As the flight touched down at the Kolkata airport and the pilot announced that the weather outside was pleasant (which is very unlike Kolkata), I was already feeling a pleasant warmth in the air. The warmth that you would normally feel when you are lying down with your head in your mom’s lap and your mom is running her fingers through your hair.
My daughter was so very excited to meet her little sister (my sister-in-law’s daughter). I could see it in her eyes.
It wasn’t Bhagalpur this time, instead it was Kolkata.
My sister-in-law is settled in Kolkata and made a very important decision in her life a few months back; investing in a house. She had just moved into her new house and our visit was also to celebrate her new house (the housewarming incidentally happened a few days before we reached and we couldn’t join her because of the Sports day at my daughter’s school).
There was another reason as well, for our trip to Kolkata this time. It was to celebrate Saraswati Puja. It was a long time that everybody in Puja’s family were together for Saraswati Puja and we wanted to do it this time. I too had never been a part of it and this time round, I had to.
Saraswati Puja is a huge occasion in Bhagalpur. It is celebrated just like Durga Puja is celebrated in Bengal.
And since there is a ritual of an “Akhand Jyoti”, which is a lamp that glows the entire night and stays lit until the immersion of the Idol, the occasion calls for some nice games and fun the entire night.
None of us would sleep the entire night. The night would stay alive with antakshari, rounds of ludo, snakes & ladders and other games.
It was so nice to be together for the puja. We had a lot of fun. But the happiest of all of us were the two little ones. The elder sister couldn’t let go off the younger one and she would ensure that she would be around the little one always. They were the ones who had the most fun and we enjoyed watching them together.
Kolkata – A City that Forgot to Move
I had been to Kolkata a couple of times before as well. But all of those visits would be for 2-3 days and hence we never found time to go around the city.
But this time, we were there for a good 20 days which included 3 weekends. And since all of the family were together, we felt it was the right time to visit some of the places of interest in Kolkata.
Kolkata was a victim of bad administration. The governments in the state seemed to have forgotten to work on developing the city. Kolkata is one of the four metropolitan cities in the country and if you have ever been to the other 3 metros (Delhi, Mumbai, and Chennai), you would understand the reason why I called Kolkata, a city that forgot to move.
Kolkata seemed to be stuck in the 1940s. Old buildings on the verge of crumbling, poorly maintained infrastructure and a lack of proper communication within the city were just some of the things.
In spite of all this, I liked the city. It felt as if I was in my native. There was something that gave me that feeling of affinity as if I am a part of the city. And probably that is why I felt pity on her and the neglect that she was subjected to.
Gangasagar – a Pilgrimage
I like beaches and hence the idea of visiting Gangasagar, which is a pilgrimage near Kolkata got me excited. Now if you are wondering as to what does a pilgrimage have to do with beaches, then let me clarify.
Gangasagar is an island to the south of Kolkata. We were planning to visit there to take a dip in the Holy Ganga. And my love for beaches indirectly meant I was in love with water. The thought of lying immersed in the sea itself was exciting.
The best experience was about the travel. We experimented with pretty much every conveyance that was available. We started with a train journey, followed by an electric auto, then a steamer to cross the ocean, and then a bus journey to reach Gangasagar.
When we jumped into the water, we heard people calling out and asking us to move out because the tide was growing. We were disappointed but didn’t have a choice. So we had very little time to enjoy in the water. But we still had the most of whatever little time we had.
On the shore were some shops selling handmade items from seashells. They were beautiful but overpriced, as expected considering it was a tourist spot.
If you visit Gangasagar, don’t miss going to the Kapil Muni temple. Kapil Muni was a saint and is considered responsible for bringing river goddess Ganga to earth.
We were dead tired by the time we came back from Gangasagar. While the trip is ideally an overnight stay, we had to finish it the same day because of time constraints. In spite of all the tiredness, we truly enjoyed the trip.
Ecopark – Kolkata
This was one of the very few places in Kolkata that were well maintained. We had plans of visiting the Ecopark and the Science City in Kolkata. Science City turned out to be a nightmare because the place was completely mismanaged and pretty much everything there was in a non-working state.
The aquarium was ill-managed and so were all the science models.
But Ecopark was a completely different experience. The park was well organized and maintained with themed sections. The rose garden, the bamboo garden, and the artist’s cottage were the best attractions.
There was ample space for the kids to play and they too had a real good time.
There was also a musical fountain event scheduled for around 6 PM. We have seen such musical fountains at Akshardham in Delhi and also at Lalbagh in Bangalore. The event at Ecopark was not quite upto the mark though as was the one at Lalbagh. The coordination expected between the fountain and the music being played was missing.
As a grand finale to the trip, we took a boat to the Eco island. Amazingly designed and beautifully built the Eco island has a lot of attractions including the fine dine restaurant Cafe Ekante.
The restaurant was an experience in itself. Tasty food was just one of the many things that we experienced. Heartfelt hospitality, well-planned maintenance were a few others.
As we took the boat back to the park followed by the walk to the exit, we felt like we were taking a few memories along with us; memories of some beautiful moments that we spent along with our family.
Belur Math and Dakshineshwar Temple
Belur Math is the headquarters of the Ramakrishna Math and mission and was established by Swami Vivekananda. The primary attractions of the place is the “Sri Ramakrishna Temple” and “The Ramakrishna Museum”. The temple is a beautiful architecture in itself and the best part about the Math is that it doesn’t represent any one religion. Instead, it is a representation of all religions.
If you cross the Hooghly river, on the other bank is situated the Dakshineshwar Temple where the presiding deity is Bhavatarani, an aspect of Kali.
It was also well maintained and in spite of the fact that there were stringent security arrangements, things were coordinated well and it did not take us more than an hour to complete the darshan.
The architecture of the temple building is also worth seeing. I was awed at the precision and styling of these buildings that were built when there was no technological support. They were so beautiful and exhibited the talent of the engineers and sculptors of those years.
The Longest Few Hours
20 days seemed so less. We could hardly blink our eyes and we were getting ready for our flight back home.
The last few hours before we set off to the airport were the longest few hours in the entire trip. And just about a few hours before we could leave for the airport, Puja hurt herself in a slip and fall event.
We thought of spending a few hours together. And chit-chats soon turned into games. We traveled over to our childhood days and started playing some of the touch and run games.
And suddenly, Puja tripped and fell on her left hand fracturing her hand.
It was painful, extremely painful.
But I could still see a smile on her face from between the tears. The smile said that it was probably another way of making the trip a memorable one because I am sure none of us would ever forget the trip.
And then after a few hours, we took the long flight back home. All of us…. reflecting on those moments we spent together.