Kolkata, A City Of Joy & Happy Spirit!
Kolkata, A City Of Joy & Happy Spirit!
A Mumbai-based travel blogger, Mugdha Shukla loves to write about her country, India. She recently visited Kolkata and fell in love with the city’s many idiosyncrasies. Read her exciting story here!
When we planned our annual trip to Sikkim, we kept two days aside to visit the City Of Joy. And these two days were just about enough to introduce us to Kolkata’s culture, people, food and much talked about happy spirit, but I wish I had more time. Somewhere in the back of my mind, I still regret having allocated just two days to this city, because, trust me, this is not a two-day city. You can’t just visit famous tourist spots like Victoria Museum, Howrah Bridge, etc., and continue on your journey, because this city is sure to leave you a changed person.
A Peeli Taxi Into Kolkata’s Soul
I’ve always felt that the best way to discover the real flavour of a city is to talk to the locals, spend some time in the city’s bustling markets and use the public modes of travel. This is any day better than sitting in an air-conditioned car, listening to a guide’s exaggerated tales as he puts his own spin on reality. And this is just what I did on my Kolkata trip. Ready for adventure, we took the famous peeli taxi or yellow ambassador cab to start our journey through one of India’s four biggest cities.
Travelling in the peeli taxi is a unique experience that highlights Kolkata’s soft and kind nature. The Mumbaikar in me was impressed to see ‘no refusal’ signs on the taxis, especially the fact that I was treated like a lord here instead of being treated as slaves by Mumbai’s taxi drivers. The only problem? The taxi and corporation bus drivers are so laid-back, which leads to traffic jams everywhere. But worry not, because the Rabindra Sangeet or modern Bengali songs that ring clear from the music players or radio are sure to help you pass your time.
Ruled By The Heart, Kolkata’s People Are A Sweet Lot
In fact, there must be something in the salty breeze or in the water of the Hooghly River or in the famous delicacies that the city is famous for, because the people here are incredibly sweet to speak to. No wonder then that this city has given us some of the sweetest voices in the country, including Shreya Ghoshal, Shaan, the current youth icon – Arijit Singh, and many more reality stars. Even if you hear two women quarreling or an elderly lady bargaining with a fisherman, it seems to be done in the sweetest manner possible (at least for those who don’t know Bengali).
Just as Bengalis are synonymous with sweet delicacies, they’re the complete opposite when it comes to discipline. It’s not that Bengalis are undisciplined, but they live their life in such a casual and easy way, it seems like they probably listen to their hearts more than their heads. One such instance is that of Sourav Ganguly, the Prince of Kolkata, who took off his Indian Jersey and waved it around from the balcony of Lord’s, one of the most worshiped cricket grounds in the world. I’m sure in that moment, he was driven by his heart; the spirit of the city just ran through his veins and his jersey was off in a flash!
The Mouthwatering Delicacies
Talking about sweets, one has to mention how Kolkata or Bengalis are famous for their sweet delicacies, such as the creamy rasmalai or melt-in-your-mouth rasgulla.
You know how we often end up having the same, familiar dishes rather than trying out new stuff to avoid new, unknown tastes. But while in Kolkata, I strongly recommend you skip the usual and try some Sandesh, Shukto, Mishti or Luchis and Alu Torkari, which you’ll rarely find elsewhere (if you’re not a bong). Plus, chocolate mishti at ‘Balaram Mullick & Radharaman Mullick’ or sipping on hot tea in a kulhar at Prinsep Ghat can beat the experience of any five-star hotel.
The Land Of Contrasts
Kolkata is also known for its special blend of traditional and modern. Here you can see old-style trams, semi-traditional local trains and modern metros weaving across the city seamlessly. The contrasts are also visible in the co-existence of glitzy shopping malls and older mills, new-age bars and traditional Bengali thali restaurants, and the more classical music and dance academies and drama theatres where young boys and girls perform to western songs.
The Places You Must Visit
You can visit Victoria Museum or Park Street’s British-style buildings for a glimpse of the city’s rich heritage, Prinsep Ghat on a windy evening for some peace of mind, Belur Math for a spirituality boost, and Mother Teresa’s house to see all the great work she’s done. Then there are small, overcrowded cricket and football grounds that celebrate the city’s love for sports, while the inland water ports and ships show the importance of trade and the Howrah Bridge.
Finally, I would say that Kolkata should definitely be on your travel bucket list, but only if you have some time to spend here. Just like you can’t really gulp down a rasgulla, without enjoying its sweet spongy texture, this metropolis cannot be enjoyed with a quick visit. It takes time (at least a week) to get used to the heat, longer travel time, traffic jams and laid-back attitude enough for it to become a welcome change of pace. Kolkata forces you to slow down, walk around its streets, eat the local food and absorb its vibrant cultural traditions. So that when you leave, you’ll know you have a second home in the City of Joy.
Fact File On Kolkata
Location: Kolkata, West Bengal
Official Language: Bengali
Currency: Indian Rupee
Food & Drinks: Try the mouth-watering rasgulla, sandesh, shukto, alu torkari and tea in a kulhar
Time zone: UTC+05:30
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About The Author
Mugdha Shukla says travelling has, and always will be a passion for me and I love exploring new and remote corners of India. I strongly believe that we travel not to escape life, but for life not to escape us; because magic happens outside your comfort zone.
Live. Love. Laugh.