Last year I entered into this crazy A2Z challenge hosted by Blogchatter without having any idea about the madness that was going to define my life April onwards. I also had no clue that my blogging journey was finally going to get a direction through this campaign. This year I voluntarily decided to go through the grind again to get myself back to regular blogging after a critical phase of health issues. If there’s anything that’s common between April 2018 & 2019, it is that last year my 2.5 yr old started his preschool on 3rd April and this year the boy who’s now 3.5 yrs is slated to begin his nursery classes in the third week of April.
Other than my sickness, the other thing that kept me occupied throughout the end of 2018 until now was my toddler’s school admissions. While selecting the theme for A2Z challenge this year, it was my husband’s idea to talk about the eye-opening experiences that defined our journey before making it to a coveted school in the city.
At the onset, let me clarify that the posts are going to be based on our experiences related to school admissions in Kolkata though the intent is never to demean any particular institution or the education system. Also, technically this is not an informative series but more of a relatable experience if one has been through the process anywhere in the country.
While I aim to keep my posts coated with humor, on some days they might make one think deeper. Probably by speaking about such thought-provoking issues, we might together come up with some ‘game-changing’ ideas. I hope you have a fun-filled ride full of laughter and joy as you read some rib-tickling and some eye-popping experiences associated with school admissions.
P. S. – Even if you aren’t a parent, you can still enjoy the humor quotient of these daily stories.
Here’s introducing the main characters of this school hunt saga –
The boy – Junior T Banerjee (aka Spiderman/Superman/Batman and also Hanuman)
His tormented parents –
Father – Senior T Banerjee -A hapless doctor posted in some strange town of Bengal. Mostly distracted, attained a level of acceptance towards the wife’s whimsical nature and son’s ability to cling on to him
Mother – A confused writer erstwhile Banker. Also holds two irrelevant postgraduate degrees and refuses to change the surname from Chatterjee to Banerjee. Shares a Tom and Jerry kind of relationship with the boy.
Location – Kolkata
Don’t forget to hop on as we begin this fun ride journey on April 1st and continue till April 30th through twenty six posts on everyday (except Sundays).
Hello travelers, hope you are enjoying the ride on #XploreBharat express that has covered eight destinations until now with the most recent trip to Kashmir by Saba yesterday. Today it reaches a part of the country famous for its natural beauty and unique customs – Meghalaya in the mesmerizing North East.
The backstory –
In 2002, my first post-graduation took me to Delhi. My address for the two years that I lived in the city was the North Eastern Students Hostel/House for Women. It was here that I was introduced to the variety and richness in our culture. The North East stands out from the rest of the country for being a matriarchal society where the man leaves his premarital home to stay with his wife and her family and also takes up her surname. It took me more than one and a half decade to start exploring this part of the country but I am glad that it began with a family trip to Shillong in Meghalaya in Oct 2017.
In Sept 2017, two things happened – I started this blog and my son turned two. While junior T has been traveling with us since he was one and a half months old, it had mainly been to sea beaches and places of historic significance. So, my husband and I decided to make Shillong as the first hill station destination for him. Needless to say, the excitement of an unexplored destination was equally appealing to both of us.
The journey –
Shillong has a fully functional airport though Air India is the only flight operator that connects Shillong to a handful of cities. Though there was a direct flight from Kolkata airport to Shillong, we felt that the best way to travel was to take a flight to Lokpriya Gopinath Bordoloi International Airport in Guwahati first and then cover the rest of the distance by car. It takes three to three and a half hours from Guwahati to reach Shillong by road. Most of the resorts usually arrange for a pickup and drop facility on request though cabs are also available on hire. The journey is quite comfortable because of the four-lane roads which never get too steep. Also, the entire stretch is filled with a gorgeous view. There are a couple of eateries on the way for a quick meal like Jiva restaurant.
