Kolkata Kaleidoscope- Part1

IMG_20161226_135918

The Victoria Memorial is a museum and tourist destination that was built in the memory of Queen Victoria

IMG_20161231_133529

The old co-existing with the new

Kolkata (erstwhile Calcutta), the capital of the state of West Bengal is by far the largest city in Eastern India. Once the seat of power of the British Raj, the city today is a potpourri of the old and the modern where underground metro railways exists with electric trams, where air conditioned taxis coexist with hand pulled rickshaws, where Victorian era architecture jostle for your attention in company of swanky new buildings, where global eateries like KFC and Mc Donald’s satiate your hunger along with the roadside stalls selling traditional savories like beguni, phuluri, cholar dal, luchi, kochuri, shingara, deemer devil,rolls, jhaal muri, phuchka and ah the list is endless……

IMG_20180327_171839

A Kolkata street food that packs a crunch “Deemer Devil”- Boiled egg coated with spiced mashed potato rolled on breadcrumbs and deep fried to a golden brown.

Modernity is slowly but surely overpowering things that bear a testimony to an era gone by, but the city still retains an old world charm.

IMG_20161226_135950 (1)

The Loyal Sentinel- A Lion statue at the entrance of the Victoria Memorial, one of Kolkata’s most renowned landmarks

In my subsequent few posts and photos, I envisage to bring out the flavors, sights and colors of Kolkata as I encountered and experienced it during my recent visits to the “City of Joy”.

IMG_20161226_132028

Some of the old buildings in Kolkata are still resplendent outshining even the more modern swanky ones…

IMG_20161230_103641

But some buildings have borne the brunt of the vagaries of time.

IMG_20161230_105304

The tussle between the old and the new is on and these three buildings are a symbolic testimony to that.

Expect the unexpected in the city of Kolkata, made famous the world over by virtue of being the headquarters of the Missionaries of Charity and the work place of Mother Teresa (who after her canonization is now known as St Teresa of Calcutta).

IMG_20161230_105605

House of eminent Bengali playwright Shri Girish Chandra Ghosh that is located right in the middle of a busy road in the Baghbazar area.

IMG_20161230_104932

Two laborers rest adjacent to an idol of Sri Sri Sharada Ma, wife of the the Bengali sage and philosopher Ramkrishna Paramahansa, so as to emphasize the fact that divinity abodes in the masses.

IMG_20161230_103825

Africa in Kolkata?? Giraffe statues on the pavement of Baghbazar Street

IMG_20170101_090859

A man prays at the gates of Balaram Mandir, the house of Balaram Ghosh a disciple of Ramkrishna Paramahansa. The house is now a branch of Ramkrishna Mission.

IMG_20180326_180627

Kolkata is situated on the banks of River Hooghly, a distributary of River Ganga. A lonely boatman rows back home to the loved ones after a hectic day.

There is no greater love than the love of FOOD and the Kolkatans are Gastronomic Cassanovas to put it mildly. Every nook and corner of the city is filled with gastronomic delights.

IMG_20171206_144447

A Bengali is incomplete without his plate of rice and fish. In the picture a typical Bengali lunch of shukto, bhaat, daal, aloo bhaja, maach and a chorchori.

IMG_20161226_155210

Luchi, Kosha Mangsho and Posto Bora at 6 Ballugunge Place, a bunglow that has been converted into a fine dine restaurant specializing in authentic Bengali Cuisine.

IMG_20161226_153047

The deadly duo-Fish fry with kashundi (mustard)

IMG_20180326_222748 (1)

Buttered roti and Mutton Masala at Aminia, one of the more famous chain of restaurants in Kolkata that serve Mughlai delicacies

IMG_20180326_223156

A boiled egg, two pieces of Mutton and a piece of spiced potato and lo you have the unique Special biriyani of Kolkata. Arsalan and Aminia are supposed to be the best biriyani makers of Kolkata.

IMG_20171206_104504

A roadside eatery selling Aloor torkari, Luchi and bhaja

IMG_20180328_203924

Chicken cutlets from a roadside stall. These stalls and small shops that dot the Kolkata eating landscape give any of the leading restaurants a run for their money with respect to quality, taste and of course the prices of their items.

After every eat, the Kolkatans crave for something sweet. The sweet tooth of the Kolkatans is legendary and every locality has its own sweet shop that sells the best of Bengali sweets and the stars more often than not are the famous Shondesh and Mishti Doi.

IMG_20180330_184102

A typical sweet shop in Kolkata dotted with sweet goodies. This one is a neighborhood sweet shop at Pikepara.

