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TRAVELOGUE

Amazing Kolkata

The charming city to the West needs no introduction. It's a place where Dhakaites and Bangladeshis frequent for the shopping, the food and the great cultural diversity. This is my take on the bustling metropolis, hoping to give you yet another reason to visit the place.

The City
Kolkata has a glorious past and the architecture ranges from Indian to British, which gives the city its distinct character. Their rich past has been preserved and has not yet been “apartmentalised.”

Kolkata may seem slightly dirty but it is a bustling city with malls and shops all around it. The street food is scrumptious, very economical and has a wide variety.

Narrow alleys, English street names, street foods, juice bars, bars and liquor shops, sari shops everywhere and malls make modern Calcutta.

The older generation of women still fashion a big “teep”, shindur and sari while the younger generation have bid farewell to dupattas and saris. Style for men is yet to change. They are still somewhat caught in the fusion of western wear with eastern fitting which doesn't really go for some reason.

Getting there:
Jet Airways, Kingfisher, Biman or GMG tickets are priced at around Tk.10,000. Travelling by bus is more pocket-friendly and can cost less than Tk.2500 per person. However, the customs process is a hassle if you are going by road.

Places to Stay
Afreen Hotel at Rafi Ahmed Kidwai Road is a pretty fancy hotel for the meagre Rs.1450 that they charge. The range of hotels are from The Park to the Afridi or Maria and room charges vary from Rs. 450 to Rs. 7000 per night.

Shopping frenzy
The Forum is a highly recommendable mall. Close to older Calcutta at Eligin Road with probably the most frequented cinema hall--The Inox. There is also the AC Market, Treasure Island shopping centres for the tough bargainers.

Dhakaites do not miss out on Lakshmi and Rangoli at the New Market and Park Street respectively. You get mid range saris ranging from the very simple to somewhat fancy and prices range between Rs. 2000 to Rs. 20 000.

Food talk
This is where things get interesting. Food is scrumptious, pocket-friendly and with enough variety. In a Rs. 20 roll you will probably get more chicken than on a chicken tikka in Dhaka no matter what price you pay. One thing is for sure -- their rolls are different, delicious and true.

And when it comes to rolls, all food lovers in Kolkata would point to Nizam's, a restaurant that has mastered the art of rolling. They pick up the finest paratha with a side of egg coating, fill it with crispy onions, chilli, typically curried chicken, grilled meat or paneer and roll it up with a twist of paper and it is ready to be eaten.

Flurry's is a 'traditional English tea and cake shop established by the good old Brits. It is also the oldest confectionery of that region. Sunday breakfast is a must do.

The Dhakaite in you will probably start craving biriani in a few days, in which case Aminia might be the place for you. Probably the largest biriani house that I have set my foot in, according to some Aminia is the oldest biriani house in Kolkata. The biriani is however nothing exceptional

Dawat, on the other hand, is one of my personal favourites. Their rolls are pretty good but their Indian style Chinese mixed fried rice with chicken Manchurian is so good that it sometimes takes me to Kolkata.

There are also good fine dining options in places like Tong Fung, a fine dining restaurant beside Mocambo. Both the restaurants are well known and you will probably have to stand in a queue to get in on weekends. If you end up in Tong Fung it will probably cost Rs. 2000 for a couple or three persons for dinner without drinks. Try their crab appetiser and you will be telling your grandchildren about it. Finely cut, meaty bite-size pieces. Fan-tas-tic.

Park Road has the best collection of entertainment options. Great bars and restaurants. Try Magnolia for “Elish Macher Dim” -- you can order as many but keep in mind they charge a premium for Ilish from Padma. Right opposite Magnolia is Moulin Rouge, probably Kolkata's oldest night club.

Party
Roxy is a fantastic lounge with a wide selection of drinks, a place to go with like-minded people, although expensive. Tantra, unfortunately the most popular and is probably the worst of the lot. Otherwise Underground is pretty good as people say and Venom is average.

Coming back
Returning is not always as fun as going somewhere! Stuff yourself with fresh juices because there is no tax on the amount of nutrition that you can carry in your body. For saris, be careful with the customs as they do not allow much so when you shop keep an eye on the number of saris you are buying.

Food on the aircraft is not too good while if you are returning by bus the only place you get food is just before the ferry at Faridpur.

A good advice would be to carry munchies like Lays, cakes and sandwiches.

By Taskin Rahman
Photo: Taskin Rahman


UNDER A DIFFERENT SKY

If I knew

By Iffat Nawaz

If I knew there would not be a tomorrow I would not give the rickhshawala the dirtier note. I would give him an extra fifty in fact, watch his face light up and then perhaps he would surprise me by giving me some change back. Both of us would feel less poor.

And for all the things that I left half done or untouched thinking there is always tomorrow, I would leave them still undone. If it did not happen today or yesterday, if it could wait all my life to be done then it must not have been as urgent as my nerves kept on telling me. Those unfinished things were just a promise of continuity and no tomorrow would finally give me a reason to feel defined.

