Jontonas and more...
Why is it so that when you are enjoying yourself time slips by quickly?
Holidays are over. I have so much to write about my Kolkata trip but all of a sudden I am blank. It's like a tabula rasa. A blank slate! I had so much fun though and learnt a lot of new Bengali words like-'niramisi' which means vegetarian food, 'jontona' which means suffering [I think!] and sabooj which means the colour green.
I had a gala time travelling in the metros and the antique tram. I had my fill of puchchkas, chur-mur and jhalmuri.
If you are in Kolkata, you just cannot miss the street food. It's just delicious but let's not get into the hygiene bit. Every city has its flavour and charm. But the soul of Kolkata is different. It enables you to fit in, doesn't push you around like Mumbai and you don't have to ape anybody. Here life goes on at its own pace. Nobody seems to be in a hurry. Life, in general, is not about money. The old heritage buildings in the heart of the city stand there sleepily, and they look like they have many tales to tell.
And sure they have tones to say... Bengalis love their addas and goppo (gathering and chit-chat sessions). A lot of time is spent pondering, thinking out loud, arguing and debating on varied topics - weddings, affairs, local and international politics, films and whatnot.
And the Indian Coffee House at College Street is the hub for the pseudo-intelligent crowd. But it had its days as the only place where the thinkers from the Renaissance era gathered to ponder upon life in general.
The Paramount juice house gives you the old world charm again. But it was the College Street that I loved the best! Books and so many books...I could spend days and days going through them; an absolute haven for book lovers. You name the book, and they have it.
I bought English translations of the Gitanjali and Sesher Kobita by Rabindranath Tagore.
Another plus point about Kolkata is that the cost of living here is cheap. Food is reasonable, and the quantity is more. The Magnolia and the BBQ at Park Street reminded me of one of the Colaba Cafes. Shopping is brilliant here if you love saris. Beginning at Rs 250, saris at Adi Dhakeshwari will get you practically any type of cotton and silk under one roof. In fact, you can shop for heavy, ornate lehengas here that will shame the Delhi & Jaipur markets as well. [I bought 15 sarees!]
Places of worship like Kalighat and Dhakhineshwar lend you an experience that is calm and serene. Once you are done with the darshan at Dhakhineshwar, you can enjoy a beautiful sunset at the Ganga ghat nearby. If you have the time, you can take a ride across the Hoogli river over to Belur Math.
In fact, if one happens to travel in winter, the canteen at the Press Trust, offers delicious vegetable stew. Also, the boat ride from Dhakineshwar to Belur Math in the evening is a must. Completely lit, it seems as if Belur Math floats on water. Simply gorgeous!
This was my second trip to Kolkata [I went way back in 2001], and I planned to explore the city. The climate was terrific, and the wedding was excellent fun.
My cousin had a traditional Bengali wedding and a church wedding. For the church wedding, we travelled to Asansol but did not see anything there as the marriage kept us busy.
Now everything mentioned above reads very smooth, but I do have a few funny things to share:
I met this pishima [aunt] who is really old. My mother had told me stories about her from her last visit, but I forgot. She is lovely in general but is weird in parts. When you wake up in the morning, she asks you about lunch. During lunch, she would ask you about dinner and to add to our woes, during dinner, just as everyone sits to eat, she would ask everyone to decide who wants to use the loo first in the morning. YUCK!
Being old she dozed off during the wedding ceremony. Soon we realised that she was mumbling in her sleep, shaking so much that she could topple off the chair anytime. But she woke up before that and yelled asking.. "khe nao baba, khe nau...[ eat child eat!]". Bleah.
Worst was what happened in Asansol. Old pishima and her daughter were on the stage, making the new couple uncomfortable but who could argue with them. Suddenly her grandson came up to greet the couple. Let me tell you, he is a strapping young man of 21 good looking and smart. Pishima caught his hand and yelled, "Aee bathroom kore eli? Eto khoon pecchab na kora kharab toh". Roughly translated, it reads as: Have you peed boy? It's not good to hold your bladder for so long!
The poor boy never came near her the whole night.
The wedding ceremonies and meeting the extended family was excellent. Indeed a different experience for me and of course, they took great care of me.
Back in the city, I had the opportunity to watch Patolbabu Filmstar by Purba Paschim, a play based on Satyajit Ray's short story. [I shall upload the review soon]. It was my first ever play in regional language. I enjoyed it.
I had so much of luchi-torkari each morning that I cannot think of it eating it anytime soon. It is almost the staple diet [breakfast] for people there!
I can't wait to go back.