Hello, Welcome back after quite a some time. If you haven’t read part1 and its sequel yet, read before proceeding to this final edition of Calcutta Diaries…
After an excellent city tour which I thoroughly enjoyed, I witnessed an interesting Bengali wedding(my first time).But before we get started to experience its uniqueness, let’s know more about Bengali people and their culture through my retina display 😛
Bengali’s are very emotional and passionate people.Given a chance they can lecture or talk continuously for hours together.But they are sweet people owing their love for sweets. I think Mishti (meaning sweetmeat) comes a close second next to their first love which is Fish. A meal without a fish is very rare and incomplete.They can swear by fish literally. Apart from fish,they love their football and off course cricket. Mohan Bagan/East Bengal match at Salt Lake stadium garners as much attention and interest as a World Cup cricket match elsewhere in the world. Cricket in Eden Gardens is as electric and noisy that most parts of Calcutta near the Maidan can feel the atmosphere when a game is on. And Durga Puja in Calcutta is one of biggest festival of India. What Ganesh Chaturti is to Mumbai, Puja is to Calcutta. I was told that Calcutta experience is incomplete without Durga Puja which is revelled and celebrated with as much pomp and glory as one can ever imagine.
For my friend’s wedding, I lived with his family among his relatives and friends for four days which was an enriching experience. I was welcomed and treated very warmly and the icing on the cake was when I was given Mishti on arrival which bowled me over completely 😉 Since Hindi was the only common language we both knew, that was the mode of speech used for interaction. Bengali’s sound funny when they talk broken Hindi as most of them are not used to speaking Hindi. Also it was difficult for me to get their Bong accent and managed to get what they were saying or at least the context when they used some Hindi/English keywords. When they converse in Hindi, they pronounce some words such that its funny to a non Bengali who knows Hindi. My name being Harsha, over the years I have been called as Harsh, Harshu and off course Harsha but for the first time I was addressed as ‘Horsho’. Yes Horsho-The Bengali version of Harsha 😉 So Harsha becomes Horsho, Vidya becomes Bidya, Gaurav as Gourab and Rituparna becomes RituPorna. They say Jol Khaana(meaning eating water) for drinking water and Cha khabe( meaning eating tea) is what they sound when they ask you for tea. I found it sweet and funny and taught the kids out there multiple times that It’s spelled and hence pronounced as Harsha and not horseshoe amidst lot of laughs 😉
Unlike most of the wedding here in Southern part of India, a Bong wedding usually starts in the evening. On wedding day early morning at around 4.00 hrs the wedding rituals began where the groom and bride in their respective homes were made to have some food after which they were not supposed to eat anything until the next day when all the marriage rituals ended.
On the wedding day before lunch hours,a ritual called as Nanni Mukh took place where the groom remembered his ancestors before tying the knot (later in the evening) followed by haldi where all the women out there put haldi on the grooms face who was made to stand firm on a stone viz the most interesting time to click some candid and funny photos 😉 To wash off, he was poured with a bucket of water and then the groom had to crack open 4 small cups surrounding him made by mud. Once this was done, the haldi used to put on groom was passed on to bride’s place along with her wedding dress and some gifts generally called as shagun where bride is put up with same haldi. Amongst this, Rohu fish was decorated as a bride.
After lunch it’s generally a break time where most of them overlooked about different arrangements and had a good nap after a satisfying meal. Then in the evening we started to the marriage hall with band baaja and baarat 😉
The groom was greeted with all the necessary special attention and offered some mishti by bride’s side.During the mahurath, groom was made up to stand firm at a fixed place and the bride was carried to the mandap by her brothers while she covered her face with beetle leaves.The bride was made to take 7 rounds around the groom which signifies 7 vows of marriage and then to remove the covering from her face only when she faced the groom after saath phere amidst lot of cheers and clapping.Then they exchanged garlands 3 times followed by Sindhur Daan viz maang barna.The marriage rituals ended after a yagna(Agni shakshi).
After having a special meal viz as I said earlier, having quality time with Bengali fish, we had a friendly interaction between both the families which was playing antakshari in this case. We played for over 2 hours such that all the songs were either already sung or we had no new song to sing for a particular word. Led by the groom, we won when the bride’s side was deliberately and repeatedly given a particular word and the game ended when they finally gave up at 4.30 am.
Before that we had to negotiate a price with the bride’s friends, for making the couple enter a particular room.They were seven in total for which they demanded 20k and we gave them only 3.5k(500 per head) after making them wait for a long time and hence succumb to pressure and impatience.
The next day it was vidhaai time at bride’s place and a reception on the subsequent day on the groom’s side which panned out nicely.
