Thursday, 27 April 2017

Kolkata (part 1)

Ohhh...Kolkata, i had been wanting to visit Kolkata for ages. Maybe because of the large number of friends, acquaintance & colleagues from Kolkata. I dont really want to sound rude but i think Indians would understand when i mention ~ "Kolkata & it's inhabitants". hehe

I had tagged along with a friend to attend a wedding a typical Bengali wedding & to experience Kolkata for a couple of days. Since my train arrived early, i had to wait for my friend. Kolkata is known for their food thus started my culinery travel within the station. Puri with alu & bean curry & omelette as an extra order. It was alright. Not that great.
 Finally my friend had arrived and after picking out our stuffs, went for breakfast again... This time it was naan & paneer mattar curry (cottage cheese & green peas). We ate at some north indian restaurant near the bus was expensive.  i think we paid 300rs+, in contrast breakfast no.1, cost me 60-70rs.
 We took an pre-paid auto from the train station.. The fare was like 350rs so i gave the cashier 500rs note and he asked me for 50rs..since i was a little bit distracted, i didnt realize that he did not give my change!! & i totally forgot to collect my change. idiot. (both the cashier & me).
As friends of the groom we were invited to stay at his place. Only thing, he stayed so far away...further 10kms  or so from Dum Dum so by time we reached, met others  friends etc it was time for lunch...The family had catered and it was served at home on the terrace. I am not sure if it is common during all wedding meals to serve various items course wise on the tablee. It's like starters, main & sweets... so i ended overeating all the time as i had no idea on the number of courses. Lunch consisted of alu fritters, veg curry & ghee rice, there was of course 2-3 types of fishes/meat as well..
 The wedding ceremony was that evening...had my first look up close at a Bengali wedding.  As usual there was a spread of gifts, to be exchanged between the groom & bride.
 Time to clean up good and finally using tons of makeup to cover up. Since my friend told me that it was limited to close friends & family, i just jazzed up what i had with some pearls. Not that i had fancy party wear in my, with 8 ladies in the house it takes hours for everyone to be ready...this means selfies!! we took too many o funny & ugly poses..omg i tanned so much kayaing & swimming in Aqua, my arms are super dark next to her.
 Then it was time for time for rituals before the groom left for the ceremony...
 the gorgeous bride. i was so shocked at how beautiful she looked. I love the Bengali bridal makeup. the white art above her eyebrows really separate her from others.
the actual ceremony was like at 1-2am in the morning, oh gawd it was so tiring not to fall asleep since there wasnt actually much to do beside chat & eat snacks.. there was coffee & tea going around but super sweeten so i couldn't drink. We had dinner way past midnight, it was delicious but i managed to take picture of only of the first course since i ate with my hands, could not exactly whip my my cell/camera to click... It was macha chechda/chachchari (fish head with vegetables) & some sort of steamed bread. The curry takes a little bit of getting used too, as it has a fish smell & taste but since the fish head is all mashed up there is not much tangible pieces of fish.
 Everyone took time to get up in the morning....breakfast was puri (they called it lucchi- thicker than a normal puri), veg curry & kheer...

 Since the groom had headed over to the brides' home after the ceremony, me & friend decided to head on out and explore the city & finally i got my cup of decent tea!
 Unknown to us it was a local public holiday, ending up just roaming around..Fairlie Place was like a mythical place. It's not an actual restaurant or cafe, just a bunch of road stalls opposite  the Stock Exchange.I kept pointing it out to my friend at perhaps it was the eateries but she kept looking a proper sit & dine restaurant. sighz.. And since there was almost no cafe in BBD we ended walking for a long time.

 Maybe after 1-2hrs we finally sat down in Cathay's, and it reaffirmed the reason why i don't order Chopsueys...waste of money.
 the peanuts i had in train was better...
 We reached on time to welcome the bride & groom to his house with griha pravesh ritual.
 In Bengali culture the sari that bride stepped in with alta (red dye) foot prints, symbolize the arrival of Goddess Lakshmi and is kept safely, sometimes wearing it at home.

