City of Joy with WANDERING WORDS
Welcoming a new season – Spring in Assam
The festival to greet New Year in Assam is Bohag bihu, known as Rongali bihu as well. Assam is mainly a State to have a rich culture and tradition that revolves around cultivation. It is Spring season to start the new cultivation following the nature’s trend. As the trees change with the seasonal ambience around with new leaves matching the sweet melodies of the Cuckoo and many other feathery friends, it’s the Bohag Bihu for the Assamese people to start life anew with new zest and new hope. In English Calendar it is 14th, 15th and 16th April this year, Bohag Bihu and Assamese New Year are celebrated here. As these are the holidays for the family, so we have decided to visit Kolkata as Mumpi ( Snigdha - daughter of Sarma da and Papori Bow, our family friend whom we consider as our own family members) had to appear for her academic interview also. West Bengal also celebrate their New Year same time as here in Assam. So that also suited us. We have been to Kolkata earlier many times but for her interview for higher studies we decided to again visit as Sarma Da thought it will be a nice getaway from our mundane hectic schedules. And together with likeminded people it is always fun to go out. Me, Apurba (my hubby) and Reet (my son) with Mr Robin Sarma ( whom we call as Sarma Da – in respect we call our elder brothers as ‘dada’ ) , his wife Mrs Papori Sarma (whom we address as Papori Bow - we address our elder sister –in – law as ‘bow’)and their two daughters – Snigdha and Nishita ( for us Mumpi and Naina ) decided to visit Kolkata during this holidays. So off we were to celebrate our Bihu holidays with joy….. in the City of Joy.
City of Joy –to enjoy Bihu Holidays
On 11th April at 8.15 pm we boarded our flight to the City of Joy, Kolkata. Landed here at 9.30 pm and Apurba (my hubby) had already arranged for a taxi to take us to our guest house. We have checked in at the Life Insurance Corporation of India, Guest house around 10.30 pm at Park Street as Apurba had a very good friend who works there. The VIP guest room allotted to us was very huge with high ceilings and two large beds which are just perfect for our family. As arranged earlier we had dinner in the guest house itself with simple tasty plain rice, dal, potato fry with cumin seeds and chicken curry to end with misti doi ( sweetened yogurt) and rasagulla ( Famous Bengali sweet). After dinner we slept nicely.
Sunny Sunday in Kolkata
On 12th April a very sunny day greeted us in our first day of this trip in Kolkata. Sarma da and Papori Bow went to drop Mumpi to her Interview Centre at St Xavier’s College in the morning before breakfast. After they returned we all had a lazy breakfast over long chitchat. We decided to relax during the day because of the heat and as Mumpi was anyway bit tired for her preparation of the interview. So we had lunch in the guest house only with Chicken, a mixed vegetable curry, stir fried lady’s finer, dal , green salad with Plain rice and desert of some sweet platter. Then we all took an afternoon nap to pass the heat. After a light snack of Tea and cookies, we all went to a nearby shopping mall for a little shopping and evening strolling. This was the first time, I have been walking to my destinations in Kolkata and that is quite an experience in itself. The City which I frequented many time has unfolded in front of me like never before. The street food stalls were bustling with crowed who were enjoying their Sunday evening snacks with their families. Many well to do people were almost sitting in the footpaths to savour their foods which was bit discomfited for me. But Apurba told me that this is pretty common fact in Kolkata and the natives are very easy going people. The crowed seemed to really enjoy their spicy street snacks while talking very loudly without being bothered to be over heard whatever they were talking about. They seem to me to be really easy going and carefree crowd.
The Street snacks ....yummy and ever enticing
We went to the Forum Shopping mall which has been always a favourite shopping destination for me. The kids wanted to eat some snacks so we went to the topmost floor which catered to the food counters in the Mall. They ordered for some cold coffee and cakes while we adults went for our shopping. We bought some gift items and mainly strolled around to have a feel of the new collections. After shopping we came out and Apurba insisted we taste the Chatpatta Channa an old vendor was selling in front of the Shopping Mall. That was my first brush with the famous street food of Kolkata. Though initially I was a bit apprehensive but once I gulped a handful of the tangy snacks there was no looking back. The old person’s name was Singh Jee who told us that he has been selling that Special flavoured Chana since very long time there. He has this unique way to keep his snacks hot. He carries a kind of bamboo basket hanged on to his body with the help of a strong cloth where he keeps his ingredients. To keep it hot for the crunchy taste he maintains a small earthen pot wherein he places some burnt charcoal so that the heat is maintained irrespective of the weather condition and instead of humid weather the ingredients does not get dampened over time. With a dash of lemon the Chatpata Chana was very yummy and I will surely make it a point to find Singh Jee whenever I visit Kolkata in near future.
