My Very Own City Of Joy!

Despite having stayed out most of my life, Kolkata is always the place the heart seeks to go back to. The city is in itself, an experience. The flavours flood you, and the people overwhelm you.

Traffic is time turning. Literally.

One of the most crowded cities in India, as well as one of the oldest, Kolkata appeals to the historian in everybody. Seeing the time-tested British architectural splendours scattered all over the city, raises one’s imagination to never before seen heights.

The Victoria Memorial, the foundation of which was laid down in 1906, a memorial building dedicated to Queen Victoria of the United Kingdom, is a wonder to behold. Time seems to pause within the halls, and the gardens outside the grand hall.

The fairy at the top of the dome was originally built to serve as a weather vane. However, it’s not been in use for quite a while.

The Howrah Bridge, another icon of this great city, which shows up on most post cards, has been built entirely without nuts or bolts, but by riveting. Another ancient structure, its construction was started in 1937, and opened to traffic in 1943. It literally has been around forever! This bridge is the first link to the city, if you approach it by train. Hundreds of vehicles pass over this bridge every single day, and its importance never diminishes. The Hoogly river flows beneath.

By night, its beauty enchants you. The lights capture you, and your spirit revels.

The cricket stadium, Eden Garden is another fine point of pride with the people of Kolkata. It has been home to a lot of matches over the years, and is regarded as one of the finest.

“Cricket’s answer to the Colosseum”

With the mention of history, and cricket, in a city of Bengalis, can food be far behind? With an emphasis on fish, vegetables and lentils served with rice as a staple diet, Bengali cuisine is known for its subtle (yet sometimes fiery) flavours, and its huge spread of confectioneries and desserts. Every Bengali(almost) has a sweet tooth, and rightly so. With food like this, can you even blame us?!

Machher Jhol(fish curry) is epicness personified. Though it is not a personal favourite of mine, I’ve heard reviews, all along the lines of how people will die for it. I don’t understand the attraction, but ah well, to each his own.

Phucchka, which goes by the names Pani Puri, Golgappa, in the rest of the country, is finger-lickin good. No kidding. Ever. Street food will never taste as good, once you’ve had this. And then you die, and go to Heaven. You might even run into Willy Wonka there!

As dessert, Mishti Doi rules the roost in every Bengali household and gathering. It’s only sweet curd, one might say, but it is just so much more than that, as any sweet lover could assure you.

Moving away from the taste buds, let’s talk of another one of Kolkata’s distinguishing factors, Durga Puja.

Who hasn’t seen the processions and the giant pandals through the last five days of Navratri, in every city in India? Now imagine that, raised to infinity, is how grand it is in Kolkata. In Kolkata, celebrations take on another form altogether. There is a pandal in every single housing complex, along with one big one at the end of every street, almost. The entire city is jam packed into every pandal, and there is never a house left unlit with a thousand blinking lights. Guests come from all over, to be able to see just what it is about Durga Puja that makes people so fervent. Some understand, some go away dazed by the glory.

The statue of Durga right before immersion

All of these things, and more, make Kolkata all of what it is. Almost everybody who lives there, has had their family around for ages, right where they are now. They have made their homes now. Though it feels terrible to a new comer, Kolkata can truly become a place to love, once you accept it with all its flows, and learn to recognise the glow beneath the rough edges. A lot like a diamond, actually. I wasn’t a big fan of Kolkata earlier, either. Over the last couple of years, I’ve learnt what’s it like to have somewhere you belong, no matter where you have been all your life, all because they understand what you say, once you are done with all the other languages, and resort ultimately to your mother tongue. It brings you comfort, and a sense of joy that there are people around who will understand what you mumble when you think noone is listening. For all you know, it’s probably how you wanted it. The vitality is there, with the heavy traffic, and the huge crowds everywhere. A need for speed is there, while the languishing laziness is also treasured. It takes its time, but it finds its place in your heart, eventually

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The Land Of The Idlis!

So much to be said, and yet where do we begin. It all starts with one heartbreaking statement, “we are moving. You will have to complete your schooling in a city you never thought you’d end back in, considering you were born there, and we moved out 14 years back”.

Surprise, surprise! You soon realise it’s not so bad. Sure there isn’t EVERYTHING your parents promised would be there, just so you’d feel better about it, but there’s so much more, too. You make friends, you fall in love, you learn to eat different stuff than from the largely vegetarian environment you’d been in for just a little bit too long. Non vegetarian food mixed with South Indian cuisine is fascinating.

Yeah, keema dosa is an actual thing!

Everybody is so cultured. It’s a wonderful panorama of art, dance, drama all over the place. You learn so much, so soon, you almost forget you didn’t know it all a year back. People are intelligent, and fun, all at the same time.

And there’s so many places to be! There’s beaches all over the place, and living close to one was a dream come true. You while away hours, right there, with absolutely no thoughts of anywhere else you’d rather be.

Heaven is a place on Earth…!

Another thing which fascinated me almost as soon as I reached Chennai was the rich history that surrounded the entire atmosphere around the place. Right from the buildings to the shops to the roads, they’d all been around for so long, that there’s barely anybody alive who can remember what they were like. They are rather wondrously preserved, though. Chennai Central Station still makes me catch my breath, every single time.

Chennai Central Station

Chennaites are free, peaceful people. They live their lives and expect you to do the same, the way you want to.

The weather is awful, though. It has been rightly said that Chennai weather only ranges from “hot, hotter, hottest!”. But then there is always hope for pleasant weather, because after all, how much hotter can it even get!

Chennai street shopping is amazing. Not knowing the language can be a hindrance at times, but haggling over the prices and outwitting the shopkeeper is a universal feeling that transcends all language.

Street’s the way to go!

Now, after declaring Chennai a land of all that is good, true and beautiful, I bid thee, reader, goodbye.

Places I Call Home

Moving around is something humans have long learnt to be comfortable with. Being the family of an engineer with a transferable job, you learn pretty early anyway. This is not a travelogue, this blog is just basically writing about the places I’ve lived. To be fair, I’ve only had to move twice in my student life, but that seems like good enough fodder for right now. A travelogue is always an option, after all!

This first post is about

AHMEDABAD

It just keeps getting better

The biggest city of Gujarat, it was home for 14 long years. That’s just how it is. Live for a while, you’ll love it. It’s comfortable, people are easy going, and there’s good food. We don’t ask for much anyway!

Development is incredibly fast, and it shows. You fall in love. And not one person can blame you for it. Life is easy, and people are fun. You breathe.

 

As we know it..

 

Ahmedabad made me the person I am today. And a whole lot of others I know, too. The ghosts remain, and hover fondly. They come back for the life they lived, the love, and the memories.

Navratri is the main festival. Starting off with a huge prayer, it is 9 nights of music and lights. Dancing changes people you thought you knew, into really active characters who dance into the wee hours of the morning.

 

EVERYBODY(yeah, probably your neighbourhood grandma) dances!

Amdavadis(yep, localites have a name) are HUGE foodies. They practically live to eat. Most Gujaratis have a sweet tooth, anyway. They have different kinds of food, and different names for food found in the rest of the country as well.

Gujarati Thali

 

Ahmedabad is one of the safest cities in India, and people stay out late all the time. The people are pleasant and simple, and easy to live with. It’s hard to find Heaven, but Ahmedabad gets pretty close to it, for me.

 

There are places I remember
All my life, though some have changed
Some forever not for better
Some have gone and some remain
All these places have their moments
With lovers and friends I still can recall
Some are dead and some are living
In my life I’ve loved them all

– THE BEATLES