 pandemic engulfing our lives, it wasn’t easy being a doctor’s wife. When my husband was away on the emergency duty, it was difficult to balance the role of a mother to a 4.6-year-old, take care of my aging in-laws at home and continue working on my MFA creating writing assignments. By registering for the challenge, I was taking up the humongous tasks of writing and reading multiple posts daily on myself. Yet, the thrill of participating for the third time outweighed all the hurdles. I promised myself that the day the challenge became overwhelming, I would quit at that moment. It took away a lot of unnecessary pressure and let me write with ease.

In 2018, I wrote non-fiction posts on various aspects of my home state, West Bengal under the theme of ‘A dollop of Bengal.’

In 2019, I shared my real-life experiences related to the process of school admissions for my then 3.5-year-old son, Tuneer under the theme ‘Sagas of surviving a toddler’s school admission procedures.

In 2020, I thought of bringing some relief to the anxiety and stress around us by speaking about Indian stand-up comedians and comedy channels on YouTube under the theme ‘Laugh in the time of Corona.’

My posts were about a bunch of versatile and talented performers who use humor to spread happiness, social awareness, make political satires, draw comedy sketches, and much more. At the end of each post, I added a link to one of my favorite videos by the artist to ensure that anyone who read my post left the page with a smile on their face. And while I was drafting these pieces and watching these videos before choosing one for my posts, my stress reduced because of my daily dose of laughter.

Amidst household chores, playing the role of a caregiver, and juggling weekly assignments, I finished publishing 26 posts on schedule for the third time in a row. I read 25-30 posts on a daily average and thoroughly enjoyed interacting with my fellow bloggers. I must admit that it is writing that kept me going through a difficult month.

Heartfelt gratitude to the team of International A2Z challenge, Blogchatter, and my fellow writers for being a part of my April journey this year. I hope to return next year with a new theme and renewed energy.

Reflections & Gratitude – Summing up Blogchatter A2Z Challenge 2018

When I signed up for the BlogchatterA2Z challenge in April 2018, little did I know what I was getting into. As a new entrant to the world of blogging and a first timer in this challenge, posting every single day (except Sundays) looked daunting. Not knowing what to expect, I came without any preconceived notion and pre-planned posts. Luckily I had a theme in place titled “A dollop of Bengal”. However every single word associated with the alphabet pertaining to the theme was figured out only the night before the post was due. The post was written only after my toddler slept in the afternoon. Co-incidentally I had a lot of pictures clicked while exploring places in Bengal, specially Kolkata and Murshidabad last December till February. Editing them was another Herculean task that I needed to complete before hitting the publish button.

The first week was all about balancing act with my toddler starting preschool since 4th April. The initial few days of helping him settle down along with daily posting was extremely tough to handle. The second week was comparatively easy and I managed to read a lot of posts from fellow bloggers too. The third week turned out to be the most difficult one with a sick toddler, AWOL cook and pending posts that needed to be published. By the time I entered the fourth week, the challenge had so exhausted me mentally and physically that at some point I almost thought of giving up. Yet I managed to cross the finishing line.

I don’t think this would have been possible without the following few people –

  1. My family – My father, father in law and mother in law for letting me write in peace while taking up additional responsibilities of handling the toddler and household chores. My husband for his continued support and encouragement ensuring that I finish this challenge. My toddler for not breaking the laptop or running away with my notebooks when I pleaded with him to co-operate.
  2. Blogchatter team – Your enthusiasm and motivation is what got us going
  3. Fellow group bloggers – Blogchatter sorted us out into groups. I was privileged to have been part of one where members ensured they read each other, provided constructive feedback and lifted each others spirits when things didn’t seem to work out. I have said this before and I will say it again – Varad, Sayan, Ruchi, Jai – I am glad I found friends like you through this challenge. Tina, Roma – you are the kindest mentors I have come across. Saba, Snehalata, Shweta, Rohan, Sayanti, Shipra, Sudha, Shilpa – I am so glad to have connected with you.
  4. Fellow bloggers – Through social media and daily linkies, I interacted with many talented bloggers. Balaka, Priya, Akshata, Meha, Lavanya, Mayuri, Deepa, Dr. Roshan, Arjun, Kanika, Pratikshya, Ashwini, Seema, Pooja, Dr. Amit, Neha, Medha and Namratha – it has been a delight to read each one of you and an honour to read your comments on my posts
  5. Kalyan Karmakar (Finely Chopped) – His was one of the first blogs that got me interested in food blogging. Ever since I started blogging, I have sought his advice whenever in doubt. Ever ready to help, it was a pleasure to read his comments on few of my posts. His encouragement definitely inspired me to write better.