IMG_20180328_110614

Mishti doi- sweetened yogurt is one of the more famous sweet indulgences in Kolkata. The doi is served in a ‘haand’, an earthen pot with a wooden spoon. The delicacy is creamy, flaky and delicious.

End of part 1

To be continued……….

Advertisements

Tajpur- Sun, Sand and Serenity!

On a family vacation to the City of Joy, Kolkata, the capital of the East Indian state of West Bengal, it was my father who zeroed upon the coastal hamlet of Tajpur, on the Bay of Bengal, in Mednipur district.

IMG_20161229_132213.jpg

Teeming humanity at Digha Beach

About 180 kms from Kolkata, Tajpur is a less visited sea shore destination though the famous sea town of Digha and Mondarmoni are located at a stone’s throw away from it.

IMG_20161227_101035.jpg

Howrah station

IMG_20161229_135205.jpg

We took a morning 11.15 am Duronto Express from Howrah railway station which raced past scenic meadows, villages, water bodies and lush green vistas. We were served a sumptuous non-veg lunch pack on board and by 2 in the afternoon we were at Digha, the terminal point of the train.

From Digha, Tajpur is about 20 odd kms and waiting for us at the station was a mini van sent by the resort that we had booked for our stay at Tajpur, the Mallickaa Resort.

IMG_20161229_121141.jpg

Fish farms enroute to Tajpur

Our journey from the Digha railway station to the Mallickaa  Resort took us about half and hour and during that period we could gauge that we were gradually getting away from the hustle and bustle of the city and a huge wave of humanity to something that was quieter, less uninhabited, something that promised, bliss.

From the main highway, our van took a turn onto a narrow road that had fish farms lined on both its side. We soaked in the beauty of the place and breathed the freshness of the air and before long we were at the gates of the Mallickaa Resort.

IMG_20161228_063753.jpg

The resort in itself was pretty amazing with ample flora and fauna within it precincts. Turkeys, swans, pigeons, hens, rabbits, guinea pigs all roamed around freely in the vast greenery of the resort. It did not have a swimming pool but to compensate for it, it had a pond in which one could go boating. The pond also acts as the breeding ground for the fresh water fishes that adorn the menu of the restaurant of Mallickaa.

IMG_20161228_063002.jpg

The pond in the resort

IMG_20161228_063349.jpg

Boats at Mallickaa Resort

IMG_20161228_075257.jpg

Turkeys on the ground

IMG_20161228_075734.jpg

Guinea pigs

We checked into cottages that had their own unique names and were comfortable with all basic amenities in place. A cat nap later we were ready for our tryst with the sandy serene shores of the Tajpur beach.

IMG_20161228_061909.jpg

Uniquely named cottages

IMG_20161228_063851.jpg

The wooded road to Paradise

An unpaved, about half a kilometer long, road from the main gate of Mallickaa resort through Casuarina groves and dense shrubbery leads you to inverted crescent shaped beach of Tajpur. Oh, What a sight it was to behold! A few shacks scattered around and with hardly a soul around, the sea shore was an epitome of serenity, a place that washes away all your materialistic worries and detoxes you and uplifts you spiritually. The noise of the sea crashing on to the shore, adds to the surreal experience. One could spend hours and hours together in the very lap of Mother Nature, far from the maddening crowds.

IMG_20161228_064455.jpg

The Tajpur Beach

IMG_20161228_065554.jpg

Sun, sand and serenity

IMG_20161228_110905.jpg

Fun on the run

IMG_20161228_111755.jpg

Detoxing effect

IMG_20161228_121740.jpg

A fisherman at his trade

IMG_20161229_125132.jpg

Toto-the electric rickshaw

Though we year marked a shack that offered food and drinks on the beach itself, the grumblings of the gastronomic variety forced us back to our temporary dwelling within the confines of Mallickaa resort. The resort provides the services of a Toto, an electric rickshaw for a charge, for guests who desire so but we walked our way back through the delightful wooded road.

IMG_20161228_133504.jpg

King sized-Breakfast

IMG_20161228_145949.jpg

ABC-Authentic Bengali Cuisine

IMG_20161228_150804.jpg

Up and close

IMG_20161228_192125.jpg

Crab Masala

At Mallickaa resort, the farm fresh vegetables, fish and poultry made our gastronomic indulgences even more satiating. For breakfast we had loochi (a fried Bengali bread made of flour), begun bhaja (fried brinjals) and aloor torkari (a potato dish). Lunch was an Authentic Bengali Cuisine affair with bhaat (rice), dal (lentils), aloo bhaja (fried potatoes), lau chingri (a prawn & bottle gourd dish), shorshe parshe ( mustard fish), chingri maacher malai curry (a prawn delicacy), topping it off with a nolane gurer rosogolla (a spongy sweet filled with jiggery). For dinner chicken korma (white gravied chicken dish), butter chicken, fried crab masala, dahi chicken (chicken in yogurt) and rotis (Indian bread) were the star attractions.

