In the beginning of 2019, my parents shifted base to Kolkata. Which meant selling off our house in Jamshedpur, the place which will always remain my home. This was a difficult decision but we had to play along because this was the best thing to do given that my parents are getting older.
So when my mother told me that we had some unfinished business to take care of in Jamshedpur, I immediately leapt at the idea.
Going back to Jamshedpur was quite important for me also because this time I had my yet-to-be-5 months old-son who accompanied us. Though he would not remember anything about this trip, it was important for me to take him to the place I called home.
My uncle came to pick us up from the railway station and during the drive he was updating us on the changes. I was already feeling like we don’t belong to the city anymore.
On the first day we finished the work for which we were visiting. The next day we decided to visit our home (which of course was not ours anymore). As soon as I asked the autowala to take a left turn to enter our lane my heart sunk. My head was flooded with many questions (where are we going to ask the autowala to stop? What would have happened to our house? How will I feel seeing our own house?). But I put my head to rest and tried keeping myself calm until I saw what has become of our house. It’s now a 4 storey house and almost nothing is similar to what we had left behind.
Labourers were still finishing the paint work. I gathered some courage and entered the premises and looked around to see if I can still find a corner which seemed familiar. I wanted to click a picture of my baby there. And I was lucky, the ground floor veranda was same. Clicked a quick picture. One of the labourers asked me if there is something he can help with, and with a heavy voice I said this was our home and we were just walking around. He smiled as I guess he understood.
We met the neighbours who greeted us well and we met ‘dai’. She was our house-help and has always been family. She was so happy to see us and my baby. We talked endlessly and it was finally time to say a final goodbye to the ‘bank colony’ (which is what our neighbourhood was referred as).
Jamshedpur is home because of our house and also because of my uncles and aunts. All of them made us feel special, treated us with good food and warmth.
I am writing this on our train journey back to Kolkata. Thinking about the whole trip and putting the memories in a pensieve (reference Harry Potter/Prof Dumbledore) for later while my baby is looking out of the window awestruck.
This was my baby’s first train journey and to the place which will always remain home!
I keep going back to Kolkata as (No prizes for guessing! No I am not from Kolkata. But like most Bongs I have family in Kolkata :-D) my sister lives there. But that’s not the only reason. Each time I go back, I find something very charming about the city. But, just as my romance with the city begins, something tells me not to tread that path. I guess I share a love and hate relationship with the city!
Kolkata is a very vibrant city. You come across people who are always on the move and in contrast there are people who you see are just lazing, playing cards or carom. The streets are always bustling with vehicles, trams, and street hawkers. There are sweet shops and food joints in almost every lane you pass by.
Food is another major pull-factor for me to go back to the city each time. Right from the puchkas (golgappe/paani puri) to aloo chop to Chinese food – everything is just out of this world! I would recommend ‘China Town’ for authentic and cost-effective Chinese cuisines.
As much as I like the city, there are certain drawbacks too. I feel the city is too crowded, life in general moves at a slow pace, traffic is pretty bad all the time and most of the times the weather is humid.
My love for Kolkata has developed over the years. From not wanting to go to the city at all, to visiting the city every 6 months (on an average), I have come a long way!
Some things that really stand out are…..
- Passionate people – People in Kolkata are passionate about a lot of things. They can talk endlessly about literature, culture, food, and football! During the world cup season (and otherwise too), every person (from kids to adults) talks and discusses about football with much passion. During my most recent visit, I got into a conversation with a cab driver who was dropping me off at my sister’s place. All throughout the way he kept talking about the world cup. I was happy listening to him till the time he said ‘bolun to didi Argentina harlo keno?’ (please tell me sister why did Argentina lose?). And I had no answer (as I don’t really follow football). I thought he is going to judge me but I played along ;-).
- The Ganga boat ride – Two years back I had visited Kolkata with a group of friends. I was entrusted with the task of taking them around the city (because they assumed, being a Bong, I will be an expert city guide ;-)) and that’s when I got to actually explore and know the city. We visited the Victoria memorial and walked around the streets. We took the tram ride (for the first time ever) and I was quite excited about it. I made them have all kinds of Bengali dishes which they quite liked. The main attraction however was the boat ride on the river Ganga. We took the ride from Princep ghat. During the ride, we could see both the Howrah Bridge and the Vidyasagar Setu with the sunset as the backdrop and it was a breath-taking view! You may bargain for the ride if you want. But, by the time you finish your ride I am sure you will end up tipping the ‘majhi’.
Boat ride on Ganga river
An evening in Kolkata
Experiencing the sunset during the boat ride
- Street food to go with the ‘bhar er cha’ – Every time I visit the city, I make sure I don’t miss out on the street food and the tea served in clay cups. This is a must have for all tea lovers. The tea tastes even better when served in these cups. And with the monsoons setting in, this is the ideal time to grab some cutlets, pyaji (onion pakoras) and tea.
Bhar er cha
- Visiting ‘Kumortuli’ before Durga puja – I had read many articles about this place called the ‘Kumortuli’ in Kolkata but it’s altogether a different experience when you actually visit this place. During your visit, in those narrow lanes, inside dilapidated houses, you will come across several artisans/traditional potters working hard to give shape to Durga Protimas (idols) of all sizes. In case you have any queries for the artisans, please wait for their tea breaks. This is where all the idols you see at the Puja Pandals come from. Depending on the time you visit this place (closer to puja or much before puja) you will witness the different stages of the idol making. This is a paradise for people who are into photography. Even amateur photographers like me would get beautiful shots from one such visit!
An idol in making
Artisan at work at kumortuli
I am sure you must be wondering being a Bong and while talking about the Bong city, I did not mention about sweets at all. This is because I am one of those rare bongs who has a missing sweet tooth hence I don’t enjoy talking about it too.
Kolkata streets and houses with a colonial touch
The local rickshaw ride
I love the Kolkata local yellow taxis (I guess because of its vibrant yellow color)
Lost in my thoughts. It’s a beautiful experience