Table For One is an everyday struggle of a woman to tell the world that it’s not that bad to live on your own. In fact, it’s better than anything else. I have grown to enjoy my own company while travelling, and this blog is a testimony for the same.
I had decided. I wanted to be a journalist. When other children were by-hearting lessons, I was busy writing my own stories. Parents noticed this talent, and without much ado said, “She’ll be a journalist like Jaanu Tai (my sister’s BFF’s elder sister whom we never met, but were collectively overwhelmed by her profession.)
But that was childhood.
As I started growing up with chronic hyper-acidity, I realised journalism is not my profession. I mean, who’ll be out in the sun, covering news the whole day, and battling acid reflux in the washroom the whole night! Thankfully, I discovered a better outlet for my creative writing and joined advertising.
But, that’s not the topic of today’s post. Then why am I telling you about my childhood dream? I’m telling you about it because today I was about to make the same mistake, by letting my health dictate my future.
My entire friends circle, my colleagues, and of course, my family is aware of my hyper-acidity. According to WebMD, I have IBS. It may be true. It may be false. But one thing is for sure, my stomach creates acid like there’s no tomorrow. Too much sun, untimely meals, skipped meals, a few food-foes like raw onion and capsicum; anything, absolutely anything can aggravate it. doctors say that precaution is the only cure in such cases. But it’s extremely difficult to control these factors all the time. And when you’re travelling, it’s next to impossible to manage the temperatures, availability of food, etc.
So last night, while combatting with a heavy migraine and constant vomiting in a hotel room at Hampi, I was almost on the verge of quitting once again. As I grew up, I realised I wasn’t cut for journalism. I thought, may be I am not cut for travelling as well. I popped a painkiller and forced myself to sleep.
Come today, I woke up as fresh as a flower, all set to fill the backlog of yesterday. Undoubtedly, I had an amazing time, which covered up for yesterday’s sulking.
No way, I can do this compromise and stop travelling the way I want to. No way, I’m letting my weak health win over my strong passion.
Now, as I’m contemplating while heading back home, I felt the need to write this post.
So, here’s my promise to myself in order to have safe and healthy journeys forever. If you, as my reader, find any tip from below helpful to sort your health issues while travelling, it’ll be my pleasure.
1. Tanking up is compulsory. Just like a vehicle on road, your body also needs fuelling up. There’s a logic behind dividing your food intake in four to six meals. For God’s sake, stick to it. If you are planning to visit a remote destination, stock up some chocolates, nuts, cookies, anything that you like and your body is familiar with. My favourite is the good old Parle-G.
And one more thing! Go ahead, load yourself with the complimentary buffet breakfast at your hotel. But don’t try to miss your lunch time and cover one more sight. You’ll end up wasting your rest of the day in the washroom, and you don’t want it, do you?
A scrumptious lunch at German Cafe, Hampi.
2. Sun is unavoidable. But sun stroke is not. A scarf, a hat and a pair of sunglasses with UV protection; make these three your best friends. You may feel like ditching one of them in quest of travelling light, but don’t make that mistake ever.
I never understood why cats love to soak in the sun so much… until this happened in the afternoon, at the Sunset Point, Hampi.
3. Hydrate yourself. These days, almost all backpacks have bottle-holders, so why not put them to good use? Always carry at least a litre of water with you. Keep sipping while you’re out. You can even compliment your meal with refreshing drinks. Juices made from the local fruits taste yum. Ginger lemon honey tea goes perfectly well with any kind of food. Even coconut water works wonder when it comes to hydration. Heat strokes can be tackled better with hydration. While I was dealing with throat inflammation, acidity, migraine and a god damn corn, all at once in Kerala, coconut water came to my rescue. Why aren’t we declaring this as the world’s most magical fruit already?
4. Accommodating doesn’t mean compromising. While travelling with groups, being accommodative becomes a virtue. Do not compromise on the basic needs of your body and go with the flow, just because someone wants to go to an Echo point. Articulate your needs. Tell your friends that you need to tank up first, or that your legs are hurting, or that you need to pee. They are your friends, they’ll understand. And if not, make a mental note to make that the last trip with them. If things are completely out of hands, and neither you nor your friends can do anything about the situation, put your solo traveller cape on, and step out from the group for a while. Let them proceed with the plan, and you cater to your needs. Once you feel better, join them. They’ll be happy to see you after recouping than looking at your sulky face while you torture your body in order to be ‘accommodative’.