As I end this challenge and start working on my e-book next, I only have immense gratitude and a sense of belonging as my take-away from this contest. Having lived away from Bengal for sixteen long years, it was indeed challenging to return to Kolkata in 2016 and start afresh. I wasn’t even sure how much I could relate to the city anymore. It is while working on my theme that I realized how Bengal /Kolkata/Berhampore is still such an integral part of my identity and existence.

I am definitely looking forward to the second edition of this challenge next year. But next time, I definitely plan to be a little more prepared in advance so that I can  spend much more time in interactions and hopping onto others’ posts.

Heartfelt thanks to all of you for being a part of my journey.

 

A dollop of Bengal – Zoological Garden

Z could have been Zong Dog Palri Fo-Brang Monastery or another Tibetan Buddhist monastery Zang Dhok Palri Phodang , both located in Kalimpong. But Z had to be India’s oldest formally stated zoological park  – Zoological Garden, Kolkata.

Zoological Garden –

Zoo - entry gate
The entry gate of Zoological Garden

The Zoological Garden, Alipore (also informally called the Alipore Zoo or Calcutta Zoo)with an area of 46.5 acres opened as a zoo in 1876. It is famous as the home of the now expired Aldabra giant tortoise Adwaita, who lived for over 250 years till his death in 2006. It also houses one of the few captive breeding projects involving the Manipur brow-antlered deer. The Zoo is one of the most popular tourist attractions in the city and finds maximum footfall during winter season.

History –

The zoo had its roots in a private menagerie established by the Governor General of India, Richard Wellesley in his summer home at Barrackpore as part of the Indian Natural History Project . The foundation of zoos in major cities around the world caused a growing thought among the British community in Kolkata that the menagerie should be upgraded to a formal zoological garden.

In 1873, the Lieutenant-Governor Sir Richard Temple formally proposed the formation of a zoo in Kolkata, and the Government allotted land based on the joint petition of the Asiatic Society and Agri-Horticultural Society.

Zoo overview
Inside the Zoo

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A dollop of Bengal – Yauatcha

Y could have been Yuva Bharati Stadium in Salt Lake famous for its sporting events or the Yellow taxi that has an old world charm about it. But this series is not just about bringing back nostalgia but also aims to provide the latest updates in the city. Hence the one that makes it to my featured post of the day is the fine-dining restaurant Yauatcha.

Yauatcha –

Yauatcha -Dumplings and Squid.jpg
Dumplings and Squid along with beverage

Located on 5th floor of Quest Mall in Syed Amir Ali Avenue, Yauatcha is the first Michelin star restaurant of the city. This restaurant with its origin in London had already opened branches in Mumbai, Delhi and Bangalore prior to its launch in Kolkata. It has a bar and dining area. There is also an enclosed area for private dining and private parties that can host around thirty people.

Ambiance –

Yauatcha - View
View of the sky from the restaurant

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A dollop of Bengal – Xmas

X barely had any other option to write about except the festival that rises beyond religion to be celebrated with zeal and fervour in the city – Xmas or Christmas.

Xmas –

Xmas Park Street Carnival 2
Christmas Parade on Park Street

Christmas Parade on Park Street

The shimmering lights, Christmas songs, rock music, delicious food, the decorated trees, gifts, aroma of fruit cake and plum-cake bring life to the city during the Christmas season. What makes this a unique affair is the fact that the festival is not just celebrated by the Christian community here but people from different communities. They offer prayers and sing carols during the midnight mass in the churches. It is an amalgamation of faith, food and fun for everyone.