It was a most fruitful and enriching to experience a Bengali wedding as unique as this. Hope you enjoyed it too through this blog post…
Until next time we meet, Be good, Do good and Keep Smiling 🙂
Cricket(especially World Cup) then and now has evolved as wine getting better with age.At least I would like to think so.With the advent of T20 and the success of popular tournaments like IPL and Big Bash League,cricket over the years has changed rapidly.Sure enough,batsman have a slight upper hand than the bowlers but with time,bowlers are getting smarter too.
In 90s and until early next decade,240-270 was a challenging score but not anymore.300 is a norm these days.But it’s great to see that in this WC edition,bowlers have a say on par with the batsman though changing of rules like 5 fielders always inside the circle is bit harsh on them.On a positive note,captain would play his 5 attacking bowlers rather than depending too much on part timers.Along with the likes of Mitchell Starc,Trent Boult,Imran Tahir,Tim Southee,Morne Morkel who are doing well clinching wickets consistently in this WC,it feels proud to see our bowlers with the likes of Umesh Yadav, Mohit Sharma,Mohd Shami (strong contender for highest wickets) and Ravi Ashwin bowling equally good.
Let’s look back at India’s performances in world cups over the years. I started getting to know and watch cricket in 96 and have fond memories of India beating Pakistan and clearly remember the confrontation of Aamer Sohail and Venkatesh Prasad.The best part was Venky didn’t say a word when Sohail provoked him but at the very next ball when he bowled Sohail, the reaction he gave showing him the way to pavilion,was just awesome to see being an Indian fan.In death over, Ajay Jadeja’s hitting Waqar Younis for boundary and sixes consistently was a rare sight to see then which is quite regular these days where batsman takes on the bowlers at will. And then the infamous chase against Srilanka in semis in Eden Gardens where the match was stalled and awarded to Srilanka.Tendulkar gave us an excellent start but once he got out, everyone else got out like a pack of cards.In 99 world cup in England,India were expected not to perform as much we would want them to as they had lost couple of tournament finals consistently just before the world cup and clearly lacked some firepower in latter half of tournaments.India did well going into the Super Six stage but had to bow down after loosing too many matches.The highlight for me was the rise of what I call the holy trinity of Indian cricket- Sachin Tendulkar, Sourav Ganguly and Rahul Dravid (highest run getter in 99 world cup,including 2 massive partnership with Ganguly and Tendulkar).There was a ad campaign by Brittania-Brittania Khao WorldCup Jao in 99. In that one month, I along with my family and friends had eaten as much biscuits as we had eaten in our combined entire life.Such was the craze then-Anything for worldcup. In 2003,we played very well and were looking to win the world cup given our form when Ricky Ponting spoiled our plans in the finals.I think we lost the match by our poor bowling and our batsman couldn’t do much chasing a massive score.But still there was slight chance as it was raining in patches and D/L came into play.I had my SSC board exams the very next day and had to peep in and out to see the scores.But most of the times,it didn’t look good and it was a shock to loose after doing so well until the finals.2007 world cup was a forgetful affair as India were out in the first round,felt really sorry for Dravid who was leading the side then.Who knows,he would have been an exceptional captain had he continued to lead the side.And then came 2011,when we lived our dream to lift the world cup 28 years after Kapil Dev and his team had made us proud in 83.So far,2015 looks promising too to defend the title.By the way,Mauka mauka ad campaign has won hearts of everyone with its brilliant script and creativity.Over the years,cricket on a whole has gone through so many changes,it has got richer with new technology used,new shots being invented to score runs,new tricks being employed by bowlers to deceive the batsman and new techniques adopted by fielders especially on the boundary line to convert a certain six to a wicket.
Let’s analyze some specific players and how it has impacted our psyche and the game.Take for instance AB De Villiers-the most innovative contemporary batsman who is literally changing the rules of the game.Some of the shots he has played are beyond imagination.More importantly he makes the bowlers bowl the way he want him to,even though they don’t want to. When the bowl coming from bowler by the time it reaches him he has all the time in the world to choose and perfectly execute 2 or 3 scoring shots.And very little can the bowler and fielding side do to stop him when he is in zone.Players like Chris Gayle and lot many batsmen of this generation can score a double and more importantly even think of it unlike last decade.In short, the approach to a game has changed completely,a batsman can chase 100 runs or may be more than that easily in last 10 overs. Sunil Narine who has a great impact especially in IPL can stun and deceive the batsman quite consistently by his mystery deliveries which is difficult to read.He is one of the few spinners who captain turns to during death overs as along with taking wickets,he can choke runs too.Unfortunately he is not playing in this WC.Dale Steyn needs a special mention here as he is the best bowler in an era dominated by batsman.When he is in rhythm bowling fiery,clinching wickets consistently,it is a beautiful sight to watch.Ever so magnificent bowlers like Mitchell Johnson, Daniel Vettori,Morne Morkel,Jimmy Anderson, Stuart Broad, Ravi Rampaul have only got smarter with power hitters like Chris Gayle, Glen Maxwell, Keiron Pollard, David Miller, Brendon McCullum,David Warner, our very own MS Dhoni and Virat Kohli becoming ever so powerful with the bat.Fielding standard over the years have only improved.Jonty Rhodes who made people recognise that fielding can also be a art and who changed the facet of a match though his fantastic catches,brillant save and crucial runouts would be very proud to see some exceptional fielders like ABD, Raina, Warner,Dilshan,Kohli,Steven Smith, Rahane and many others in this generation.The other day,in quarter finals against Bangladesh,Shikhar Dhawan took a excellent juggling catch at the boundary which we would not have imagined say 10 years ago.So overall,the game is changing and changing for good.
