Kolkata Trip–Day 2

As every great day begins, mine too started with a visit to the neighbourhood market to buy the freshest vegetables at 7:30 in the morning with my uncle (mama). 7:30 was pretty late by Kolkata standards as people come by around 5:30ish to get a shot at the choicest and freshest vegetables.

However, by the time we reached, the fare was still pretty decent and we picked up whatever we wanted to. The especially funner part of this was the scooter ride through the neighbourhood area. The area that we rode the scooter through had the tiniest of roads (one lane, sometimes 1/2 a lane) – some parts were even dicey for small cars to go through without some skill – but the place had its own charm. Tall palm trees next to palatial three storey bungalows with the narrowest of lanes for company. The smell of fried fish wafted in  the air and it was not even 8 in the morning. It was truly extraordinary.

After a scrumptious breakfast of freshly prepared puri bhaji, we took off in the hired Innova to Dakshineshwar. Dakshineshwar is this pretty large temple complex for Goddess Kali. We reached there through traffic and some maniacal driving in less than an hour. After wading through the crowds and giving a handful of people business – including the flower vendors and the shoe keepers, we went and obediently stood in  one of the many lines inside – like any good, self respecting Indian would.

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Our awesome ride!

Cameras and cell phones were prohibited in the temple premises and big signs all over the place screamed at you – threatening you from taking any pictures. Fearing for the life of my precious camera, I kept it hidden in my backpack and as a result, was not able to take any pictures. However, knowing that you will be disappointed with this, I am putting below a stock image that I found on Google Images.

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Dakshineshwar temple and the long queues to get in (source: google image search)

Our lines were twice as long as depicted here though.

After waiting for what seemed an eon – we moved up the line to the temple and got our magnificent glimpse of the Goddess for exactly 2.3 seconds. During this, I saw the pandit pocket atleast 60 bucks from the three people in front of us. Our turn came, Pritika handed over her flowers and when the pandit put out his hand and said “dakshina dao” (give me money for donation), Pritika went “huh?” and that was the end of our temple visit. (This was the first time for us when the pandit was proactively asking for donations.)

We then loitered around a bit having spent so much time getting there in the first place and after giving some more business to the people selling idols, plastic stuff, etc., we took a twenty minute, very unsafe boat ride across the Hooghly river to a place called Belur Math.

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Our boat ride from Dakshineshwar to Belur Math

Again at Belur Math, photography was banned. It’s a pity because it was an awesome, well maintained place. Belur Math is actually a institute as well as a temple to Sri Sri Ramakrishna who was the teacher of Swami Vivekanand.

As there were many signs prohibiting photography inside the campus and due to my gifted ability to be able to read, I kept my expensive camera inside my bag for fear of some over enthusiastic security guy breaking it. Quite a few people were clicking photographs though and  a group were insulted by a watchmen who ran towards them shouting “Are you freaking illiterate? Can’t you read the signs? This is not a feakin’ garden. It is a temple!!!”

I then realised that photography was banned at such places not for anything else, but for the principle of it. Anyways, all I have to remember the place is the following:

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which I happened to click “before” entering the premises. And boy I am glad that I did!

For those of you lazy enough to *not* click on the Wikipedia links I so painstakingly have put up (I know who you are!), here is an actual site photograph taken by a brave soul who then put it up on Wikipedia!

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Belur Math – main building (source: wikipedia)

After paying our respect to the statue inside the building and loitering on the well kept lawns for a good half hour, we were chased out of the premises at exactly 12 o’ clock by a person ringing a very loud bell.

Our car screeched to a halt near the gate and the doors swung open. We jumped into it and made a quick escape only to get stuck behind a  line of ochre’ colour Kolkata taxis. However, lucky for us the person with the bell had given up and had turned his attention to other cell phone photographers.

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A sea of yellow taxis surround us just next to Howrah bridge

We then made our way to College street which is the street on which the Presidency College is (and hence the name I guess). College street is also famous because you get nothing but books on either sides of the road. Something like ABC in Pune. My dad got a bargain deal when he managed to pick up a Rs. 95 book in Rs. 10 (though I must mention the book seemed old and very probably second hand).

Another thing that this lane is very famous for is the Indian Coffee House – which is a quaint little place in an old building and has great food (YMMW) along with a good cuppa. It is famous because you will find all the highly intellectual types (read: people like us) hanging around here discussing all conceivable topics under the sun – from Mamta Banerjee’s politics to how channels like UTV Bindaas are spoiling today’s youth by airing shows like Emotional Atyachaar.

We had quite a bit of food from vegetable cutlets to bread butter to hakka noodles to veg pakodas. As you can imagine, it was quite a fare and was mighty reasonable as well. This was topped up with a nice cup of filter coffee – something that this place is famous for. We soaked in the ambiance, the coffee and tried to fit in to the intellectual crowd but found that it was just too much effort. So we skipped out of the place within 45 minutes and went out to soak the sun.

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The crowd and ambiance at Indian Coffee House

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Us, trying to fit in with the other intellectuals at the Café

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View from the top. The place has seating on top as well.

Our car came back soon and we made our way to City Center I and then later City Center II. There is nothing much to write about them except that these were malls and that City Center II was much better than I (one) and that both the malls were so much better than the pseudo malls that we have back in Pune. Though a little confusing in design, they had quite a bit of space and hand plenty of place for people to just sit and hang out.

Rest of the day was uneventful except that we were stuck in an hour long traffic jam and our driver tried playing tag with the oncoming vehicles on the road and fortunately. lost.

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