Few areas of the city that bring life to the celebrations are –

Park Street –

XMas Park Street WhatsupLife
Park Street lighted up during Christmas Eve – Source:Whatsuplife

Park Street lighted up during Christmas Eve – Source:Whatsuplife

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A dollop of Bengal – Wedding

W could have been the iconic Writers’ Building with a historical and political significance, Waldorf – one of the oldest Chinese restaurants in Park Street or the Walking Tours that give a glimpse into the heritage and history of the city. But I couldn’t let go of an opportunity to cover an interesting topic that is essentially all about the Bengali culture and rituals – Wedding (biye in colloquial Bengali).

Wedding (Biye) –

Wedding - biye
Wedding rituals

A host of deep, meaningful rituals seeped in culture and tradition are performed amidst colorfully elegant and immensely creative decorations. The Bengali weddings are celebrations of colour, camaraderie and beauty . They are elaborate affairs with celebrations spanning for 2-3 days from morning till night. The rituals and their executions are subtly different among the two main subcultures in Bengal, the Bangals (Bengalis with roots in Bangladesh) and the Ghotis (Bengalis with roots in West Bengal).

Pre-Wedding Rituals –

Paka Katha or Pati Potro – Generally applicable in arranged marriages, this is a formal meeting between the family members of the bride and groom to agree upon the various aspects associated with the marriage. Paka Dekha is the term used by the Ghotis while Pati Potro happens among the Bangals.

Ashirvaad – The bride and groom are blessed by the elders of the family along with gifts pertaining to jewellery, saree and other items. This is followed by an elaborate feast. For certain households, ashirvaad happens only on the evening of the wedding.

Wedding - Ashirvaad
Ashirvaad

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A dollop of Bengal – Victoria Memorial

V could have been Vidyasagar Setu (Second Hooghly bridge) – one of the longest cable stayed bridge in Asia connecting Kolkata with Howrah or Vivekananda Setu (Bally Bridge) – the multi-span steel bridge linking Bally to Kolkata . But the one that deserves to be featured is the heritage monument that has been a representation of the city for age – the gorgeous Victoria Memorial.

Victoria Memorial –

Victoria Memorial_Sunset
Victoria Memorial during sunset

Victoria Memorial is a large marble building in Kolkata, built between 1906 and 1921 dedicated to the memory of Queen Victoria (1819–1901). Located on 1 Queen’s way, it is now a popular tourist destination. Representing the resplendent and majestic British architecture, Victoria Memorial Hall stands as a veritable icon of the city of Kolkata.

History –

Victoria Memorial_Lions
The lions at the entry gate

The Victoria Memorial Hall was built in memory of the Queen Victoria by the then Viceroy of India, Lord Curzon. The memorial celebrated the 25 year reign of the Queen over India. Lord Curzon wanted to demonstrate his gratitude by dedicating a monument to her.Along with the memorial, Curzon had plans for a museum within the premises. The historical museum  was intended to be a standing record of history.

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A dollop of Bengal – Uttam Kumar

U had only a handful of options. It could have been Upendra Kishore Ray Chowdhury (grandfather of Satyajit Ray) – the eminent writer and entrepreneur , Uttarpara – the second oldest municipality in Bengal, University of Calcutta –  the first institution in Asia to be established as a multidisciplinary and secular Western-style university and Utpal Dutt – the renowned actor, director, writer-playwright. However it wouldn’t be justified to complete this series without a post dedicated to the man who is considered as the greatest actor of Bengali cinema till date and one of the best actors ever in the Indian movie industry – Uttam Kumar.

Uttam Kumar –

uttam-kumar news18
Mahanayak Uttam Kumar – Source :News18

Uttam Kumar (3 September 1926– 24 July 1980), born as Arun Kumar Chatterjee was an Indian film actor, director, producer, singer, composer, and playback singer.  Through his career he earned commercial as well as critical success and remains as an Indian cultural icon even today. Uttam Kumar was especially adored for his effortless naturalism in front of the camera and a distinctively urbane charisma that broke free from the prototypical Bengali screen hero of the past.