Having followed cricket over the years and being a ardent fan,it feels great to see the game evolving and getting better.
P.S : This blog post is written for a blogging contest by Harsha Bhogle, one of the few cricket commentators I admire and look up to.Hope this blog post and being his namesake gives me a slight edge to be a part in his Bloggers Dream Team 🙂
Before you proceed, if you haven’t read the first part yet, here’s the link for the first part Click Here.
It’s going to be a long day but I am excited after looking forward to today’s itinerary. So let’s not waste time and head to Kumortuli to have some dossier of information on artisans of the potters’ colony in North Calcutta. By virtue of their artistic and creative creations their clay idols supplied especially during the Durga Pujo on Dussehra is exported overseas too.
Their idols are mostly ordered well in advance and their clientele includes Indian communities living in America, Europe and Africa. For a record, this colony supplies idols to around 90 countries worldwide with new countries adding each year.Their creations gives greatest joy to Calcutta(The City of Joy) by transforming crude structure of clay to a beautiful, mesmerizing bedecked Bengali bridesque Goddess Durga. No wonder, this colony is one of the seven wonders of Calcutta.
During Pujo, these idols are supplied to countless pandals all over Calcutta. That their creation is going to leave Calcutta in awe and admiration for the entire duration of the festival and even beyond that is of no consequence to them as it is a just a means of survival to these talented and very skilled artisans, most of them creating these idols since a long long time. Needless to say, I was in awe of this place and their great artistic skills.
Self note: Have to visit Calcutta and this colony during Pujo.
Next stop is Jorasanko Thakur Bari (meaning House of Thakurs(Tagore)) in a place called Jorasanko in North Calcutta. It is the house in which Calcutta’s and India’s pride-Rabindranath Tagore was born and spent most of his childhood. He was the most celebrated poet(Indian National Anthem was his creation along with the national anthem of Bangladesh) and first non European Nobel laureate.
It was an exhilarating experience to visit this place and to know more about one of India’s jewels who contributed immensely in literature,art,music among other things. His legacy endures in several of his works on display here which is very well maintained and also in Visva Bharati University founded by him in Santiniketan.
Self note: A visit to Santiniketan when next time in Bengal.
I am a foodie and I am on a see food diet- I mean see the food and eat without much adieu 😛 A satisfying meal will only do good at this stage. So lets move to Peter Cat restaurant in Park Street where they serve a dish called “Chelo Kababs”- The protected regional product of West Bengal. A dish consisting of mutton kababs-the best I had ever had, perfectly cooked egg, juicy chicken, butter and aromatic rice. Such a perfect meal. Touché.
Lets now move to Eden Garden reminiscing about the memorable matches played here in this very ground. Who can forget tat famous victory on this ground during Australian tour of India in 2001. Laxman’s and Dravid’s epic partnership, Harbhajan’s hat rick and moreover India’s unreal comeback into the match and then to wrap up the series in Chennai. Unbelievable to say the least….
Calcutta has very unique facilities unlike some cities with respect to their public transport- Yellow colored cabs, cycle rickshaw, underground Calcutta metro and most fascinating of them all- Calcutta trams(mini trains on the road along with the other vehicles on the road). Have a look
Calcutta Metro is the first underground metro rail system system in India operational since 1984. Those Rickshaw walas are one of the most hard working people around toiling hard in the sun for their bread and butter. The Calcutta tram is currently the only operating tram in India and the oldest operating tram in Asia running since 1902.
Let’s stroll now to Princep Ghat and the ever so magnificent Victoria Memorial before we head for the dinner.
The Victoria Memorial, a large marble structure built between 1906 and 1921 is dedicated to the memory of Queen Victoria. It is now a museum and a major tourist destination by the bank of Hooghly river.
It’s dinner time to end a fabulous day and what better way to end it by having Hilsa fish-probably the best fish in town. Bengalis love their fish and can swear by fish and I ain’t any different in this matter 😉
With this the city tour in Calcutta comes to an end. An awesome time and sheer joy in the city of joy. However, I will share my experiences with very interesting and unique Bengali wedding in my next post. Until next time we meet, Be Good,Do Good and Keep Smiling 🙂
P.S: On my last day in Calcutta, early morning when I was listening to music in shuffle mode, coincidentally this beautiful song by Hemant Kumar cropped up which sumps up my visit quite brilliantly.
