The Bongs have long left their abodes, and have traveled to all corners of the globe, settling down in foreign lands and making it their own – soaking in local flavors and becoming a part of the global race. So what is it that still unites the Bongs the world over?
It is their desire
1. To eat well
2. To travel far.
Goopy Bagha too had voiced these eternal desires of every Bengali. When granted boons by the Bhooter Raja, they had asked for
1. Jaha ichhe khaite paari (to eat anything they wanted)
2. Jetha khusi jayite paari (to go anywhere they wished)
I have rarely come across any member of this race, who doesn’t possess those wishes. Of course the materialization of these is governed by the availability of resources and energies (which us Bongs are notorious for lacking); but given adequate amounts of both, you will seldom find them not indulging in the fulfillment of these inner desires.
So with the winter finally showing it’s face in Kolkata, now is a good time for the resourceful to set out and quench their thirsty souls. And the few who, for some reason or the other, cannot go out of the city, please don’t lose heart. Because we have compiled a list of places that can make your day, here itself.
We had been for long making plans for a day out, roaming around the city, and it was last Sunday when we could finally muster enough courage to leave the protective covering of the quilts behind, to embark on our journey.
Of course, the first stop had to be for breakfast. That took us to the Cha Bar in Oxford, Park Street. I had heard that they have started serving breakfast platters, so I wanted to have a taste of that. Bacon, eggs, sandwiches, and coffee mixed with the rich aroma of books hanging in the air, was enough to make me fall in love with the place all over again.
Our next destination was the South Park Street Cemetery. It had been on our list for long, and since it’s closed after sunset, we decided to give it a go in the morning hours. Opened in 1767, this place had been closed down for burial for over two centuries now. It is one of the oldest non-church cemeteries in the world, and is now a heritage site.
Surprisingly, most of the graves here had people in their thirties. These belonged to the young recruits in the British troops who, having been exposed to the tropical diseases that Bengal was infamous for at that period, lost their lives fighting malaria and cholera. In fact, the road beside the cemetery was earlier known as Burial Ground Road, and was later renamed to Park Street.
The cemetery also houses graves of some eminent personalities, like Sir Henry Louis Vivian Derozio, the Indian poet, and headmaster of Hindu College; Sir William Jones – the founder of the Asiatic Society; Lt. Col. Colin Mckenzie – the Surveyor General of India, amongst others. I was on the lookout for the grave of Thomas Godwin, of Gorsthaney Sabdhan fame (the Feluda movie based on the novel by the same name, by Satyajit Ray), but unfortunately couldn’t locate it.
The oldest grave here belongs to an anonymous woman, whose epitaph only reads “a virtuous mother” and is numbered 363. I couldn’t help but spend a moment staring at the words, and thinking that this was something that would linger in my mind the most, and not the many names in bold fonts that we had seen strewn around the place. It is in death that we leave behind all our mortal belongings, including our name s- for the place we go to, has no value for those. To quote Tagore,
“The flowers have been woven
and the garland is ready for the bridegroom.
After the wedding the bride shall leave her home
and meet her lord alone in the solitude of night. “
It was with a strange feeling looming on our minds, that we came out of the cemetery, as walking by all those tombs does tend to have an eerie effect on your minds. We needed to bring back our souls to the mortal world, and a breath of fresh air. The walk through the dewy grass of the Maidans, followed by a Tanga ride provided us just that. After much haggling, the tanga ride cost us Rs 200, but was worth every penny !
It was 2 o’ clock- time to immerse ourselves in some gastronomical pleasures. We headed over to Peter Cat and gorged on their legendary Chello kebabs and house special sizzlers. Pocket pinch- Rs 1000.
With our tummies full, we slowly made our way slowly to Princep Ghat, to soak in some cool breeze by the Ganges. A boat can be hired for Rs 500 per hour (extra on holidays). The orange hued waters from the setting sun, the glittering light from the Howrah Bridge above, and the cool breeze on our faces added up to make a perfect ending to our day. A day like this can be a much needed break from the stress and monotony of our daily city lives.
(Archya, in his own words, is the trying-to-be-global bangali babu, who is attempting to carve out a niche for himself in blogosphere, having had mixed results in Medicine Practice. In short, a struggling artist.
For his other articles on Blong…Shong, Click Here)