These three ladies handled my sickness so well in Kerala, I have no words to describe my family’s patience. (The driver was too cool to not be in the frame.) 5. Travel happy. Stress makes your head hurt. Avoid any kind of stress while on the road. Plan well if you are a person who frets about the drawbacks of unplanned plans. I usually do a little homework to understand the weather, food, amenities, etc, that the destination offers. It helps you pack your bag well and be geared up for any uncalled for situation.
But hey, don’t pack your other worries with you. Be it some pending work at office or any odd job that you were supposed to do this weekend, do not take anything of this sort along with you. Trust me, you’ll feel the difference when you won’t.
How can your stress not melt away looking at these snow-clad Ladakh mountains?
Did you notice most of these things are quite predictable and simple? But interestingly, simple things are the most difficult ones to do. I hereby promise myself to follow these five rules, and wish that all of you too may always enjoy a happy and healthy vacation!
There are brands that own market’s share. And then, there are brands that own market’s heart. Boroline belongs to the second clan.
While I made it clear in my earlier posts that my visit to Kolkata was exclusively for Durga Puja, today I’m writing to tell you a brand story. Correction: a super brand story.
Boroline is synonymous to Bengal. It is an integral part of the city’s history and heritage. Naturally, my curiosity about the brand piqued, and I wrote an excited mail to the Boroline People. Within a few days, I got a reply and a warm invitation to visit their factory.
To my surprise, Mr. Debashish Dutta (MD, Boroline) himself accompanied me to the factory. Before visiting the set up, he took me to their headquarters in New Alipore to give a glimpse of how it all began. In the reception area, He pointed at two rudimentary machines secured in a glass case. The first one is called a charge machine, and the second one is a filling machine. Back then, this was the only apparatus used to manufacture the legendary cream.
We cut to the current factory down South, and what we see is a humongous set up divided in two distinct sections. One is dedicated for Boroline, and another for Suthol, both top line products in the company’s portfolio. In a period of mere two weeks, stock of over 50 lakhs is produced, with 2.5 lakh tubes manufactured per day.
Not to mention, this massive production takes place without compromising on product quality. Here, precision and efficiency are strengths of every employee. State-of-the-art machineries are made to order understanding the nature of the product, to suit it’s requirements.
We were given anti-contamination gear to cover our body, and were made to go through hygiene control gateways to ensure zero contamination in the manufacturing unit.
Every machine, every process, every nook, every corner of the factory mirrored the team’s sincere efforts and dedication towards their work.
It was so comforting to watch these pots move from one track to another.
Boroline is a brand that was born in a quaint corner of North Kolkata in a house that played a triple role of a manufacturing unit, store house and the founder’s residence. The factory then moved from The Boroline House to another area in North Kolkata. The current factory is their third set-up.
The brand was a brainchild of Mr. Gourmohan Dutta. He formed a company called G.D. Pharmaceuticals to give a Swadeshi answer to increasingly oppressive imperialistic policies of British Raj. People started loving the product, and then there was no looking back. A humble green tube with black lettering (better known as the haathiwala cream) became a strong weapon against unjust imperialism.
After Mr. G.D. Dutta, his son took the legacy forward with product innovations, extensions and marketing ideas. But, his sudden demise was a great shock for the entire Boroline family. Little Debashish was too young to take such a big responsibility. Mrs. Dutta didn’t know how to run a business. But one thing she knew was that the lives of the workers and their families are depending on her. She didn’t let the gates close and took on the mantle.
I feel, women like her are the real Durgas of the modern times. Durga was incarnated as an ultimate form of Shakti, which was otherwise unknown to the universe. She was formed to save the world from evil. Mrs. Dutta, who was otherwise a shadow of her husband, took a bold step by taking the responsibility of a multimillion company on her shoulders. Her brave decision not only fed workers’ hungry mouths, but also saved a significant part of Kolkata’s history from dying an untimely death. That significant part of history that is still successfully creating history.
Imagine that you wake up bubbling with excitement to visit the most beautiful attraction your current destination has to offer. Imagine that it is a one-of-a-kind jungle safari in India. Imagine that the beautiful landscapes, animals and rare species of birds are waiting to pose for you. Imagine that you embark on such a beautiful journey without taking your camera.
Now stop imagining.
Because that’s exactly what I experienced in reality during my Sunderban Jungle Safari.
Not having a professional camera, I was completely depending on my One Plus 3 throughout the Kolkata trip. Was it the excitement of the safari or my forgetfulness, I don’t know. But I left my phone to charge at the safari operator’s office, and realised after a good one hour that I have forgotten to collect it from there. Like many millennials, I thankfully do not suffer from check-my-phone-every-second syndrome, but sometimes that too has it’s own cons.
