A Traveler's guide to Kolkata

India is known around the globe for its diverse culture and colourful traditions. The hub of it all lies in Kolkata-West Bengal. The city adorned in the hues of yellow has a unique vibe to itself, an amalgamation of tradition and modernization. On my travel through the city, I made countless memories which I cherish to this day. For over a century, Kolkata, then known as Calcutta, was the capital city of British India. The reminiscent of the colonial era can still be found in the Victorian architecture of the city. On travelling to the Howrah side, you see buildings that remain untouched since the British left. Old shops with signboards as old as the 1900s, run by the same family for generations still stand in the old bazaar. Houses that have been home to many generations stand tall, their courtyards sprung to life by the sound of children playing. On walking through the streets you see craftsmen sculpting Goddess Durga out of clay, making sure to capture her fierceness in the eyes. Kalighat temple sees thousands of devotees visiting the temple daily to earn Goddess Durga’s blessings. During the festival of Durga Pooja, Kolkata is decked with colourful banners and confetti. People sing and dance around the city, praying to the Goddess for prosperity and protection. While the rest of the India fasts during the festival, the Bengalis feast. And the ongoing festivities make the Pooja period the best time to visit Kolkata. At the Dakshineshwar temple, worshippers pray to the river Hooghly (another name for Holy Ganges.) The river flows through the back of the temple. Inside the temple, you can see four separate buildings and a huge courtyard connecting the buildings. Each temple room is devoted to different avatars of Goddess Kali. During Pooja, the celebrations are held in the courtyard. The river Hooghly flows through the city and divides it into two parts- Howrah and Calcutta. The two sections are connected through huge metal bridges- The Howrah Bridge and Vidyasagar Setu.

Must see tourist attractions

If you ask anyone about Kolkata and what places to visit there, the first thing that comes out of their mouth would be The Victoria Memorial; and rightly so. Queen Victoria loved Kolkata so much that she got herself built a palace in the middle of the city. The sheer magnificence of the white marble structure is hard to put into words. No history lesson and no picture can match up the exhilarating yet unreal euphoria that envelops you once you step into the palace grounds that once belonged to royalty. It is something you need to experience on your own. Kolkata is not just limited to the old historic monuments. Though old traditions and culture have imbibed themselves into the raw and rich vibe of Kolkata, a new and modern world seems to be coming to life simultaneously through the rising skyscrapers and flyovers.  With the coming of the latest Industrial Revolution in India and the growth of middle class a new part of Kolkata emerged as the New Town. The New Town has many beautiful parks and tall buildings along with various tourist attractions like the New Town wax museum, the Eco Park and the science city. Huge hoardings, expressways, flyovers, malls catch your eyes and leave you dumbstruck. New Town represents the basic foundation for the ambitions of modern India.

What and Where to Eat

If you walk along the base of the bridges in the morning you can catch glimpses of fishermen setting out to work. Since Pisciculture is the prime occupation in the city, Bengali food and its love affair with fish is not surprising. Preparing and eating fish has become a part of their tradition, so much so that it has found its way into their matrimonial ceremonies. The variety of fish delicacies found here in Kolkata is astounding. You can have your pick from Fish Kabiraji, Bengali Doi Machch or the renowned Fish Biryani. If there is anything the people of Kolkata love more than their fishes, it is their desserts. Kolkata has a number of desserts to choose from. Mishti Dahi, Rosgulla or Kheer ka Dum, whichever you pick, you will surely be wanting more. Decker’s Lane in Kolkata is the one-stop destination for all foodies. It has everything you would want to try from the famous puchkas to even Punjabi food. The food here has to be hands down, the best street food in the world.

How to commute through the city

The city may be huge and crowded and people may show utter disregard for traffic rules but the commute through Kolkata is the easiest of all places in India. Metro runs through the entire city, yellow-taxi cabs are present around every corner and buses that run on a timely schedule make touring the city easy. Kolkata is also one of the few cities in the world with a tram.

Reasons to visit Kolkata

The real gem of Kolkata is not its buildings but it is its people. The city has produced a plethora of famous people like Rabindranath Tagore-the first Indian to ever win a Nobel Prize and also the writer of the Indian National Anthem as well as the Bangladeshi National Anthem; or Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose-beloved freedom fighter; or Saurav Ganguly-former captain of the Indian cricket team. The achievements of the beloved heroes are commemorated by building their statues throughout the city, naming round-about and roads after them, and sharing their stories through The Indian Museum.  Apart from these national treasures, the locals are also very warm and kind people. On my visit to the city, a simple tea stall vendor helped me map out the best spots to visit in Kolkata and also made special kullad chai for me while I waited for my bus. The city caters to the need of all. It has so much to offer, from monuments for art and history fanatics to delicious dishes for the foodies. From huge sports ground like Eden Garden for the sports fans to acceptance and home for the ones looking for it. Each tourist/traveller feels welcomed. The canary taxis, chipped marigold wall paint, sunsets that turn the skies gold and the amber Bengali signboards give the city its yellow silhouette. Yellow enough to please Van Gogh’s spirit. Kolkata is not just a place; it is not just a pin in the map, it is an experience. It is a memory you will cherish throughout your life. It is an opportunity you can’t let slip by.            

Apra Pathak

Forever that person that gets really excited when the sky is in pretty colours.