IMG_20161229_060445.jpg

The misty morning

IMG_20161229_061448.jpg

Dew drops from the foliage breaking the silence enroute to the beach

The next morning, after a good night’s sleep, we were off again to absorb the beauty of the Tajpur beach. It was a misty morning and that augmented the tranquil magnificence of the whole area. An overwhelming calmness reigned all over, periodically broken by dew drops sliding through the dense foliage making an eerie noise that got amplified in the hushed environment.

IMG_20161229_062357.jpg

Mist overpowering everything else

IMG_20161229_061950.jpg

Fog all around

The sea was hardly visible even from the shore. The fog and mist had truly embraced it in their bosoms. A biting cold wind swept through the large expanse of sand and sea. No animal was in sight let alone humans. Gradually, the sun started overpowering the prevailing murkiness. Resilient village folks started trickling out, doing their daily chores, facing the challenges that a brand new day had on offer for them.

IMG_20161229_063325.jpg

Resilient villagers trickling out

IMG_20161228_173442.jpg

Brown crab

Sea creatures too started coming out of their hiatus. Red crabs, brown crabs and other varieties of oceanic life forms could be spotted on the beach.

IMG_20161229_064645.jpg

Red Crab

IMG_20161229_064952.jpg

Sea Creature

Our explorations on the beach had made us hungry and we made our way back to our designated base camp, the shack that offered food and drinks.

IMG_20161229_091751.jpg

Food at The Shack

IMG_20161229_091758.jpg

A most pleasurable breakfast

Breakfast at the shack was a simple one but one which provided us with utmost pleasure. Loochi, aloo kopir torkari (potato with cauliflower), double egg omelet, sipping piping hot coffee, soaking in the visual gems that Mother Nature had on offer, ah life indeed was heavenly on that wonderful morning in December.

IMG_20161229_093619.jpg

Good things happen over a coffee

But as with all good things in life, our trip to Tajpur too came to its conclusion but not before we had energized ourselves and filled our minds with memories that we would be cherishing for life.

Wah-Taj!

IMG_20161229_065036.jpg

A trip to the twin Holy Cities of Ajmer and Pushkar (Part2)

Image

On reaching Pushkar, we had the option to check into either Hotel Sarovar, in the heart of the town or the Tourist Village, a cluster of huts for the tourists, both managed by the RTDC (Rajasthan Tourism Development Corporation). We checked into the former. The hotel was beautiful but as is the case with most government run hotels, in dire need of maintenance. The area that it covered was sprawling with a variety of trees and lush green lawns. It even had a swimming pool, which alas had no water in it.

Image

Built in a colonial style with ample balconies and a long corridor, the plaster from the wall, alas was peeling in many areas. Despite all the shortcomings what clinched the deal for us was the wonderful view of the hills that the balcony gave from the rooms and the overall serenity that seemed to engulf the hotel.

Image

The rooms were comfortable and we had a blissful night’s sleep after having a light dinner, courtesy the heavy lunch we had at Guddan ka dhaba. The cacophony of birds woke me up, the next morning and as I strolled off to the balcony of the room, a view of pure magic awaited me. The adjoining hills of the Aravali ranges were trying desperately to stop the sun from rising and the sun, slowly but surely was winning the battle. Mother Nature was painting her canvas with colors of all hues and shades and the resultant “piece of art” was Pure Magic.

Image

We had to go down to the restaurant for our bed tea as the personnel (or was it just a single chap as I now recollect) seemed oblivious to the ringing of the intercom. Anyway, the restaurant was airy and clean. Airy, because the place where one of the air conditioners should have been, now contained just the frontend of an AC. The back thus missing, threw in the cold winds that were sweeping Pushkar that day, into the restaurant. We even had a sparrow for company which had accidentally come inside through the hollow air conditioner. After having our tea, we ordered breakfast. Hot puris and paranthas along with aloo ki sabzi and curd came along, which were delicious to say the least and we forgot our anguish of not having been served our bed tea in bed.

After breakfast, we felt the day truly had begun on a bright “gastronomic” note.

Corridor of Hotel Sarovar

Corridor of Hotel Sarovar

The entrance of RTDC Hotel Sarovar at night

The entrance of RTDC Hotel Sarovar at night

The beautiful colonial designed Hotel Sarovar at night

The beautiful colonial designed Hotel Sarovar at night

The airy restaurant of Hotel Sarovar

The airy restaurant of Hotel Sarovar

The bright lobby of Hotel Sarovar