kolkata the city of joy

Kolkata the City of Joy

Kolkata the city of joy popularly known as Calcutta was the capital of British India. The city is an epitome of the colours and vibrancy that India is known for.  I had the fortune of visiting this amazing city many years ago, as I was participating in a national-level chess tournament.

Every city has a first impression on you and Kolkata blew me away in the very first minute. As the train pulled into the Howrah Station, I was overwhelmed by the sheer size of the railway junction.  It had over 25 platforms! The architecture added to the magnificence and grandeur of the railway junction.  As a tourist, I can say this was the most amazing welcome I got into any city!

History

The city of Kolkata was the capital of the Bengal state even before the East India Company.  As the British influence increased the city served as the capital of British India.  The city was very British in its culture and valued local and international art forms. You’ll find that some of India’s finest artists in the field of poetry, motion pictures, art and food originating from this city.

Some memories

Now, I had visited Kolkata to play in the national- level chess tournament. I was really young and yet, the city has left a lasting impression on me.  There were many unique things I noticed about Kolkata and I’m sure many of those things may have changed over the course of time.

Back then, Kolkata was the only Indian city with a metro system! I remember taking a metro ride to Dum Dum and back with my mother!

Another unique thing was that taxis were those giant Ambassadors and yellow in colour.

You got Rasgullas and Jhal Muri at every street corners the way you get Bhajji Pav in Mumbai.

They washed the streets with water every morning! How cool is that? 😀

Places I visited and remember

Salt Lake Stadium

SaltLakeStadium_eastbengalfootballclub

My chess tournament was in this mammoth stadium. It has a seating capacity of 120,000 people and trust me they need that much.  This is the stadium where the local football teams battle it out and the crowds mean business.

The stadium is really massive and feels like a university campus really.

Victoria Memorial

Victoria_Memorial_Kolkata_panorama

It is really the quintessential Kolkata tourist spot. This enormous construction made entirely out of marble was built in the early years of the 20th century to serve as a memorial to the late Queen Victoria who’s reign proved to be very prosperous for the British Empire.  The setting for this monument is surreal and it is indeed a great public space created during the British Raj.

Verdict

The tournament didn’t really let me explore the city to the fullest but staying there for almost a month I did get a good feel of the people and culture. There’s little doubt that you can find India’s greatest creative talents coming from this part of the country.

I’d only warn you about being conned by taxi drivers and eating street food from the wrong places.

Are you a Kolkata local? How has the place changed in the recent years? As a tourist, how was your experience in Kolkata?

Leave your comments and thoughts in the comments below!

leh city

Leh Ladhak Travel

Sometimes in life you make impromptu decisions and they turn out to be the best decisions you ever made. While that’s rare, I got lucky when I decided to go on a Nature Club trip to Ladhak, India. It was organised by my college’s Nature Club so it was bound to be reasonably priced and was bound to be epic experience.

Leh is in the far north of India and very close to the Aksai Chin glacier. I hadn’t visited this part of India before and I was super thrilled to go there. It was going to be a long journey from Mumbai to Jammu and Kashmir and I just couldn’t wait for the journey to begin.

Getting there

Leh can be reached via air or over land from Srinagar. Sitting pretty at the height of over 10,000ft the air is thin and those prone to altitude sickness should be careful. My journey to Leh started from Srinagar the summer capital of Jammu and Kashmir in a bus. We were a bunch of 30 people roughly of the same age and what’s more we were all friends.  The winding roads and cold did get to us but it was very manageable.

Travel is about the Journey

Kargil

You really can’t get to Leh in one day by road.  The journey is broken down into two parts Srinagar to Kargil and then Kargil to Leh. Kargil, just to remind you is the tiny town which the Pakistani forces wrongly occupied during the 1999 war.  The prospect of being a stone’s throw away from enemy territory was thrilling to say the least. We spent the night in Kargil with a bit of anxiety.

Dras

Dras is the world’s second coldest inhabited place on Earth after Siberia. Winter temperatures drop to -60C. We passed this beautiful little town when we left Kargil to go towards Leh.  The famous ‘Tiger Hill’ forms a formidable back drop to the little town. For an Indian it is a moving experience to see the actual hill over which the brave soldiers of the Indian army fought a difficult battle and drove the Pakistani troops back.

The first peek of Leh

Road To Leh

On your road to Leh, you pass a tiny town called Mulbekh. This little town has a massive monolithic carving of Chamba; a form of Buddha.  You are literally in the middle of nowhere and this massive sculpture just pops out on you!  It is only after you pass this point that you start getting the taste of Leh in its true sense.

Leh City

As our bus pulling into the last leg of the journey, we could see the entire city from a distance.  It was almost like an oasis of life that sprung up between the cold and barren mountains.  As we made our way through the narrow roads inside the city, I realised how gorgeous the setting was for a city that was literally in the clouds.

It was almost as though God created this place for those seeking nirvana. Peace, tranquility and stark nature beauty make this city simply divine.

Over the next few days we travelled across Tso Moriri, Tso Pangong , Alchi Monastery , Lamayuru Monastery, Thikse Monastery, we even made a failed attempt to reach Nubra valley via the highest motorable road on Earth, Stok Palace, Leh Palace and the Shanti Stupa.

Read about each of these adventures by very soon by staying tuned to my latest blog updates.

Do you have Leh Ladhak travel stories or have you ever been to Jammu and Kashmir? Share your experiences and thoughts in the comments below.