Samar stood on the balcony smoking. He had given up cigarettes long back but today was different. He was both stressed and excited. Shikha had been noticing her husband for the past few days. Between the two of them he seemed the one most affected by Myra’s wedding. She decided to take a momentary break from the list of things to be completed before the rituals started in the evening.
“Samar, do you want tea?”
Samar turned around. His eyes were moist.
“How will she manage without us? And how will I stay without her in our house?”
“She’s getting married. You should be happy for our daughter. She would be broken if she knew what her father’s going through. Tirtha is a great guy. He is surely going to ensure that Myra stays happy and pampered.” Shikha held Samar’s hand.
With a grip on his emotions, Samar went out to attend to his fatherly duties in a while as Shikha continued with her instructions over the phone.
The wedding was planned as a private affair in Goa. The bride and groom had decided for a registered marriage. Neither believed in social customs and rituals. Only handpicked relatives from Myra and Tirtha’s extended families were invited. Few of their close friends had been called. They had thought of throwing a reception party afterwards. Royal grand resort was one of the few five-star resorts with the facility of a private beach. Today the beach area had been converted into a wedding venue.
Myra had chosen a baby pink gown while Tirtha picked up a blue Tuxedo suit. The guests had started arriving. Samar went inside his room to bring Shikha. The gorgeous red Mysore silk suited Shikha’s plump and dusky frame. She had chosen to wear her own wedding saree on the day their daughter stepped into a new life. Samar gently touched the wheel chair. Her eyes and smile still managed to make him fall in love. They hugged briefly before Samar wheeled Shikha out towards the venue.
The sound of azan from the mosque nearby woke up Pratim. His body was tired from the extra load that he had to carry yesterday. But he knew that he didn’t have the luxury to sleep any longer. Pratim got up from the floor. He looked at the exhausted frame of his mother lying on the floor in another corner of the room. Pratim went outside to wash his face and attend to nature’s call. Gulping down some water from the tube-well, he went inside to get ready. He took out the only pair of second-hand running clothes that he had managed to buy from the cheap Khanna Market. They had cost him his weekly pay but he knew that they were a necessity. Then he took out his most prized possession – a pair of blue running shoes.
The street outside was still dark. His lane was darker than the rest of the town. The town municipality cared about the downtrodden only when the elections arrived. Until then the lanes didn’t even exist in their books. Pratim crossed two streets and then started running. Even the wee hours of the morning brought along heat and humidity. Barring a couple of street dogs, there was no other form of living creature visible on the road. Lewis Sir had told Pratim that he would be waiting on the beach by 5:30 am. Pratim couldn’t afford a watch. But he had learnt to adjust his daily timing to the morning azan. The beach was a 10km run from this area and Pratim had been covering this distance every single day for the past two and half months.
While running alone, Pratim always thought about his father Anukul Saha and their village Shyamlapur. They had owned a small tea shop near the village bus stand. His mother Radha also assisted in the shop whenever the crowd grew in numbers. The room adjacent to the shop was their residence. Pratim studied at the municipality school. He managed to just – about pass in all the subjects but had been marked as the best athlete that the village school had ever produced. By the age of twelve, he had already won all the sports awards in the district related to running. Life would have gone as usual until the last panchayat elections a year back.
Tania had been walking back from her school when she noticed those clothes hung from the ropes near her house. Her excitement grew as her eyes stayed fixed on the sight of those four white t-shirts with black stripes amidst a bunch of other clothes on the ropes. They were exactly the same – one with long sleeves, one with half sleeves and two sleeveless ones. She ran towards the house.
The one-roomed brick house covered felt like a burning furnace. Her parents had just finished washing and hanging the set bundle of clothes and were about to sit for lunch. Tania ran towards her father, “Baba, I saw the set of four t-shirts outside. Did you check why they were not sent for the past six months?” Sahadev Halder, the washer-man also referred to as Dhopa in colloquial Bengali smiled at his thirteen year old. His wife Rama went about getting the food ready.
“How do you know that it is the same set of four t-shirts?” he sounded indifferent.
“I could spot that big deer symbol from a distance. Did you ask Afroz uncle about it?”
Kashpukur area in Kolkata was known as the lane of washer-men. Small one-roomed houses filled the narrow lanes and by-lanes amidst old house buildings. This was one of the oldest areas in Kolkata. The washer-men and women used the nearby pond to clean the laundry and the clothes were hung on multiple ropes tied around the available poles, balconies and window grills. One could never walk through this area without a piece of cloth touching him. However recently, big laundry houses had started operating their branches in the city. They had soon become a favourite with the urban population.
This is the last week of the Weekly Photo Challenge and there couldn’t have been a better signing off than through the theme of an all time favorite photo. On the personal front, last two months had been extremely hectic with the A2Z challenge in April and the launch of my first e-book ‘Deal of Death’ in May. However the topic for WPC was enough to evoke the feeling of homecoming in me. Here’s a personal favorite capture of the city I call home now – Kolkata, India.
I wasn’t born here. In fact I barely stayed here for three years during the course of my graduation before hopping onto other places for higher studies and professional commitments. Except an apartment, nothing in the city felt close to my heart until my son was born here in 2015. Over the last few years, I have learnt to embrace the city as my own as my preschooler goes around creating memories in it. While Kolkata is usually represented in the pictures through its old world charm, here’s a snap taken from the terrace of our high-rise building capturing its new essence of life.
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.
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.
Located on 5th floor of Quest Mall inSyed 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.
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.
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 –
Park Street lighted up during Christmas Eve – Source:Whatsuplife
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) –
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.
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 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.
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.