The words I waited for, the flowers which never arrived, the song that was not played but only collected and the rain I slept through each morning, they would all be worth shedding tears for. I would go out and buy myself some flowers, my favourites would be out-of-season perhaps but I am sure another bunch would be waiting for me, I would pick anything but roses, with the smell of the wild and the layer of dust from the city.

I would want to say so many things; some specific, some vague. I would want to have a fight, the kind that leaves you feeling drained, and then I would make up afterwards knowing it was the last time that I would surrender.

I wouldn't want to look at my face, it will be with me even after tomorrow, but I would look at those faces which will disappear. I would notice the birth marks, the cuts, the scars, the hair. I would try to take in the scent and make sure I remember it, forever, even if forever is just one day.

I would see myself as the most imperfect I had ever seen; I would still take a nap and have my teas. I would brush my hair, put on lipstick; I would go to the rooftop to watch bats flying low before and after the sunset. I would not finish sticks of cigarettes; I would want to look into eyes of children and their grandmothers. I would give away my blanket, my hand mirror and my most favourite articles of clothing.

I would not want to be held, no I would n0t. I would not want touch; I would not want any more promises, anymore consolations, any more hope. I would know they do not exist and this is me, and this is it, and that will be all.

As the night nears I would close my eyes, search my memory and touch the ones that drip most with emotions, the tender parts, the melancholic happiness and the sheer joys, and of the days which seemed most amazing and the least. I would not cry, no I would not, I would not call anyone breaking down, I would be strong for the last time and realise once again strength takes more than it gives.

If I knew there was no tomorrow, I would stop searching for what never existed and know that this is how it ends.


SPECIAL FEATURE

Sugar, spice and everything nice

Two friends, famished for lunch, entered a popular eatery to rid the proverbial mice gnawing into the walls of their stomachs. Now with overpowering hunger and pictures on the menu card that looked rather hypnotic, the duo ordered a main course, which they usually fail to finish, along with an additional platter of appetisers, delusional of the fact that they would be able to pig through it all.

They finally did manage to fit it all into their small tummies, albeit with extreme difficulty thus rendering themselves short of breath. Despite having their seams threatening to burst at any moment they could not help but guiltily ask for the menu one more time; to order that sinfully tempting looking chocolate cake with the white-as-ivory ice cream.

Makes one wonder how the two could finish more food. But they did! That is the magic of desserts. In spite of being loaded with calories, in spite of, at times, being richer than the main course itself desserts have this inexplicable, mysterious way of fitting into our stomachs effortlessly!

When taken after a meal we give these magnificent delicacies a general name, dessert, but in reality their roles are hardly limited to that. Sweet treats have made their place in many nooks and crannies of our lives. A huge cake at a birthday or anniversary, a pastry or a brownie for an evening snack, a pudding as a house warming gift; they are everywhere.

Amongst all the sweet treats, cakes, ice-creams and the likes have earned quite a name for themselves among us sweet-toothed fanatics. We choose to convey our love, felicitations, apologies through cakes as big as possible, we like to take a trip to the ice-cream booth on warm (read sweltering) summer days and scoop them out of the box while watching our favourite movie.

While cakes, ice-creams and pastries have been there for heaven-knows-how-long, there are other not-so-novel treats such as the Lilliputian cousins of cakes: cupcakes. Pretty much made the same way as cakes, cupcakes are a tad less popular than their bigger counterparts here.

When decorated, these tiny cakes can look like artistic show-pieces. It is actually a pity that such beautiful creations ultimately have to end up in nothingness. With plenty of decorative stuff available in the market, starting from edible sugar figures, edible glitter, colour and beads, cupcakes can be made as magnificent as your imagination goes.

Perfect for serving at play dates, for making up with your girlfriend or for that 12 o'clock birthday surprise, cupcakes deserve to be in places other than your evening snacks plate.

Then there are cake pops, something children would definitely love. As their name suggests these look like lollipops and one could easily confuse the two. Cakes rolled into balls and stuck on sticks, cake pops are great choices for handing out to children at birthday parties. Add with that fruits on sticks covered in chocolate or strawberry syrup; even not-so-big-fans of fruits would not mind them when doused in their favourite flavour.

Cookie bouquets, which follow the same concept, are something that you could take over to a dinner at your friends' house instead of the traditional pudding. These look pretty as well as serve as a refreshing change.

Why always opt for ice-creams on hot summer days when there is something that you can make at home and which is not as creamy? The frozen ice on a stick that makes each and every one of us nostalgic: popsicles. All we get to have, nowadays, are the processed ice-creams from the box. Bringing back the golden olden days is not a bad idea when you have a freezer at home and gelatine, juice and fruits in every department store around the city. Look up recipes on the Internet and make these at home. In fact these could be healthy alternatives to ice-cream for children, if made with pureed fresh fruits!

These desserts, though small in size, when made the right way, taste no less delicious than our traditional cakes and puddings; plus, when it comes to desserts they live up to the idea of 'less is more'!

By Karishma Ameen
Photo: Daneesha Khan

 

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