When I realised I’m left with no device to click a single picture for two long days, I was devastated. Every time someone flashed their camera, my heart shattered in million pieces. Fellow travellers promised they’ll share their pictures with me (which Henrique very well kept after returning to Germany). But I was not very happy with this ‘borrowed memories’ affair.
So, that’s how my journey to Sunderban began with a sad note. Throughout the bus ride to Bidyadhari river, I was pacifying myself thinking about how cool it would be to spend a night in a jungle with no connection whatsoever with the outside world.
Fascinated about the idea of a 100% offline escapade, I looked through the window. River Bidya sneered at me with her psychotic waves. No wonder she is called a mad river. Her water ebbs and rises twice a day, every day. During the high tides, it rises up to 5-6 metres washing the banks away, and during the low ones, it is so scarce that one can even cross the entire river by foot. It was a high tide when we arrived.
We crossed Bidya in a local boat and reached Gosaba island. Gosaba is one of the 102 islands that constitute Sunderban. Out of these 102 patches of land, only 52 are inhabitable and the rest are covered with thick mangrove forests. The island was very small. It took us not more than half an hour to travel from its one end to another. The rickshaw ride was rickety and bumpy. But passing through those narrow lanes covered with lush paddy fields, straw houses with small ponds in front-yards, and ducks quacking and crossing the roads was all novel for the entire group.
After crossing Gosaba, another ride was waiting for us. This time a private ferry, and it took us from Jothirampur ghat to Saathjhali island, our base camp.
Yes, island-hopping was exciting, but we didn’t realise how it drained our energies until we reached our pads. After a scrumptious Bengali lunch made of homegrown veggies, spices and herbs, we headed straight to the hammocks for siesta. Henrique, Chelsea and Matt started snoring in the next fifteen minutes.
But I was wide awake, sulking and staring at the cloudy afternoon in silence. I was talking to myself, “Such a quaint place. Such beautiful landscapes. There is so much to capture over here. I should at least make notes before I forget everything. Should I go back to my cottage and bring my notebook or my iPad? Oh God! My iPad!! I have an iPad!!!”
I literally jumped out of joy and fell off the hammock. The same iPad that I was planning to get rid of a few weeks back was here to the rescue! I tiptoed from the rooftop and ran towards my cottage. I opened my backpack and pulled out my saviour, my messiah, my iPad. I hugged it tight and we lived through the Sunderban Safari happily ever after.
Happy viewing to you!
Please note that all the pictures I clicked at Sunderban are clicked from my iPad. The quality of photographs may not be as good as that of a professional camera, but they’ve been clicked with the same passion and excitement.
Have you ever forgotten your most important travel gadget like me? Share your stories in the comments section, I’d love to hear them. 🙂
The city of joy is at its joyful best during Durga Puja.
Durga Puja is Kolkata’s favourite festival, celebrated for ten days in the month of autumn to welcome and honour Goddess Durga. And mind you, it’s one of the grandest and most magnificent welcome you’ll ever witness.
I was witnessing Durga Puja for the first time. And, oh boy! I was overwhelmed with the whole experience.
A girl I met in a cab said, “We can sense the festivity coming closer. One fine day, we just wake up happy and announce – today I’m feeling the Puja vibe in the air. And that’s how the festivity begins.”
She was right.
The moment I set foot on this city’s ground, I felt a strong festive vibe all around. A sudden surge of positive energy rushed into me. Everything everywhere was echoing joy and merry.
Houses were freshly painted and decorated. Roads were ready to be lit for bright nights. Artistic pandals were standing tall and graceful. Last minute shoppers were scurrying on the high-streets. The cityscape changes altogether.
It was my great fortune that I got a chance to visit many beautiful barowari and bonedi baris of Kolkata. It is difficult to say which one is better from the other. But here is a list of my personal favourite pandals and baris. Check it out for yourself.
BAROWARI PUJOS: Community pandals are where barowari pujas are held. Pandals from South Kolkata are more famous for their glam and glory, while the Northern part of the city is known for its traditional aesthetics.
A side-note from Akash Mondal: The word barowari has come from the words ‘baro’ meaning 12 in Bengali and ‘yaari’ or friends. It is said that 12 friends got together to start such pujas. That’s how the word was coined.
Suruchi Sangha Calcutta is said to be the biggest canvas of art and culture, and every year Suruchi Sangha proves to be its live example. This year’s pandal showcased a magnificent Bhutanese temple.
