Monday, January 7, 2013


The name Kolkata invokes the image of a city which is rich in culture and tradition. Of the many things I saw while growing up, I had a special fondness for my mother’s beautiful ‘Victoria’ curio. Its intricate design and soothing colors fascinated me and every time I touched it, I was asked to be careful and one day the inevitable happened, the curio broke and I got a spanking of a lifetime. Recently when I visited Kolkata after a long gap, I decided to first check out the beautiful Victoria memorial again and ride on the ‘Victoria’ and lots more.

I made my first stop here at the “Victoria Memorial Hall” (1921) and I thought it was a strange blend of Taj Mahal at Agra and St.Paul’s cathedral in London. I enjoyed strolling in the manicured gardens and browsing though the museum –which included a treasure trove of paintings, armor, swords, guns and other memorabilia of the time. Truly it stands majestically in its symmetrical construction of white marble. It’s open daily from 10 am to 5 pm and is closed on Mondays and gazetted holidays.
Also Visit: The nearby ‘Birla Planetarium’ –the first of its kind and also the largest in South East Asia. The landmark is a building with a shallow dome and a digital clock. 

Drove over the Vidyasagar Setu Bridge on the river Hooghly; it was good fun more so because it was raining  so we drove back and forth admiring this technological marvel. The Howrah Bridge (Rabindra Setu) is visible from this one and it is also a miracle of engineering skill, a huge cantilever bridge supported by two piers 270 ft height from the road level. On the way crossed the National Library, built in Italian renaissance style; interestingly the Belvedere was official residence of the Lieutenant Governor of Bengal. The national Library is now housed here and is open from 8 am to 8pm. Also stopped by at the Zoological gardens, the Alipore Zoo opened to the public in 1876 by Edward VII, has one of the finest collections of birds, animals and reptiles. The Aquarium in front of the zoo contains sea-fish of rare varieties. Open from 8 am to 5pm on all days except Thursdays.

Between touristing had to stop by at Flury’s as like any other person settled in other cities and on other continents come back for a taste of Flurys whenever they are passing through. Such is the level of nostalgia and attachment that this old – world tea room, the only one of its kind in the city, invokes. In fact Flury’s is a name synonymous since time immemorial with popular Swiss confectionery and mouthwatering goodies is a prime example of the same. Situated at 18, Park Street was founded in the year 1927 by Mr and Mrs. J Flury. Within no time, it gained immense popularity to become the favorite tea – room of the prosperous Britisher and the affluent Indian alike. This was largely due to its exotic cakes, creamy pastries, rich puddings and perhaps the best Swiss chocolates outside the European continent, and in no small measure to the relaxed and cheerful atmosphere that it provided. With the passage of time, it became a part of the culture of Kolkata and no morning walker’s daily routine was complete without a visit to this legendary eatery.  As it stands today, is an institution in the city and evokes strong emotions among generations. Memories mingle with meals as members of the Flurys ‘family’ keep dropping in for decades. A place where one can slowly sip a cup of tea or eat the famous rum balls or meringues with cream and watch the world go by. Flurys offers an old world atmosphere and a glimpse of the Kolkata of another era.

GETTING THERE-All major airlines fly to Kolkata daily.
BEST TIME TO GO- the Bengali New Year, though all the year round is fine.
WHERE TO STAY- Kolkata has many hotels for all budgets. I would pick out Hotel Hindustan International and The Park as they are in the heart of the city.
SHOPPING- Do visit ‘New market’ a 140 year old bazaar that is soaked in the old world charm of colonial Kolkata. You’d find here curios, ethnic silver and accessory shops, yards of colorful fabric etc. For the fashionistas ’85 Lansdowne’ is the place. It houses works of over 24 of India’s best designers including Bengali babu ‘Sabyasachi Mukherjee’ of the ‘Rani’ fame.
FOOD FACTS- The people of Kolkata are known for their love for good cuisine and as a result a large number of eating-places in the city have also become a part of the rich heritage of the city. For street food it is definitely “Russell Street”, Pappu’s puchkas, 
Shatrughan’s Bhelpuri and Sadhu’s chana top the list. It’s hard to miss “Flury’s” while You walk past the buzzing park street. For “Bengali Mithai” try K.C Das or “Girish Chandra Dey” and “Nakur Chandra Nandy”. The locals swear by their ‘Sandesh’ (made from cottage cheese). For Chinese food ‘Tangra’ is a must visit, ‘Beijing’ is highly recommended. For an authentic Bengali meal go to “Kewpies” or “6 Ballygunge Place”. Do not leave without having “Aloor Dum”, “Loochie” and “Bhekti”.

Published in Ht city