After shopping we went to a restaurant named Mogambo in the Park Street itself to have our dinner. We ordered for Plain Polao with Mutton Kosha which was very delicious. Then we returned to our Guest house by walk. I really must admit here that I enjoyed the walk very much. It felt so rejuvenated all long. The people were all busy in the road for their evening walks and talking with their companions. It is nice to see many busy people with many moods and lots of differed animated conversations across the busy streets. After a little chat with Hubby ( Apurba) and Son ( Reet) we retired for the day.
Day 2 - Mind-fullness in the Maidan
Apurba took me for a long morning walk at 6 am. That was the highlight for me in the entire trip this time. He took me to the Maidan(a big natural park) crossing the road from Park Street. It was amazingly big and such natural beauty really amidst the busy Park Area which is the main commercial centre of the Big City of Kolkata. I admired and instantly fell in love with the vast field where many people were walking in that morning including many youths practicing their football. Bengalis are known for their overwhelming love for the game of football. It felt so nice to walk in the natural openness mainly in the morning air overflowing with the nostalgic melodies’ of the Cuckoo to greet the spring in its own tune filled ways. How much I wished to have a huge field like that in Guwhati! I instantly felt envious of the Kolkata people for the natural luxuries of having such a huge field for their physical exercises and many other games.
After the morning walk we had tea and cookies and got ready by 9 am. Then we all had a scrumptious breakfast of Parantha and Potato Sabji with tea. After breakfast we left as per everybody’s decision to visit New Market for shopping again. It seemed to me that it was almost like we were there to only do shopping. But helpless situation it was actually. Because it seemed all family members would certainly anticipate for some token gifts during the festival times. We decided to visit New Market which is famous for its assortment and affordable ranges of goods. It was a hot day but never the less we decided to walk again to the dismay of the kids. So following the leads of the male members we, lady’s and kids made our foray into the humid Kolkata Street.
Although, the kids forgot about the heat and the distress once we arrived in the main shopping area. The girls got busy in their shopping for the junk jewelleries and dresses. But for me to be honest, it was a real big pain to follow the kids and our group among the rush in the busy shops and among the roadside vendors. Because I can’t stand so much hustle bustle and overcrowded shopping places. I feel suffocated and kind of breathless but again I did not have the intention to dampen their ever enthusiastic shopping binge. I was simply dragging myself to follow all of them somehow, being sometimes pushed by the crowd and sometimes pulled by our group.
But around 3 pm I could not drag myself anymore among the heat and jam-packed people. I requested Apurba that we move apart from the other people in our group for our lunch because they decided to continue shopping, whereas I actually hate this whole affair of shopping. I just only tend to go for shopping when that’s a mere case of utter necessity and else to buy gifts when actually I can’t avoid. I am certainly being honest here like never before. Then me, Apurba and Reet bid goodbye from the rest of our group and went for our lunch. Apurba took us to Arsalan, famous joint for Biriyani in Kolkata where in many occasions one got to be in a queue for their turn to eat. We really enjoyed the yummy Chicken Biriyani while Reet ordered for a plate of Mutton Biriyani. The meats were all very nicely cooked and almost melted in mouth. Then we head toward our Guest house and we all took a long cooling shower to wash off the roadside dirt and sweats.
After the entire groups arrived we ordered for tea and cookies. The Guest house staffs requested us to have dinner in-house itself as they wanted to treat us with authentic Bengali dishes. We agreed with all hearts. And what a treat it was! Famed Bengali dish of Sarso Ilish ( Ilish Fish with Mastered Seeds curry), Mutton Kosha ( Traditional Mutton dish with fresh spices), Gondhoraj Mutton ( Lemon Flavoured Mutton dish), Lady’s Finger with Posto, Cottage Cheese with Pea in spicy curry, Mixed vegetables, Very traditional dish of Sona Muger dal fry, Tomato and Unripe Mango chutney with famous Gobinda Bhog steamed rice. Mainly I savoured most the Tomato and Unripe Mango Chutney with lots of cashews and raisins in it and the staffs made it sure that I am served with that dish in every single meal during the course of my stay there. We all ate to our hearts delight. It was a dinner to remember for a lifetime. Mainly what touched us most was the hospitality of the staffs of the guest house. They treated us with so much warmth that it felt almost like second home for all of us.