Each milestone of the Himalayan kingdom was depicted across the structure. Monks were invited from the Himalayas. And yes, special mention to their brilliant organisation and crowd management skills!
Ekdalia Evergreen Recognised for recreating famous temples around the country, Ekdalia Evergreen Durga Puja Pandal raised a beautiful replica of Meenakshi temple this year. Intricate carving was seen on both the exterior walls and interior.
Artisans are called from the remote villages of West Bengal to create such masterpieces. The work starts 5-6 months before the festival, and is admired throughout the 10 days of Pujo.
Tridhara Akalbodhan This is the place where I got pulled in a sea of pandal-hoppers. Look at the grandeur of the pandal. No wonder people flock in huge numbers; huge enough to cause a fatal stampede. This year’s theme was tribal art and expressions.
The beauty of this one is its idols. All the five idols, viz., Goddess Durga, and her four children – Lord Ganesha, Kartikeya, Goddess Saraswati and Goddess Lakshmi are carved meticulously. The modesty of Ganesha, pride if Kartikeya, Lakshmi’s affluence and Saraswati’s composure reflect through their eyes.
The blue and silver ornamentation of these idols looked very unique, and stole the limelight from pandal art and chandeliers.
Jodhpur Park, Jadavpur Words will fall short to describe the efforts put together in designing this pandal. I would say, this was not a pandal, but a piece of art. Unique theme, amazing colour combination and a great sense of aesthetics is what made this pandal one of a kind.
BONEDI BARIR PUJOS: I observed that most of the bonedi baaris pujas are held in North Kolkata; the reason being all the affluent families of yesteryears lived in this area. After independence, Zamindari system was abolished, and the financial condition of these stalwarts started declining. However, nothing of this affected the grandeur with which bari pujas are performed. Some of the pujas are over 200 years old, yet all the traditions and rituals are maintained till date.
These pujas are often overlooked by the pandal-hoppers. Hence, locating these houses were a big task for me. With a little information available online, persistent pestering calls to friends and friends of friends, and a little bit of good luck, I managed to attend these pujas and witness some highlights.
Mitra Bari On the 3rd day of Puja, while I was scrolling through my Facebook timeline at wee hours, I stumbled upon a friend’s post. ‘Our family Pujo got covered.’, it read. It was 5 o’clock in the morning, but I shamelessly sent him a long message about how I’m interested in visiting his house. But Pradosh, sweet fellow that he is, messaged me all the details of his over 210 years old family puja, right away.
I visited Mitra Bari in Darjeepara to attend Kumari Pujo. It is performed on Ashtami Puja day, where young girls are worshipped. Girls between the age group of one to sixteen are said to be a symbol of the virgin form of Goddess. This purest form of divine power (Aadi Shakti) is the root of all creations.
The Kumari is worshipped by the whole family. The pandit chants mantras, feed her the Noibiddo and water. Once the puja is done, he bows down and touches her little feet as if he’s praying to the Goddess herself.
The women in the family, then, adorn her feet with aalta (red dye), give her presents and seek blessings from the little devi.
After Kumari pujo, it was time for Pushpanjali – offering of flowers to the idol.
The idol was also very different from the barowari pujas. In fact, the elements were also very unlike others. For instance, while all the Durga idols are always riding lion, this one was on Devsingha. Devsingha is essentially a combination of a horse and a lion. It symbolizes the speed of a stallion and strength of a lion.
Chhatu Babu Latu Babu’s Thakurbati. Ramdulal Nibas, fondly known as Chhatu Babu Latu Babu’s Thakurbati is just a few lanes away from Darjeepara.
This more than 200 years old Puja was initiated by Ramdulal Dey, a man who was a pioneer of Indo-American trade, when USA was at the dawn of its independence. After Ramdulal, his sons Ashutosh Deb (Chhatu Babu) and Pramatha Nath Deb (Latu Babu) continued the tradition.
In order to carry forward this legacy, a trust was formed in the year 1919. Since then, all the ceremonies and functions are organized by the trust.
Sovabazaar Rajbati Maharaja Nabakrishna Deb Bahadur started this Durga Puja in the Thakur Dalan of his palace Sovabazaar Rajbati. During the colonial regime, Raja Nabakrishna Deb played a pivotal role in dethroning Siraj ud-Daulah. Impressed by his service, British started rewarding him with immeasurable wealth, and soon Sovabazaar literally started flaunting its Sova (affluence).
