Kolkata Divinities (Or How to Spend the Best Time in Kolkata)

There is something about Kolkata that anyone who has visited it, finds inexplicable. They call it the “City of Joy”. I reckon, it is not all about the people living in apparent happiness. There is the “adda”, which essentially means gossip. But is so much more. I found it to be more of a ritual. Something so intrinsically woven in the society that it cannot be seen as a separate entity at all. I have been to the city a number of times but only had the time and freedom to really explore it in the last couple of years.  Here are some of my favourite picks on how to best spend your time in Kolkata.

At the ferry crossing over the Ganges, Howrah, Kolkata

At the ferry crossing over the Ganges, Howrah, Kolkata

Starting at the base (on books and coffee)

Kolkata has often been dubbed as the intellectual capital of the world. Starting at the base irrevocably means starting at countless book stalls stuffed till the last corner with paperbacks and old gems at College Street, right in front of the University of Calcutta.  In fact, local literary evangelists haunt the street to pick out rare first editions and signed copies. Some even manuscripts, easily dating back a century if not more.

College Street: librairies by sandrinecohen22

College Street: librairies by sandrinecohen22

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The Gateway to India (Mumbai): in 3 hours

It is kind of sad that icons of the third-world need first-world examples to drive home the right picture or adjective. You know, we have so many times heard adages like “Scotland of the East (where I come from)”, Venice of the East and so on. I will be the culprit for doing the same. Hopefully I can redeem myself. The Gateway of India, Mumbai is to South East Asia what Arc de Triomphe de l’Étoile is to Paris.

This post relives three hours that I spent walking about the place. Now three hours would seem an insanely high amount of time for any local. Unless of course I had a pretty damsel to court. I assure you however, that the monument and shadow, has an enormous amount of things to offer. Specially if you know where to look!

Gateway of India

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Syria, International Politics and an Indian’s nightmare in Bangalore

Syrian Ripples

A wave of unrest started in the Arab world in mid-March 2011. What started as a small protest in an equally small Tunisian city, rippled across the Middle East. The story of protest ensuing from the torture of students caught putting up anti-government graffiti. The government responded with heavy force, and demonstrations quickly spread across the region.

While President Bashar al-Assad gave hints of reform in Syria, coming out of a tell-tale dictatorship from his father Hafez al-Assad, an Indian sat at his desk at night, scratching his eyes and wishing for a little rain. Wasn’t Bangalore supposed to have equable temperatures year-round?

Doha residents call for Al-Assad to go

Doha residents call for Al-Assad to go

While all that happened, I did not find myself looking beyond the occasional headlines from which I knew something was the matter with Egypt. Now it is not that bad! I did know about Damascus and that the city had arguably the best dressed boot-polishes in the world. Although, I do admit, I had no idea about the tear bombs out on the streets. This place is the oldest continuously inhabited city in the world. Surely, something is sacred?

Protest for Syria in Brussels, May 2011.

Protest for Syria in Brussels, May 2011.

My philosophies, at this time was going straight out of the window. I always took pride in what seemed like a very fashionable tag – “world citizen”. I knew that the smallest part of the title meant knowing about what’s going on in the world. Now, note that I am not saying ‘understanding’. Understanding is a heavier term than knowledge. Guess I still have some hope left.

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Goa – Picking the regular favourites

Goa has always been such an old favourite of mine. And I am sure, it is the same for anyone who has been there at least once. There is something so beautiful and unique to the place. First the size of the state itself is so charming. Nothing is more than at the most an hour’s drive away from something else. Then there is the spirit and originality. Something so amazing and seemingly fragile but somehow so effortlessly kept intact in spite of the odd 2.5 million visitors who throng the place each year. Quite an intriguing fact, if you think that Goa’s indigenous population is just 1.5 million. Welcome to a paradise.

In this post, I present some of my old favourites for Goa. Mind you, these are not just the off-the-beaten path gems. You’ll also find popular charms. Which, if I may add, are just as endearing!

To the shores of Goa © B Debnath

To the shores of Goa © B Debnath

Fontainhas

Visit the old Portuguese neighborhood in Goa. They’re bright, colourful, quiet, peaceful and most of all, retain it’s old world charm. Essentially this is where you’ll get a feel of Goa’s colonial past. Fontainhas is a must stop for any offbeat locale lover and the fact that is conveniently tucked away in Panjim makes it even more doable.