Calcutta(now known as Kolkata)-the City of Joy is a fabulous city to live in, love at first sight you see. I was there for a mere 4 days which was not at all enough to see the uniqueness and intricacies of walking in the city with a perfect mixture of modern and heritage buildings,reminiscing about the yesteryear India. But I tried my very best to visit most of the places in my spare time and this blog post is entirely based on my experiences with the city and not influenced by anything else.
Calcutta has always fascinated me since I was a kid because of its rich history(served as the capital of India under the British Raj),sporting culture(Bengalis love their football and cricket),art forms whether its literature or cinema(Rabindranath Tagore and Satyajit Ray are in itself an institution) and above all Bengali sweet(Anyone here who don’t like RossoGulla?? Handful isn’t it?). I wanted to visit Calcutta at some point of time and having couple of Bengali friends did help my cause.One of my close friends decided to marry and thus I planned to visit the city and above all know more about Bengali culture especially their unique style of marriage which is quite different from marriages seen in Southern India.
Before we get the ball rolling with our city tour,let’s start our day with a cup of tea and a newspaper.
Our first pit stop would be a visit to Dakshineswar temple in Barrackpore.
Dakshineswar is a Kali temple built between 1847 and 1855 by Rani Rashmoni. Along with the Kali temple, we have 12 Shiva temples(lingas) and a RadhaKrishna temple situated along the Vivekananda Setu(Bridge) on the East bank of Hooghly River.The presiding deity of the temple is Bhavatarini, an aspect of Kali, meaning, ‘She who liberates Her devotees from the ocean of existence’.
Ramakrishna Paramahasamha, the saint of 19th century, regarded as incarnation of God, set his base here in Dakshineswar. Ramakrishna formed a group of spiritual aspirants which later paved the way for the formation of Ramakrishna Mission. Interestingly,before this temple was built, Nawabs of Chitpur used to hunt tigers in Dakshineswar.
Now that we have seen the beautiful Dakshineswar, let’s head to Belur Math on the other side i.e. west banks of Hooghly river. It is the headquarters of Ramakrishna Mission founded by his disciple Swami Vivekananda. This site was carefully chosen by Vivekananda on the banks of holy Ganges(Hooghly) such that a clear view of Dakshineswar and Cossipore- the two important places related to Sri Ramakrishna could be seen which add to its sanctity.
Belur Math is known for its splendid architecture and devotees want to develop inner appreciation of thought through this unique and beautiful architecture. On the day of my visit, it was 180th birthday celebration of Sri Ramakrishna Paramahasamha and visitors, devotees,media were sprawling from all corners of the world.
Self note:Visit this place when there is less crowd and more peace.
It seems like I am hungry now, so let’s have an early meal. And here in Calcutta, no meals is complete without fish. So let’s try the Bhetki fish from a Bengali food chain.
Now lets stroll to St. Paul’s Cathedral-The Mother Church of the diocese of Calcutta in the church of North India.Let’s gulp some RossoGollas as we get there and a bakery of N C Das- Creator of the iconic Bengali sweetmeat is the place to be. The RossoGolla(highly nutritious,easily digestible and truly a drooling affair) was born in 1868 in a moment of sublime inspiration.
Self note: Get some stock of this sweet rhapsody before leaving to Bengaluru.
As we enter the church and get to admire this magnificent architecture with all its past glory we have come to an end of this journey for today.Excited and curious as ever to visit Kumortuli-potters’ colony in North Calcutta where they create artistic clay idols especially for Durga Pujo, Eden Garden’s Mecca of Cricket in India,Jorasanko Thakur Bari-Ancestral home of Tagore family, ever so magnificent Victoria Memorial,Calcutta’s very own tram and metro ride,Prinsep Ghat-one of the oldest recreational spots of Calcutta.
It has been a great time in Calcutta so far. Hope you enjoyed it too.
Lets meet again soon. Until then, Keep Smiling 🙂
P.S: Day started with darshan of Goddess Kali in Dakshineswar followed by Belur Math on the other side of Ganges. Bought some books on Swami Vivekananda and a book on architecture of Belur Math. Then a sumptuous lunch in Bedouin-Sher-E-Bengal in Gariahat.Some saree(Dhakai Jaamdani-traditional Bengali saari) shopping for mom and then a visit to St Paul’s Cathedral, Academy of Fine Arts and Nandan-West Bengal Film Centre.
Looking forward for more….
P.P.S: Here in this post, Calcutta(old name of the city) is used instead of Kolkata as someone rightly said “Kolkata is a city whereas Calcutta is a emotion”.