The stay –
While there were multiple options available within the Shillong city namely Hotel Polo Towers, The Habitat, Tripura Castle among others, we decided to stay in the boutique resort Ri Kynjai(clickhere for detailed review) in Umiam district, a little away from the main city of Shillong. The location of the resort is its biggest asset. It is just opposite Lake Umiam also known as Barapani which is one of the main tourist attractions in the state. Overlooking the Umiam lake and mountains, the resort had all the modern amenities without compromising on the feel of royalty and tranquility.
Places to visit –
The places for sightseeing includes
Umiam Lake– It is also known as Barapani and offers boating facilities to visitors.
Don Bosco Museum – The Museum houses and documents the various indigenous cultures, arts and crafts of North East India.
Elephant Falls – It is also known ‘The Three Step Waterfalls’ because it consists of three falls in succession.
Shillong Peak – It offers a panoramic view of the city.
Shillong golf course – It is one of the largest golf courses in Asia.
Butterfly Museum – It is a delight to take a tour of this museum
Cathedral of Mary Help of Christians also referred to as Shillong Church – The Cathedral is the principal place of worship of the over 300,000 Catholics of the Shillong Archdiocese which covers RI Bhoi and East Khasi Hills district of Meghalaya.
Lady Hydari Park – This place offers a spectacular view of flowers, birds, and animals. A portion is allocated to the Zoo that houses animals like bear, deer among many others. Fishes in the ponds, variety of birds and a colorful and well-maintained garden with flowers in full bloom is a sight to behold.
Local market –
No visit to Shillong can be complete without a visit to the local market known as Police Bazar. Shillong is famous for its bamboo handicrafts, cheap electronic goods, and woolen clothes. This market provides ample option for each though I would like to advise that almost all the prices are negotiable and thus bargaining is a virtue to shop here. The market also has a huge sweet shop Delhi Mistaan Bhandar that caters to the taste buds of people from every corner of the country (their jalebis are definitely a must-try). There’s also a movie theatre Gold cinemas at the end of the street.
Local cuisine –
While Sao Aiom, the in-house restaurant of Ri Kynjai provided us with the option of a Khasi cuisine along with Indian and Chinese varieties, we ended up having Bengali cuisine like Prawn Malai Curry instead. In fact, there are multiple restaurants in and around Police Bazar that serve different varieties of dishes, especially Chinese and Tibetian. One place that is a must visit is Cafe Shillong overlooking the buzzing Don Bosco Square with a beautiful ambiance and serves the best Irish cafe along with a host of continental dishes (I loved the steak here). Another place that serves good pork dishes and momos is Cafe Shillong Heritage inside the Tripura castle.
The road trip from Shillong to Cherrapunji takes approximately two to two and a half hours but for someone like me who gets enthralled by the beauty of nature quite easily, I ended up asking the car to stop at frequent intervals for capturing some gorgeous sights. This is the kind of experience that stays with one forever because the emotions felt while walking amidst the clouds is something that goes beyond words. The entire stretch of the journey is picturesque with the Sun playing hide and seek. Cherrapunji has multiple waterfalls worth, notable among them being the Nohsngithiang Falls, also known as the Seven Sisters waterfalls. The double-decker living root bridgeis the next most sought after tourist attraction. Cherrapunji also a few accommodation options like Hotel Polo Orchid along with a bunch of home stays.
Two more places around Shillong that deserve special mention are Asia’s cleanest village Mawlyngong and the crystal clear Dawki river.
Best time to visit
The best time to visit Shillong is between October to April. Ideally, the weather is most pleasant during October-November and in the month of Feb – March. We traveled during October 2017.
Recommended Itinerary –
A trip to Meghalaya can best be scheduled keeping two days for Shillong, one day for Cherrapunji, one day at Mawlyngong and the last day, rather a night for camping near the Dawki river.
Shillong gets quite crowded, especially during the peak tourist season and the roads are filled with traffic, causing an unnecessary delay in movement. Hence it is advisable to start the trips a little early so that the crowded roads can be avoided before vehicles start crawling at the pace of a snail.
