Wednesday, July 19, 2017

City of Trams - Sends an Invite

My 1st step on Calcuttan soil. I was tempted to ask the Cab Driver to take me, to the fictional
Shahjahan Hotel of "Chowranghee". I hold back my excitement and descend at the hotel I am booked for. To me this city carries no nostalgia, no appendage - yet have lived & loved this City through books & novels.

My 1st taste of Kolkata was served at the reception desk of the Hotel. The man across the desk, puts up a question in chaste Bengali. I knew language would pose a challenge, but wasn't prepared to encounter the challenge so soon. A few lines down the conversation & the reception desk is convinced I am a Non Bengali speaking visitor.
Our conversations shift to English. For a city synonymous to Literature - English is like a second language.

Going by my wish list- Writers Building was 1st stop of interest. But the receptionist suggested otherwise. He was quick to bring out the city map and explain that Writers Building should be my 3rd stop. I decided to go by his expertise.

He suggested I start with Ballygunge. This affluent Kolkatan neighbourhood has big names associated to it. Tram Depot Wall of Ballygunge was getting ready to play host to the Street Art Festival. Catching a glimpse of its
Circular Road reminded me of newspaper cutting that said, it once housed  the legendry"Suchitra Sen's Bunglow".

Street names in Kolkata give a flavour of their cherished politicos/ artists tempered with some anglized counterparts.
On one side, as you wade through the likes of Aurobindo Sarani, Ganguly Street, you also come across Camac Street and
Shakespear Sarani."Sarani" to Bengal is what "Saalai" is to Tamil Nadu.  [ both meaning street]

A vegetarian roaming on the streets of a Seafood loving city isn't a great idea. It means you literally drop the proposals of almost every famous restaurant coming your way. And eventually settle for a simple meal at a decent outlet, which hardly features in the City's Food Guide.

Five Point Crossing at Shyambazaar was a must see on my list. I could sense the receptionist in the morning raise eyebrows, at my choice of places. I was not following the standard tour guide format. I had to assure him, I will not leave the city without visiting Howrah Bridge and Victoria Memorial.

But more of interest to me, was the famous Kolkata Port which made East India Company choose Kolkata as their trading hub. My fascination was to take the longest possible Tram ride- even if it meant spending a major portion of a day just commuting. My attractions lay in catching a glimpse of at least 1 literary stalwart, whose car would fleet the path, I am waiting to cross.
May be, the day I visit Kolkata, this might happen, Till then, I choose to indulge with this fictionalized account of my trip to the City of Joy. Meet you at Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose airport...someday....

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