He was a recipient of many awards over his lifetime, including National Film Award for Best Actor. Actor Rajesh Khanna once said about Kumar, “He is the perfect ambassador of Indian cinema. No one carries Indian culture in a Kurta and Dhoti as well as he does.”

More than three decades after his demise, Uttam Kumar still remains in the hearts of countless Bengalis.

The journey – 

Uttam’s first release was Drishtidan though he worked in an earlier unreleased film called Mayador. Then he acted in about four to five films, all of which were flops. His breakthrough film was Agni Pariksha in 1954 that began the success of the all-time romantic pair of Uttam KumarSuchitra Sen, though they had been first paired in Sharey Chuattor (1953).The film ran for 65 weeks and established Uttam in the industry.

Uttam Suchitra telegraph
Uttam Kumar – Suchitra Sen in Saptapadi – Source: The Telegraph

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A dollop of Bengal – Tram

I was quite tempted to write on T for Tollywood – the Bengali movie industry located in Tollygunje. T could also have been Tajpur in East Midnapore district – famous for the sea beach which is now getting upgraded to a port, Tarapith in Birbhum district where the famous tantric temple is located, Tarakeshwar – a pilgrimage for the followers of Lord Shiva, Theatre – the collaborative form of fine art with a rich heritage in Bengal, Tipu Sultan Shahi Mosque in Kolkata – a relic of architectural and cultural heritage and Town Hall – one of the majestic heritage buildings. My pick for the day is an entity that has its roots in Kolkata and has long been considered synonymous with the city – Tram.

Tram –

Tram - Culturebowl.jpg
The tram journey – Source:CultureBowl

The tram system in the city of Kolkata initially operated by the Calcutta Tramways Company (CTC) is the only tram network operating in India since 1902. Today CTC owns 257 trams, of which 125 run daily. Each single-deck articulated car can carry 200 passengers (60 seated).

Tram can be considered as one entity that gives the city a charm of nostalgia. Series of transformations & renovations from horses to electricity could never deprive the Tram of its eco-friendly tag.

In the era of luxurious cars and bikes, Kolkata tram has managed to brave the odds and thrives in the roads of Kolkata bringing back memories of a safe and laid back lifestyle.

History –

Tram History
History of trams and Calcutta Tramway Company(CTC) – Source: CTC official website

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A dollop of Bengal – Science City & St. Paul’s Cathedral

S had such an illustrious list of topics to be written about that it got quite difficult to pick up only one among them. From the cricketing legend Sourav Ganguly to the oscar winning cinema maestro and writer Satyajit Ray, spiritual leader and reformer Swami Vivekananda, revolutionary freedom fighter Subhash Chandra Bose, legendary movie actress Suchitra Sen, national award-winning actor Soumitro Chattopadhyay and one of the favorite tourist destinations Sandesh khali, there seemed to be no end to the options. However, the two subjects that made it to the featured list today are Science City and St. Paul’s Cathedral.

Science City –

Science city.jpg
Science City 

Science City, Kolkata, a unit of the National Council of Science Museums (NCSM), an autonomous body under the Ministry of Culture, Govt. of India and the largest science centre in India was opened on July 01, 1997. It consists of two facilities – the Science Centre and the Convention Centre.

The Convention Centre complex comprises of the Main Auditorium of 2232 seating capacity, one Mini Auditorium of 392 seating capacity and a Seminar hall complex consisting of 11 halls ranging from 15 to 100 seating capacity, an indoor (270sq.m.) and an open air exhibition ground (20000 sq. m). The Convention Centre of Science City is a major destination in the city of Kolkata for conventions, conferences, trade exhibitions and cultural programmes.

Science city - Dinosaur & flowers
The entrance to the exploration Hall

Science Centre attractions –

1.Earth Exploration Hall –

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