Another folklore says that during those times, heaps of grains were kept in the Thakur Dalan as a part of the offerings to Maa Durga. These giant heaps of golden grains used to look magnificent in the courtyard, making the baari look even more beautiful and affluent. Hence, the name Sovabazaar.
Its historic Thakur Dalan was also blessed by the presence of remarkable personalities like Swami Vivekananda, Sadhak Ramprosad Sen, Thakur Sri Sri Ramkrishna Paramhansa Deb, etc.
I reckon, this is not just the richest, but the most historic bonedi baari in the whole of Kolkata.
Choto Sovabazar Rajbati This rajbati is just across the lane, and is built by Maharaja Nabakrishna Deb Bahadur’s son, Radhakant Deb. Compared to the original one, this bari is slightly low key with respect to its glam and grandeur. It is much smaller in space, but reflects the same architectural sensibilities.
The definite distinction between the rest of the house and the temple area is seen in both the baris. However, I felt that this one was much quieter and more pleasant than the first.
Mukherjee Bari Last but not the least! My visit to Mukherjee Bari in Ariadah is the most special one. I met this kind gentleman, Mr. Soumick Mukherjee during one of the field trips in Kolkata. When I got to know about his bari puja, I jumped on the opportunity, and paid a visit on a lazy Ashtami afternoon.
As I reached the entrance, I was bowled over by a long queue of people, holding big bowls and containers, waiting for their turn. The family was distributing food (Prasad) to the locals, as their small service towards God.
Mr. Mukherjee and his sweet family literally forced me to finish a plateful of sweets, followed by the bhog food. Bhog is the meal given to the Goddess. This meal is supposed to be eaten by only the family members. I was honoured to be a part of such a private affair; and not to mention, glad to taste a yummy fare!
The illustrious bhog.
After a lip-smacking, mouth-watering, tummy-filling, sleep-inducing meal, I decided to stay back till Sandhi Pujo. Later on, I thanked myself hundred times for taking that decision.
Sandhi Pujo preparations.
Sandhi Pujo is as beautiful a concept as its rituals. Sandhi means unification or merger. It celebrates the merger of the 8th and the 9th day of Puja. Sandhi Pujo begins from the last 24 minutes of Ashtami and the first 24 minutes of Navami. The puja has to happen during those 48 minutes precisely.
Durga is celebrated in her Chamunda form. It is said that she killed the demons Chando and Mundo at this very juncture. 108 earthen lamps were lit in front of the idol. It was a beautiful sight, as the floor turned golden.
As another ritual, 108 lotus flowers are offered to the Goddess. At Mukherjee bari, this ritual was done with beautiful garlands of lotus, bel leaves (wood-apple leaves), aparajita (butterfly pea) and rajnigandha (tuberoses) flowers.
Butterfly pea flowers, better known as Aparajitas, were always my favourite. Now they are one reason more favourite.
All this was performed amidst the echoes of dhaak, sounds of conch shells and bells, and spellbinding, rhythmic chanting of mantras.
It was followed by the ritual of Bali sacrifice. But instead of an animal, a vegetable was sacrificed. Thus, understanding the sentiments of sacrifice, without propagating any fallacy. I liked how an important ritual underwent a slight change with the changes in the society.
The day ended with heart-warming goodbyes as I left the Mukherjee house. Overwhelmed with the glory of puja, and the hospitality of the family, I promised myself to revisit this abode of happiness soon, very soon.
Mr. Soumick Mukherjee, one of the most kindhearted people I’ve met till date.
Which Barowari or Bonedi Bari Puja is your favourite? Did I miss a noteworthy puja during my stay in Kolkata? Share your thoughts with me in the comments section.
If you have ever been to Kolkata, I’m sure you would have been introduced to its favourite street treat – jhalmuri.
I kept hearing a lot about this delight from my Bong friends. I have seen them swearing by it when they debate about how jhalmuri is thousand times better than Mumbai’s bhelpuri.
But during my visit to Kolkata, I discovered why the city is in love with this snack – because the city of Kolkata in itself is like jhalmuri.
A handful of puffed rice, powdered spices, a dash of raw mustard oil (dearly called as kaacha shorsher tel), a splash of tamarind water and a generous squeeze of lime. Roughly that’s what goes inside a well-made bag of jhalmuri.
The muri-wallah mixes these ingredients deftly. The process is no less than a theatrical performance. However, every bite of this perfectly blended potion outperforms the muri-wallah’s skills. Every bite surprises you. Every bite introduces you to a new flavour. Even though the dish is mixed well, not a single ingredient loses its original distinct taste.