 It was finally time to mingle with the newly weds and the talks went on till late in the night. Next day was the lunch in which the bride serves food followed by the reception. i thought i was looking pretty in my simple getup....
 Till i took a picture with the gorgeous bride. How is she so radiant after just 4hrs of sleep?? One thing is for sure...Bengali ladies are very pretty.
 Yummy lunch!!
 Pictures taken at reception...
When we are forced to wait...
The next day, we wished the happy couple our sincere congratulations and check in to a hotel to give the family their privacy to settle down..Stayed in Hotel Host International. It was a decent hotel near the airport & eye hospital. Stayed here for 2-3 days and found it reasonable at 1600rs per night, except for the bad heater in the bathroom. Bought breakfast from one of the small eateries outside the Hospital. It cost around 160rs for two.

 We headed out to city to cross off "things to do/watch/eat while in Kolkata" list.. i had just mentioned to my friend that despite being a holiday, there was no march/fest etc and whatdoyouknow, witnessed a march pass ...
 While in the Archaeological Book Store and bought this beautiful illustrated book on Humayuns' Tomb. It was also our lucky day since it was on sale, only 50rs!
 Too bad it was the only one in the series, i would have liked to get more varieties. It would definitely appeal to children to read as well.
Next stop was the famed  Indian Museum. There are various sections and will take the better part of the day to see everything. Allocate at least 2-3hrs to check out everything.


BY the  time we exited the museum  we needed to refuel and what better than some snacks?
Next on the list was Victoria Memorial, one of Kolkata's best known landmark..since we were kinda on a budget we chose to walk which sounded reasonable to us....until we got really tired plus GPS wasnt  helping much either. Ended up taking a bus somewhere from Park Street Metro Station to some where closer and started walking again, passing Maidan where they are tons of street food vendors..
Since it was somewhat late, we could purchase tickets only for the garden...

i had to stop for a cuppa tea served in the tradition earthen cups...those cups are so cute...if i was returning straight back to Bangalore i would probably have bought it back instead of dumping it ..
After that burst of sugar kick i was ready to walk some more trying to locate Nahoums & Sons Bakery. It is located in the New Market  Area, a claustrophobic jumble of stalls selling a wide variety of products. i love the florist there, do Bengali generally keep/have fresh cut flower arrangements at home? i went through a phase when i always had a vase or two  of fresh flowers till i got broke and the season for really good lilies ended....i guess fake flowers look pretty too.
when i was going through my floral arragement craze..
 I love lilies.. Did you know "the lily was so revered by the Greeks that they believed it sprouted from the milk of Hera, the queen of the gods" but also "As the flowers most often associated with funerals, lilies symbolize that the soul of the departed has received restored innocence after death." #uselesstrivia
Bengal is famous for their sweets mostly for their rosogolloas but come Christmas time many head to Nahoums  & Sons Bakery for their rich fruit cakes. We went for their rumballs but unfortunately it was sold out, my friend literally pleaded for them to give us just 2 pieces of it since we had travelled so far just for it. Not that it worked. Nahoums is Kolkata's last standing Jewish bakery with a history over  115years.
In the end we bought an almond tart & coconut tart (?)
i found it okay, maybe because i'm more of a chocolate person. I found them little pricey.
All that walking had made us revenous so we were more than hungry for some good old rice. We headed to Kasturi known for their fish items in Bengali style cooking. It was okay, again i did not find the rate equal to the taste or quantity. Too much rice & not enough fish curry. Notice the potato in curry, a well known feature of fish curry in Bengal.
Then i had to have other cup of tea..i guess i might have irritated my friend with my constant tea breaks. lol. However how could i pass up a cup of tea in an earthen cup made the traditional way? Plus those cups are tiny, barely holding 100ml of tea.
i love the random art all over Kolkata.

It was time to head back to our hotel which was far...i was deadbeat after standing in the bus for almost an hour after a full day of walking...

i found it surprising that eating out in cafes are not so cheap, for some reason i always imagined cost of living to be cheap. Well the public transports are reasonably affordable, not the lowest but the hotels & dine down restaurant dining are not so budget friendly.