Day 3 and the Sari saga…
Apurba had to take me for much cherished long morning walk in the early hours again. And I thank him really for introducing me to the beautiful Maidan which I never visited earlier.
As it was very hot the kids decided not to explore out in the city and instead they planned to stay back in the Guest House with their gadgets for their entertainment. As Papori Bow wanted to buy Sarees we all decided to explore a place called Goriahaat, famous for its high quality affordable Sarees. Sarees are famous Indian Traditional attire of six yards of different variety of fabric for the ladies. Those who never have heard about Sarees can please visit the below mentioned page for their detailed knowledge.
We bought several Sarees and without planning I too ended up buying three chiffon Sarees for office going etc. But the market was not of my personal choice. It was too crowded for my taste. But that’s the authentic Bengali essence of a market area, I have been informed by Apurba . There were good collections of Sarees of differed materials and at very affordable rate. I never had a plan of buying Sarees but I could not resist after checking on the rates and the high quality of the fabrics. And the wide variety made it quite tempting actually. After we ended up shopping at Goriahat, we went to again New Market because Papori Bow’s gift list was yet to be finished. We did our shopping there and that time it was bit all right for me as there was not much of heat during the evening hours. Then we returned to our guest house and after a hearty meal we sit to talk among us. And we talked for a long time till midnight and then we all retired for the day.
Day 4 and it was a movie time
As we slept very late we got to skip our morning walk for which I felt very upset. But for being very tired I actually got up around 8 am which was too late for me. I am an early riser always. So we started the fourth day on a very lazy note. After a lazy breakfast we took our shower and dressed up to exchange some of our staffs which were not as good as we shopped in real hurry. Reet and the Mumpi stayed back to catch up on their studies (still very doubtful case if they really studied!!). We visited Forum Mall first and exchanged one of my Kurta and Papori Bows’ pair of shoe. Then we headed toward South City Shopping Mall which Naina wished to visit by a taxi as it’s far away from Park Street. We bought some knick knacks from there. Apurba tried to buy movie tickets for us as we all planned to catch up with some movie to pass out time. But we could not get it there. Then we headed toward our guest house in a short while. On the way Apurba again tried for the movie in another Mall and that time we got lucky. So after dropping Naina in the guest house we four went for the Hindi Movie around 7 pm. It was short distance from our Guest House so we reached on time. We enjoyed a hindi movie named “ Dharam Shankat” which was revolving around the protagonist’s dilemma regarding religious beliefs. It was a comedy movie with a strong message to the society. After the movie ended we headed back to our Guest house. We really liked the Quest Shopping Mall with its elegant interiors. Then we had a nice dinner at the Guest house and slept.
Day 5...time to say good bye to the Tomato and Unripe Mango Chutney
The last morning in Kolkata we all went for a long morning walk excluding the kids. And the icing on the cake was that as per the result declared online Mumpi got the desired seat in the Christ College, Bangalore and that made the trip a successful one for her first interview for her higher studies. We visited the Victoria Memorial Museum also for our walk that day. I really enjoyed the visit to the famed historical monument. It is very nicely maintained and the neighbouring garden with its many beautiful trees is worth a visit actually. Then Apurba treated me with tender coconut water which was real sweet and delicious against the slight fatigue after the long morning walk. Then we returned to our Guest House.
After a nice breakfast we packed to leave Kolkata. Our flight was at 4-50 pm. So we decided to have our lunch there itself. Apurba had a close friend visiting him in the Guest house whom he met in Guwahati. He gifted me with a nice Silver showpiece which was a real surprise for me. We chatted for a long time. After a nice lunch we left for the Airport. At 4-50 we flew back to our hometown. Thus the Bihu celebration was over for this year among much foods, chutneys, shopping, movie, walking and merriment.
This visit to Kolkata would always be a nice memory for me for the long walks - later we evaluated that every day therein we walked for 12 kms almost, the fresh and beautiful morning walks in Maidan, for the sumptuous food by the wonderful Guest House Staffs, and predominantly the luscious Tomato and Unripe Mango Chutney etc. The sweet and tangy taste still lingers in my mouth to make it worse for me so much so that I just feel like cooking it and have it again. But I don’t even want to spoil the taste in my memory as of now at least.
So we welcome the Spring to fill our hearts with much peace, prosperity and happiness in this Assamese New Year with the festive ambience all around with the flavour of Bihu in the air. Then we wait for our next trip though destination and nothing is fixed yet. But yes I personally wait excitedly for my next escape from my humdrum schedules with my WANDERING WORDS. Till then Good bye and I wish to come back with my next WADNDERING WORDS trip sooner. Thank you for your precious time here.