Kolkata is just like a cone of jhalmuri.
During the pre-independence era, many people from different cultures, different countries, and different ethnicities have come to this the-then capital of British India, and made it their home.
From World War I onwards, this land has seen cultures confluence and religions coexist. Indians, Anglo-Indians, Jews, Zoroastrians, Muslims; all stay happily together while the rest of the country, or even the world for that matter, struggles to learn the art of coexistence.
And a beautiful testimony to this theory is a quaint corner called Bow Barracks.
Take a stroll around the Bow Barracks, and you will discover for yourself how communities are defying intolerance and living in harmony.
Bow Barracks is a small, red-bricked residential area, built during the World War I for soldiers. Post wartime, some soldiers handed over the keys to the Anglo-Indians, while some decided to stay put with their families. Today their descendants call it their home.
As you enter this tiny community of around 150 households, you will be greeted by a Roman Catholic grotto.
In the quadrangle, you will spot Anglo-Indian boys playing street hockey with their Parsi friends. Early in the morning, a cycle-wallah will be delivering loaves of bread baked in a Jewish bakery.
A Chinese lady will be hurrying towards the Tirretti Market to set up her momo stall, while a Muslim old man will be busy selling marigolds to a Hindu on his way to the nearest temple.
Where there are people from different religions, there is a variety in places of worship too. An agyari, a Chinese temple, a mosque, a mandir, a catholic grotto, a Jewish church; all of these live in peace at a few metres distance from each other.
We must understand that this assimilation is not something that has happened for a day or two under patriotic drives that scream slogans like ‘unity in diversity’ or ‘hum sab ek hain’. This convergence is decades old, and has now become a part of Kolkata’s life, without losing its soul.
This cultural concoction lives in harmony. The people here respect each other, and literally live the saying ‘unity in diversity’.
Over these many years, various cultures from Bow Barracks have finely blended with this city, but their flavours are still fresh and distinct… just like a spicy serving of jhalmuri.
Doesn’t this phrase sound like music to your ears? No? Well, it does to me. Especially when I know that I won’t be able to use it anymore to describe myself.
So, this twenty-something-slash-almost-thirty girl has fallen in love again. But it’s not any tall, dark and handsome knight in shining armour.
It’s a city.
I never thought that the traveller in me will ever fall in love with a city. Not that I hate them. But being a concrete-jungle girl for you-know-how-many years, I am never attracted to city tours.
Sandy beaches allure me. Foggy mountains keep calling me up north. I am constantly torn between being a mountain child or a beach babe. And while I’m trying to solve this love triangle situation, I meet the new love of my life: Kolkata.
From the moment I made a plan to visit Kolkata till the time I was boarding the train, I was bombarded with questioning looks. “Why Kolkata?”, “That city is so crowded!”, “Isn’t Bombay chaos enough for you?”, “Do you have any Bong connection there?”, “You could have chosen a much better place”, are just a few of the countless questions I was tired of answering.
After a certain point, I stopped explaining. I saw Kolkata from my lens; I adored it. And I feel it is my duty towards this metropolis to answer my friends’ questions and satisfy their curiosity about why I romanticise this city so much.
This visit was exclusively for Durga Pujo. It is one festival that always fascinated me. The grandeur of Durga Pujo in Kolkata is incomparable. It has a perfect balance of traditional rituals, cultural events, and appreciation of art incorporated in the festivity.
That city is so crowded!
Yes, Kolkata is crowded. The roads are always buzzing, especially during Durga Puja.
Once, I was almost about to be a part of a crazy stampede outside Tridhara Akalbodhan pandal. That was my last night in Kolkata, so I did some massive mishti (sweet) shopping from Ballaram Mullick & Rajaram Mullick, a sweet shop with legacy of over 200 years. As I was crossing the road with two hefty bags on my shoulder, I suddenly got pulled into the sea of pandal-hoppers. I would never forget how I rescued myself, and more importantly, the sweets.
Undoubtedly that was a very up-close encounter with Cal-chaos. But if you look at it closely, you will find patterns in this chaos.
The roads here work in shifts. Traffic is directed to different routes for different times of the day. The auto-rickshaws are also not allowed on roads post evening. Measures like these have been taken to make the city less chaotic. They’re working towards it, and with effective implementation, they’re somewhat getting it right. If you observe a little, you’ll find many more instances of order in its madness.
Isn’t Bombay chaos enough for you?