Fontainhas, Panjim by  Extempore

Fontainhas, Panjim by Extempore

Goa – The Beaches

Arambol is known as a hippie’s haven. A large number of performers make it all the more endearing. Anjuna Beach: Arguably the most visited beach in Goa with a picturesque coconut grove in the backdrop and a famous flea market in the vicinity. Palolem: This is a very serene beach, quite contrary to the colorful and vibrant Calangute. A must see for a touch of solitude and peace. Colva Beach: This little patch of paradise brings about the very best of coastal beauty challenged in the Goan land by perhaps only the Calangute. Pride of Salcete, this is a must see locale.

Calangute and Baga: The Calangute is known as the Queen of all Goan beaches. If you are talking about must-see, this place comes first. These beaches were the favorite haunt of hippies even a few years ago. A government crackdown as stopped the trance flow but you can still feel the rhythm flowing sometimes.

Goa – Anjuna Hippie Markt by Klaus Nahr

Keri Village

Keri is a village in Goa known for its Ayurveda. Located about 8 kms from the centre of Ponda, it makes for a nice experience to explore this village. Away from the hustle bustle of the city, the typical Goan rural architecture is worth looking out for. The scenic natural surroundings adds to the charm.

Souza Lobo’s

Established in 1932, situated right on the sea, and with excellent food ensuring the place is always full, Souza Lobo‘s is a must-visit on Calangute beach. It has been serving some great fresh seafood in Goa for the past 78 years and is preferred by locals, tourists and celebrities alike.

Live Music at Souza Lobo's

Live Music at Souza Lobo’s

The Rain Chronicles Project

I have a project in mind. Something I had in mind for a very long time now. But before I elucidate further from what the title already divulges, a little bit of background is warranted. I was born and raised in the rainiest place on earth. When you do that, you kind of have a romance with the rains. I never recovered. Life happened, I had to move on. In between, I was in Dante’s Inferno. But escaped. Each time, whenever it rained, little pieces of me which I thought were long dead would stir up, take a bath, sing at the top of their lungs. Shillong and Cherrapunji are magic. If you haven’t been there (chances are that you haven’t), do yourself a favour. Don’t die incomplete!

Cherrapunjee

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The rooftops of Kolkata – photoessay

Rooftops always was a special place for me. While I grew up in Shillong, we did not really have roofs you could climb up to.  It was in the Himalayan range, and in those places, you stick as close to the ground as you can keep yourself. But the general altitude gave us an enough sense of freedom. That was robbed when I moved on.

Kolkata as a city itself fascinates me. The heartbeat of that place is nothing like anything I have felt anywhere else in the world. And I am fairly well traveled. Anyway, this post is meant to be a photoessay of sorts. Read (or rather gaze) on!

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A seldom taken daytrip – joys of micro-travel (a roadtrip to Shivanasamudram)

Every now and then we aught to go on a trip. It’s goodness has been much talked about and the world (online and offline) is replete with reasons and coercion for it. But we don’t really get down to doing it as much as as we’d love to. Unless of course, your blog has reached the state of funding your livelyhood.

This post is about one of those rare times when you can scrape off a daytrip from your regular weekend. It’s about a short, nothing special, no frills roadtrip to as small a destination – Bangalore to Shivanasamudram and back in a day.

A roadtrip scene - from Bangalore

A roadtrip scene – from Bangalore

We had heard about the place and it had been around on our radar for a while. The little attraction (or rather a tiny collection of attractions as it turned out), gives you just that perfect little dose of escape. There’s the over a century old hydro-electric power station (1902, Asia’s first ever) around a natural cliff area where the river Kabini flows. The river splits into two main distributaries and each of them form a separate waterfall – the Gaganchukki and the bigger one, Bharachukki. We made our own postulates towards the names of the two waterfalls but that’s a bit too vague to put down.

Photographing the road

Photographing the road

On our way, we took a little detour. We had heard of the Pyramid Valley as well. A spiritual center a little off town. While it was not on our plans for the day, seeing the signboards on the sides of the road made us think, “Oh why not!”

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