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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A dollop of Bengal – Rosogolla

R offered a variety of options to talk about. From the social activist, writer and Nobel laureate Rabindranath Tagore to sitar maestro Ravi Shankar, the pride of Bengal – Royal Bengal Tiger, the road famous for historic parades – Red Road, Governors official residence –Raj Bhavan, the weekend tourist destination – Raichak, the new tourist spot in Kalimpong sub division along Reshi river – Rishi khola and the national award-winning director Rituparno Ghosh, there were quite a variety of facets to talk about. But no write-up about Bengal would ever be complete without the featured topic for the day – Rosogolla.

Rosogolla –

Rosogolla in shop.jpg
The tray of Rosogolla at Annapurna Sweets

The dessert is known as Rosogolla or Roshogolla in Bengali and Rasagola in Odia. Rasgulla is derived from the words ras (“juice”) and gulla (“ball”).

Preparation

Rosogolla is made from ball-shaped dumplings of chhena or chhana (curds or cheese curds similar to cottage cheese) and semolina dough, cooked in light syrup made of sugar until the syrup permeates the dumplings.

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A dollop of Bengal – Quest Mall

Q ended up giving me sleepless night for the lack of options to write on. So I decided to feature one of the latest offerings of the city in tems of the mall cuture – Q for Quest Mall.

Quest Mall –

Quest Mall.jpg
Quest Mall exterior view- Pic Courtesy : Official Website

Located on Syed Amir Ali Avenue in Park Circus area of Kolkata, Quest Mall is a new addition to the city that already boasts of Forum Mall, Acropolis Mall, South City Mall, Mani Square and the two City Centre Malls. Yet what stands out in this luxury retail hub is the huge number of international brands that have launched their stores here. Its impressive facade is a mesmerizing interplay of solar-powered lighting against a modern and energetic asymmetrical structure – inspired by India’s varied culture and natural beauty. With a shopping area of 730,000 sq ft and parking for 1,300 vehicle, it is one of the largest malls in the city.

Quest Mall entrance.jpg
The lighting effect on fountain at the entrance of the mall

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A dollop of Bengal – Outram Ghat

O can be labelled as an important alphabet in Bengali vocabulary. The pronunciation of quite a few words alter under the strong influence of this alphabet. For example, Amitabh Bachchan is pronounced as Omitabho Bochchon, Sachin becomes Sochin and Arijit Singh is Orijit Singh. For the feature, Oudh 1590 – the famous Awadhi cuisine restaurant in Kolkata, Oshtomir Onjoli – the integral part of Pushpanjali on the morning of Durga ashtami, Oxford Bookstore with a coffee shop on Park Street were the few options that were being considered. But the one that makes it to the list is one of the famous ghats in the city – Outram Ghat.

Outram Ghat –

Outram Ghat.jpg
Outram Ghat

Outram Ghat is a ghat built-in memory of Sir James Outram during the British era, along the river bank of Hooghly (a distributary of Ganges river) on its bank of the Kolkata. During colonial era it used to be a key port and the main mooring point for ships to East Bengal and Burma.

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A dollop of Bengal – Mandarmani and Motijheel

M is for the famous actor Mithun Chakraborty, the mouth-watering delicacy Mishti Doi (sweet curd), the writer and activist who gave voice to the plight of tribal population- Mahashweta Devi, the oldest underground train in Kolkata called Metro and the amusement park near Strand road overlooking Hooghly river in Kolkata – Millennium Park. But through M, let me take you to one of the most favorite beach destinations in the state – Mandarmani and the last site for Murshidabad Diaries – Motijheel.

Mandarmani –

Walking down the beach
Walking down the beach

In the last few years, Mandarmani or Mandarmoni in East Midnapore District has turned out to be one of the largest and fastest developing seaside resort village of West Bengal. Red crabs crawling around the 13 km long beach is a special attraction here. Trying to avoid the much crowded Digha, people have started moving to the more tranquil and serene Mandarmani beach.

Travel –

The distance between Kolkata and Mandarmani can be covered in 3.5 to 4hours by car (180 kms approximately). Roads are in quite good condition. Train options are available till Contai/Ramnagar/Digha and most of the resorts offer to arrange for a pick up from there. Sher-e-Punjab on the Kolaghat expressway is a great hotel to stop over for breakfast or lunch with aloo paratha being their speciality dish.

Aloo paratha at Sher E punjab
Aloo Paratha with Sabji at Sher – e- Punjab hotel

Stay –

While the town has ample options for stay and most of them are on or near the beach, Aqua Marina Drive Inn takes the cake away for being not only right on the beach but having rooms that lets one view the sea from both the room and balcony. For luxury stay, Rose Valley resort and Sana Beach resort are the best options.

View from Aqua Marina
View from Romm no 301 of Aqua Marina Drive Inn

Food – 

Variety of fish items like pomphret, prawns, hilsa etc along with crab dishes are a must try in this place. Most of the resorts have their own restaurants serving local Bengali cuisine that include a large variety of sea food. Tender coconut water is a great thirst quencher in this locality.

Sight seeing –

  • The beach – The beach is a great place to take a walk around and indulge in sea bathing.
  • Mandarmani Beach
    The Beach
  • The Delta or Mohana – This is the place where a river meets the sea. It is about 5-6 km from the main part of the beach and is beautiful with a scenic backdrop. On one side of the river there are dense pine trees, while on the other side is the fishing village.
  • Tajpur – Tajpur beach is barely twenty minutes from Mandarmani beach by car. It is being developed into a port now.

    Tajpur
    Tajpur
  • Shankarpur  – This beach is around ten minutes from the Tajpur beach. Sea waves get wilder in these beaches.

    Shankarpur
    Shankarpur
  • Water sports – While the Government has stopped paragliding after an accident, beach bikes are still available.

Best time to visit –

Mandarmani can be visited throughout the year. During monsoons,the water level goes very high and waves reach till the walls of the resorts.

Motijheel –

Motijheel Lake.jpg
Motijheel now

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Restaurant/Shop review – Putiram sweets, Kolkata 

The first time that I was introduced to this fascinating sweet shop was way back in 1999. As a grad student of Presidency, this was our favorite place for a quick evening snacks or even lunch at times. Located in College Street area, near College Square, this happens to be a favorite joint for students of both Calcutta Medical College and Presidency University.

You really don’t see people sitting and chatting here. They enter, place order, eat, pay and leave. Because this place is always over crowded. Sometimes it’s difficult to even find a place to stand and eat on the pavement near the shop. One of the favorable factors aspect of this place is that they open very early. One can savor the delicious items even at 7am
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Resort review – Aqua Marina Drive Inn, Mandarmoni, West Bengal 

In the last few years, Mandarmoni has turned out to be one of the most favorite destination in Bengal. The distance between Kolkata and Mandarmoni can be covered in 3.5 to 4hours by car. Roads are in good condition. Train options are available till Contai/Ramnagar/Digha and the resort can arrange for a pick up from there.

Trying to avoid the much crowded Digha, people have started moving to the more tranquil and serene Mandarmoni. While the town has ample options for stay and most of them are on or near the beach, Aqua Marina Drive Inn takes the cake away for being not only right on the beach but having rooms that let one view the sea from both the room and balcony.DSC00409
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