My two cents
Shillong will always be memorable on a personal level for being the first hill station journey of my toddler. However, the emotions run a little deeper since it is the simplicity of the Khasi people and the serenity of the place that has ensured a permanent place for Shillong in my heart.
Hope this destination leaves you with a smile on the face and a desire to plan a trip to this city very soon. Tomorrow the express will leave for its next destination as Sanjota take control to direct it towards Hampi. Until then, have a safe journey and don’t forget to read, comment and share this post.
“Travelling – it leaves you speechless, then turns you into a storyteller.”
I was five years old when I went on my first trip to Darjeeling with my parents. Higher studies and corporate stints made me a resident of cities like Delhi, Bangalore, and Mysore. This was also the period when I traveled with my gang of girls to places like Chennai, Pondicherry, and Ooty and groups of friends to Pune, Khandala, Lonavala, Panchgani, Mahabaleshwar, Ahmedabad, Agra, and Goa. Once I discovered that I was essentially a nomad at heart, my solo trips took me to Hyderabad, Mumbai, Mangalore, Coorg, Madikeri, and Chickmagalur.
When T and I got married in 2011, it was a delight to discover that we shared the same enthusiasm for travel. Munnar was the first place that we visited as a married couple.Unfortunately, I lost my mother in the same year and life came to a stand-still. In 2012, an impromptu road trip from Trivandrum to Varkala and Kanyakumari helped me get a grip on my life again. Together we managed to visit Thekkady, Periyar, Alleppey, Athirapally, Cochin, Wayanad, Goa, Coimbatore, and Kodaikanal.If writing helped me cope up with my mother’s loss, traveling gave me the reason to live.
Three years back after my son was born, the trips became more planned and less on an impulse. From Goa and Mumbai in Central India, Mandarmani, Tajpur, Shankarpur, and Digha in the East, Delhi and Noida in the North to Guwahati, Shillong, and Cherrapunji in the North East, the three of us have explored both the tranquility of nature, humdrum of the city, sea and mountains alike.
I have always been a little old-fashioned when it comes to embracing technological advancements. In my family, I was the last one to own a smartphone. Seven years back, my senior citizen father chose to welcome his new Samsung smartphone as a treasured possession while I still preferred my qwerty keypad mobile. Strangely, today I can’t even think of surviving without my smartphone since it has become such an integral part of my existence. In the present scenario, innovation in science and technology is essential for survival in a rapidly evolving environment. With the changing times, products which were earlier considered as luxury goods eventually decided to rebrand or reposition themselves as essential commodities.
Smart Security Camera – touching many lives
One of the first smart products (other than the aforementioned smartphone) that made its foray into my house was a smart camera. A couple of years back, our rented apartment in Bangalore had been burgled. Despite the fact that our complex had CCTVs installed within the premises, the images weren’t clear enough for the police to nab the criminals. After moving back to Kolkata for good, my husband’s remote posting required him to travel a lot. Since I had ventured out to start my home office as a blogger while also taking care of my newborn baby, I had to ensure that the security and safety factors of my flat were well taken care of. We purchased a Godrej camera which gave 360 degrees horizontal and 90-degree vertical view. The picture was of HD quality which meant that the images were clear even if the lighting was poor. Over the years, I have been thankful for taking the decision of purchasing this wi-fi enabled camera at home. Because of my writing assignments related to travel, we take a lot of trips throughout the year as a family. It is such a relief to be able to check for the security arrangements on the go without having to lose my peace of mind.
August has always been about my mother’s birthday and my motherland’s independence day. Till date, I celebrate her birthday by cutting a cake hoping that her soul finds peace in her heavenly abode. But this year, August became a landmark month in my life after winning the Lights, Camera, Chattercontest by Blogchatter. As winners, we had the opportunity to perform our pieces live on camera. Through this forum, I transformed from a story writer to a storyteller this year. I have been thinking of doing this more often through my some selective storytelling sessions on my YouTube channel in 2019.
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 –
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.
Blogchatter team – Your enthusiasm and motivation is what got us going
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.
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
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.
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 –
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.
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.