A City of Smells – Kolkata

Yes, you read it right but there is nothing to be judgemental about it trust me on that, every city has fair share of smells but so far in my wandering tales, Kolkata triumphs them all. I have been to few cities by now and one of them, Mumbai tops the TNT magazine list of smelliest city and ranks seventh in GQ list of smelliest city though I would think these guys probably missed Kolkata in their search.

Being smelly is one thing but is it for good or bad that arguable topic among masses. I would rather not get there but let see how Kolkata become stinky city for me. What, do I have a story, well I have many stories but here I would put a summary which won’t take long of your time.

The moment you are entering Kolkata by any means that Jal ( Water), Thal ( Earth) or Nabh ( Air) you smell it off ( Ok, technically little later when entering by Air ) a distinct smell of crap welcomes you ( however it is true for many other big cities in India) but dont be afraid this is just the starting. You get down by bus/ train station platforms are decked with fruits stalls, eatable and you catch whiff of all the delicacies you possibly won’t indulge in due to hygiene issues.

All the picture is not dark though try entering any eatery and aroma of food served on other table will catch your imagination. There are many gardens in the city which will be good visit and of course will serve the purpose of nice fragrance.

Local Vegetable Market!

After getting this grand welcome you have already planned to roamed around all over the cities and probably suburbs as well. If you are a budget traveller and decide to take local trains to commute with in the city you are in for battle of smells. Every station ( well, I have not checked all of them but most of them I have been personally ) has fish/chicken market right before the entrance. Every body knows how fish smells, enter the train and due to being a humid city all the people including your self will be shedding gallons of sweat. Ah again, smell.

Whatever kind of smell you encounter during your stay, pleasant or unpelasant, at the end of the day it won’t matter, as you would breathing in Kolkata  and exhaling it out too. This smell of being Kolkata is amazing and unforgettable which you make a joyous and in the city of joy. You would certainly think of coming back to Kolkata.

Kolkata – A City, Harvesting Memories

“City of Joy”, yeah, thats the name Kolkata has reserved for it self which had me curious to know what is it which makes people joyous. Specially in a state of India which has been allegedly marred with 34 years of communist rules and has not seen economic development as much as other Big states of India. More over current government has also been considered anti development.

Wonder, it made me. I read in my history books and later on by internet resources how glorious & wealthy Bengal used to be. So what made the state whatever it is today however what keeps the resident still joyous. Are people too oblivious to think about the ground realities? or there can be a way to be joyous? I had my mind swarmed with a lot of anticipations.

This time when I arrived Kolkata, my train was late by almost two hours which delayed my discourse by same duration of course. I was about to see how most of has Indian Railway self time stamped here. Being an early morning commuter has it’s own advantages and one them is, of meeting minimalistic traffic on the way which reduced my travel time from expected 2 hours to 1.25 hours making me joyous.

Ah, I already started feeling joyous.

After finished pleasantries with current day, I left for Kolkata city’s one time less monument Victoria Memorial (VM) hoping to find answer of some of the questions I had in my mind. How purile it was of me, I came to know later.

On the way to VM we took several different transports which ranges from Three wheeler to Train to Metro. We could also take one bus ride though we thought of walking a little bit.

One of the modes of public transport on Kolkata.

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Kolkata local train!

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Victoria Memorial

Victoria Memorial

It had me dumb founded to see the grandeur and grace of the monument and I went into a mental trance & just looked at it for some time and marvelled on it. We our tickets and ventured in the structure to witness British Era history of Kolkata and India, how grand Kolkata or then Calcutta used to be, how this city had participated in history of India and had been one of the places of importance and later how bifurcation of India inflicted this city by poverty and refugees from all over eastern Bengal now known as Bangladesh.

Historian often mentioned how Delhi has been robed over and over several time but to me, it felt Kolkata just got once and it left it a bird without its features, not able to take off again or so to say.

After spending good couple of hours we left still carrying original question which were about to be answered. We took metro back to our place and I heard two passenger talking about recent events including political, social and economical importance to city and while they talking about few most frustrating events (according to them ) they were actually cheerful whole throughout the conversation. I touched holy grail of Kolkata.

Not taking life and reality too seriously is the mantra Kolkata adopt to stay joyous.

Victoria Memorial

Sculpture at Victoria Memorial

Kolkata Chronicles – Inception

There are times when we think and there are times we think again, again and again and again. There topics can be bone of contention, happy memories, future plans and so on however the topic which we tend to think more often then not are things/activities we always wanted to do but could not for some or other reason!

Kolkata has been one such topic for me and here I go to Kolkata now! I have been to rustic city twice before once for work and once just for visiting and aquatinting the city, however it had been long time now like 3-4 years and I am not willing to write those experiences anymore for obvious reasons.

When I visited Kolkata, I found the city can not be described in word howsoever one can try. Albeit try we will for same. Kolkata, formerly known as Calcutta is a city in ruins which used to be centre of attraction from each and every possible way, be it Politic, Economic, Art or Culture and arguably remained so for long time span that was 700 – 900 years.

Kolkata I saw had old and frail buildings, some new one though too far & few, comparatively. Only City in India so far where I saw soccer grounds in centre of residential complexes. It felt like I was talking to old granny who had seen a lot many autumns then anybody could imagine while having a grace which only comes with spending time surrounded with gracious things art, literature, wealth, wisdom and of course character.

I wanted to come to the city again but for what I did not know ( as usual ) but there came one of the friend to save me when he offered to host me for my Kolkata sojourns and expressed his desire to participate in #FreedomRUN2015 being organised in Kolkata on Aug 16, 2015 as part of Independence Day celebration. I could not smiling on the timing of the opportunity as I was already thinking about going there following reasons:

1. Rain Rain Rain : West Bengal is drenched with rainfall and weather has become awesome, I hear.

2. #FreedomRUN2015: Well, what a way to celebrate Independence of my country.

3. Train Reservation: Yes, this can be a reason for going anywhere as it is difficult to get reservation in time with Indian Railway. Any doubt about that? Try booking your tickets.

4. I have been organising travellers meet ups and one such meet up is now in Kolkata which Kolkata Couch Surfing people has welcomed, it would be a great opportunity to meet more travel minded people.

5. Traveller or not, everybody should visit Kolkata at least once just to watch the grandeur it used to be.

The picture from my first journey

Ah! Kolkata!!

Ah! Kolkata!!

So Kolkata, here I come!