There is no urban area on the face of earth with zero chaos. But, that doesn’t mean all the cities are equally chaotic. You cannot compare Kolkata with Bombay in that respect.
Office-goers are not in hurry. You’ll find a lot of them walking leisurely to reach their workplace, eating jhalmuri. Some might even sit on a park bench or at a roadside tea-stall with a daily to get their morning dose of news and current affairs.
Here, you won’t find any rat race. Here, people are busy, but they won’t mind going out of their way to help you. Here, I felt not the Bombay chaos, but Bombay spirit; and that too, in a much refined way.
Do you have any Bong connection there?
Before the visit? No.
But now, after spending several days here, I can say I do have very strong connections in this city. I kept meeting people with big hearts and warm smiles, who made me feel like a part of their family. Kolkata without this bunch of sweethearts would have been very different.
You could have chosen a much better place.
Yes. I could have, because this world is full of beautiful destinations offering myriad wonderful experiences and stories. And Kolkata is one of those.
Kolkata is a delight for food, photography, culture, art and much more. You just have to look around with your eyes open, and you’ll find every corner hiding beauty worth falling in love with.
Journeys back home are always full of mixed feeling. When you are busy soaking in a new city, you don’t realise when the city soaks you in too. Especially a city like Kolkata, where people welcome you with open arms and warm smiles.
Cal, you’ve been a sweetheart, quite literally. This time I’m not only taking back lots of memories, but also the boundless love of so many people. Friends, old and new, strangers, and even the hawkers have truly made my first-ever visit to this city of joy absolutely unforgettable.
A big hug to each one of you! I’ll see you soon, Cal! 🙂
If memories become foggy over a period of time, recollections from Matheran would be the most vivid ones for me. Be it any season, any time of the day, this woodland perched above the Sahyadri summits of Maharashtra is always enveloped with cottony fog. I have visited this place twice or thrice since childhood, yet it never fails to allure me.
Matheran is a favourite weekend getaway for Mumbai and Pune, but still untouched by pollution of these twin cities.
Pollution-emitting vehicles are shunned in this eco-sensitive zone. You have to select from a few rudimentary options like toy-train, horseback, hand-pulled rickshaws and good-old hiking to reach the hilltop from the entry point.
I always preferred hiking, and thanked myself for doing so. The moment you enter the gates of this green haven, you are welcomed by the sound of silence; occasionally broken by chirping of birds or neighing of horses.
Rows of quaint little hotels, private bungalows and government properties built in the yesteryears give a Victorian air to this hill station.
If you think that travelling in rains is not a big dampener, then you must visit during the monsoons. The landscape looks like a freshly-painted canvas of nature. Rain-bathed trees swank their brightest greens. Petrichor lingers around day and night. A steady downpour turns the sun-baked roads into gooey mud-ways. (Be careful of your footwear though. It is best to choose closed shoes or strappy floaters over delicate sandals and flip-flops.)
If it is drizzling gently, wear a poncho and a rain hat and step out for sightseeing. There are over 20 spots worth visiting.
However, you can always walk an unwalked path and discover something altogether new.
And if, by any chance, you end up trapped in your room with torrential rains outside, don’t you worry. Just grab your favourite drink, a cuppa coffee or a glass of spirit, and enjoy the view from your window for hours. Not to mention, with your favourite music in the background.
Well, rains may extend for a week or two more. So, why don’t you pack your bags and visit this monsoon getaway?
It’s just the fourteenth day of the month, and the machine refuses to spit out money. The screen coldly shows a three digit figure and I walk out of the ATM empty-handed.
For me, this is not a new phenomenon. Since past few months, I have been living like an Urban Poor with no regret.
Year 2016 began with my passion for travel growing stronger than ever before. I wanted to go back to the mountains of Ladakh. I wanted to visit Dah and Hanu, the villages that inhabit the last and the purest breed of Aryans. I wanted to sit in a cafe in McLeodganj and fill notebooks with silly poetries. I wanted to gorge every yummy street food available in Kolkata markets. I wanted to explore all the palaces and temples that whisper tales of the times gone by. I wanted to cycle around the forever French Pondicherry. (For which I’ll obviously have to learn biking. Ok, don’t judge me. I have an explanation for this, but let’s save it for later.) I wanted to travel across my country, and then after exploring every nook and cranny, travel across borders too. I wanted to… and I still want to.
But to start ticking off this never-ending bucket list, I needed to start saving.
Yes, travel is definitely worth more than money will ever be. But for a girl working in a demanding industry like advertising where pay cheque is a joke; saving money for travel was a big challenge.
