Journey With a Differencee
Kolkata, West Bengal, India
Once upon a time, there used to be a Party with a difference. There also existed a Team with a difference. Both felt themselves to be invincible. Both were like balloons blown out of proportions waiting for catastrophe to strike. Alas, today they are licking their wounds. This is the way the cookie crumbles, to borrow a phrase from the inimitable James Hadley Chase.
I recently undertook a journey with a difference!
I had some lapsable leave to my credit as well as an unconsumed LTC. Therefore, I decided to visit Kolkata. I wanted to see for myself whether a change of name (from Calcutta to Kolkata) had really any influence on the populace and whether there was any likelihood of flow of dollars and yens into the economy of the state, as is being envisaged in certain quarters.
Thanks to computerization of the Indian Railways, I was able to obtain both to and fro reservations by the dream of a train – the Gitanjali. Normally, all other trains to Howrah originate as night trains from Mumbai – but, the Gitanjali is an exception. It leaves VT at the crack of dawn. Hence, we were treated to sights that we usually do not encounter while traveling by other trains. Suffice it to say that the journey in the comforts of 3 Tier AC was uneventful. We arrived at Howrah a few minutes after the scheduled time and it was a surprise to put my foot down on a relatively clean platform devoid of hawkers and vendors. The stall of Hyderabadi dum biryani at the entrance appeared to be new, and was chock full of hungry mouths.
During my very brief stay, I went to the science city and loved the 3-D theater. I was given a pair of special spectacles to wear and was repeatedly warned not to bend or twist the equipment since it can break and, if broken, I would have to pay Rs 150.00!! And then once the 12-minute show started, I had sharks and lizards jumping from the screen right into my face. An experience not recommended for the weak hearted.
Then I visited the two city centers.
The one at Theater Road is a massive affair complete with brightly lit shops displaying the latest in what have you. Right from imported suitcases to lingerie to chocolates, the CCs had them all. Escalators take you from one floor to another – trying to influence your decisions. The city center at Salt Lake is smaller in comparison but it boasts of a departmental store where you could get anything from bananas to soft toys. The food court on the roof top is amazing. Looking around, it is difficult to visualize that this city was once weighed down by load shedding and power cuts.
One can safely conclude that Calcuttans have learnt the art of living life king-size.
It is high time that the Ochterlony monument gets a new coat of paint – preferably of a color other than red! Red does not do justice to it any longer. What was the in-thing in the seventies does not have any charm today.
The author has other interesting links on India and Indian culture on his weblog.