Before I left for this trip, there were several persons over a goodbye coffee/drink who had enthusiastically made plans to catch up with me somewhere along the journey and do some traveling together. Out of them all, the only person who actually kept her word is my mother! I picked her up from the Delhi airport around 1.30 a.m. on Wednesday morning and just like that my lovely mother crept back into my life. Swift, efficient changes were made the next morning, starting from changing our hotel (she didn’t like the one I had chosen despite getting the ‘super deluxe suite’) to a one she had previous stayed at to calling her old travel agent to organize for a chauffeured vehicle for the next couple of trips. Yes, it’s a slight bit of readjustment but I can’t really complain about the luxury hotels and the service now, can I? It’s feels good to put down my maps and guide book, sit back in the air-conditioned car and not think for the next couple of weeks. Blisss.
We both hadn’t been to Kolkata so Kolkata became the 1st stop. While we got a good deal on the air tickets, accommodation and the tours, the weather left us shortchanged. 15-minutes into our arrival at the Kolkata airport, it started pouring and it did not let up till 3 hours we were meant to fly back to Delhi. I wouldn’t say the trip was entirely spoiled. Thanks to a local guide that the tour company arranged for. She…yes She (the first female guide I’ve met in India) was a local Bengali single mother who loved traveling. Unfortunately mum was sick on the 1st day and we agreed that I just carry on instead of canceling (I’m not an insensitive prick – I did make sure she wasn’t that sick to be left alone!). I think the first impression, she got of me was that I was a spoiled diva who made her wait for an hour in the hotel lobby but oh well. The first stop was Mother Teresa’s house. She left me to look around and meet her back in the car. The next stop was a Jain temple. It was somewhere in between the next stop when we got talking and I told her about my recent travels when suddenly, I could sense I change in her attitude. She spoke to the driver in Bengali and re-arranged something and asked if I minded doing a boat trip? Umm…no! And thus we got off at Kumartuli to see Hindu idols being made for the Durga Pooja season. Weaving through the galis and we made our through a Hindu settlement. We came out at the banks of the Hooghly river. We caught a small local boat (RS10) to the other side – Howrah where the main Kolkata train station is. The boat ride was worth every paisa of that 10 rupees. It goes under the famous Howrah Bridge and also gives you great views of both the Kolkata and Howrah sides and the many ghats along the river. I wanted to see the inside of the train station so we had to buy a Platform Pass (Rs10). We returned via ferry to another stop where the guide had arranged the car driver to meet us. Just as soon as, we got in the car – it started pouring. We picked mum up who was feeling better by then and then just did a drive through the BBD Bagh area and the St. Paul’s cathedral. I think I had my fair share of churches in Europe however to see one of this size is India is remarkable. If there is a place in India where you could still see what Colonial India looked like, it would be Kolkata. From Victoria Memorial to the European detailing on buildings with Greece/Roman architecture on the facade/columns, its easy to forget that you’re in India!
The next day, we didn’t have a guide. We went to the famous Hindu Kalighat temple, got soaked, went to the Victoria Memorial and did some shopping. The temple was a bit of a letdown and we got ripped off by almost 400 rupees. I certainly didn’t feel any divine satisfaction and I feel sorry for the thousands that make this special pilgrimage because of the crowds and touts alike. I’m sure the Goddess does listen to everyone of them though! 😀 The 3rd morning, we looked around the New Market area before going to the airport to catch our flight. The airport is a good one hour away from the city centre.
The trip didn’t go as well because of the rain. However as they say if you look hard enough, there’s always some positive to be found and I don’t have to look too hard in this instance. I like to do my own thing so guides and I don’t really jell but in this case, thanks to a travel bond with a fellow female traveler, I was able to see Kolkata in a way I know I wouldn’t have been able to see on my own. Sometimes, you just got to walk through the rain!
PS. Do try their fried fish!