So, I welcomed the New Year with a simple plan. I opened a separate account to take out a piece of my salary every month without fail. I call it my ‘travel punji’.
This travel punji has brought a lot of discipline in my life. Every month after a certain amount gets deducted from my salary, what I’m left with is just a little cash that helps me get through the month.
Travel punji has also changed my lifestyle to some extent, if not completely. I don’t remember the last time I visited a mall and returned with handful of shopping bags. Splurging stopped. Smart buying started. Today, when I open my wardrobe, I see only a handful of clothes, and I still feel it’s more than enough.
Yes, there are certain things that take a toll on my monthly budget. For example, food. I just cannot resist good food. Of course I can have two home-cooked meals every day; but when craving for a something specific comes to me, my grey cells stop working and taste buds take charge, resulting into a hole in my already-burnt pocket.
Second thing that forces me to use up all my monies is the taxi meter. I love travelling, but hate commuting. The home-office-home routine, last-minute meetings, late nights, work pressure, and the usual rant-worthy factors suck up all the energy, and make cabs the only preferred mode of transportation. I should seriously work towards commuting by public transport like trains and buses. I’m sure, I’ll easily add a few more pennies in my punji.
Well, the third reason is purely sentimental. Someday I might get successful in curbing the other two, but this one has emotions attached to it – It’s the joy of gifting. Deciding on a suitable gift, buying it, wrapping it with pretty wraps, giving it to your dear ones and waiting anxiously to see a twinkle in their eyes when they open it; the whole process is so thrilling and relaxing at the same time.
I pray to God that I’ll never be so broke that I stop this happy habit. And I pray to God that my travel punji may never be bare.
But no matter how empty or full the punji is, I’ll keep travelling. I’ll keep investing in moments. I’ll be rich with memories that can never be traded with any currency.
That’s my promise!
PS: The word count of this post is more than my current bank balance. 😉
If you have interesting tips on how to manage travel funds, please share it with me. I’d love your guidance. Or if you want to know more about my future travel plans and how I’m going to use my Travel Punji, feel free to ask a question.
The words enveloped the city on the day of Ganesh Chaturthi as millions welcomed home their favourite guest.
Ganesh Festival is my favourite time of the year. Born and brought up in the heart of Lalbaug-Parel area of Mumbai, I have grown up celebrating this festival with great excitement. The pandals, the lighting and decoration, the long aarti sessions, the elocution competitions for children, the night-walks through the lanes of lalbaug, the jatra; every single thing has contributed to make my childhood memorable. But one thing that is etched deeply in my memory is the Ganesh Visarjan.
The Visarjan Day (or the Immersion Day) has always been special. Today, I close my eyes and the entire picture comes alive. I open my eyes and I realise nothing much has changed. Yes, with the advent of the DJ music, which I strongly detest, the form of the procession has changed. But the nature still remains the same.
These are a few last year’s photographs of some of the most common things you’d find in any Ganpati Visarjan procession across Maharashtra.
Chillar Party Ganpati, the God of knowledge, is every child’s favourite Bappa! Throughout the ten days, the bachcha company keeps running around the pandals, helping their elders with small errands, feeling proud about their contribution. On the day of Visarjan, kids don their nicest dresses and set out to be a part of the grand procession.
Women in Forefront No matter how much we deny, we still live in a patriarchal society. It’s a sight for sore eyes to see so many women coming forward to bid adieu to their Lord. Dressed in traditional Navvari sarees or a macho kurta pajama and Gandhi cap, they all congregate and sometimes even outnumber male volunteers.
The Swag Quotient Trends come and trends go, but during the Visarjan you’ll always spot cool dudes sticking to the classic. One just cannot go wrong with the classic combination of Kurta and aviator glasses. You’ll find not one, but many bhais going all out with this dress code.
Gulaal No festival in India is complete without colours, especially Ganesh Festival. Streaks of Gulaal rocketing up in the sky, forming clouds of pinks and reds make a picturesque sight.
Pushpavrishti Pushpavrishti is the flower shower that is offered to everyone’s beloved Ganesha, as he proceeds towards his abode. Every year, innovative ideas are implemented by various mandals to make this floral offering.
The Majesty himself And last but not the least, the Bappa himself. The beautiful Ganpati idols slowly moving towards the seashore, en route his home is a purely overwhelming spectacle. The grandness of the idols humbles you down. An impulsive tear rolls down your cheek as you join hands and ask Bappa to come back soon.