This was the two day trip to Calcutta in the best luxury I have ever known till date… Going by flight and staying in Sonar Bangla (for the uninitiated – 7 star hotel of ITC’s hotel chain in Calcutta :p) – what else do you want for material comfort? I could not figure out in three nights and two days as to what are you supposed to do with so many towels (of all sizes) that were kept in the bathroom 😀 For a long time I didn’t realize what the weather of Calcutta was like since coming out of airport, we were picked up by the air-conditioned car and then of course Sonar Bangla… And I wondered where am I going? What is my reality and where are my roots? But those scruples, while strong, will do for some other time and context…
Our Business Plan did not make it through in top 6, but that didn’t reduce my enjoyment of the trip. In fact it gave us one full day to go around Calcutta and of course listening to those fundoo people (including the chairman of ITC!) in the final prize distribution ceremony was wonderful. More on ITC and its philosophy (and on the skeptic’s view of the same) later…
Okay, after putting a stop to all the possible diversions, something about the experience of going around Calcutta! We hired a taxi for the whole day thinking it would be more comfortable. But what the hell! This city simply does not have enough parking space…. We could not get down to see Howrah Bridge because driver didn’t find any parking space and the Indian museum got closed before our eyes before we could reach there because 45 minutes were wasted in finding parking space :(( And only reason we had come to the museum in the evening was because the driver had said there would be problem in parking in the morning, otherwise we would have liked to spend more time in the museum.
Only if we hadn’t reserved the taxi. In that case we could have left the taxi when we wanted to see the things and could have taken another one from there. That’s a lesson for whenever I get to visit the place next. Taxis are comparatively cheaper there…
Another implication of postponing the visit to Indian Museum in the evening was that we reached Belur Math at a time when it was closed 😦
Are you wondering what did we see in Calcutta? Probably roads, traffic, a glimpse of tram (its okay as I had boarded it during my earlier short visit) and some rare parking spaces which happened to be at places where we didn’t need them!
Okay, okay, let me not be so ungrateful. We did go to Dakshineshwar. We passed through Howrah Bridge and saw it from inside the taxi and we saw Victoria Memorial. (Besides we saw the gates of Belur Math and Indian Museum!)
In Dakshineshwar, my first thought, after seeing the crowd was that it would have been such a peaceful place when Ram Krishna Paramhansa would have resided here! Was there even a trace of that here? Ah! But why should I crib? Times change and one must accept that. It certainly gives employment to more flower-sellers, shoe-keepers and pujaris than it would have given then… Vivekananda was unable to ask anything for himself (or his family) having been overwhelmed by his devotion possibly. I could not do so probably because in the crowd and queue, before one realizes that the “darshan” can be done, one is pushed out of the queue! 🙂
Victoria Memorial was a nice experience. The museum hosts several painting and old artifacts on the ground floor which tell you the history of Calcutta. Almost the complete history in written on the walls alongside these artifacts. On the first floor and elsewhere several other things reminding primarily of freedom movement are kept. Among other things what interested me were some manuscripts or photocopies of manuscripts of several old books like Akbarnama! More on Victoria Memorial can be found at http://www.victoriamemorial-cal.org/.
Ah! And did I tell you that our taxi-driver could not speak Hindi well? And so for the first time I found my scanty knowledge of Bengali being put to use 😀 And God! I think I made a nice mess out of the language breaking the legs of its grammar and playing havoc with the vocabulary. But the bottomline was that we were able to communicate with the driver. Of course, I felt frustrated when I could not shout at him for being so unskilled as to not being able to find parking space! You can’t do that when you are struggling to find the right words 😦