Kolkata

Traveling to Bhutan

I have been quite silent in my blog for sometime now. There are lot of things happening around (more details soon) and one of them was that I was planning for a trip to Bhutan and Kolkata.

Initially I thought of doing simple trip, like my last trips but then decided to not to. I Will post more details about the trip, with photos once I am back.

I will be back by mid of this October and till then my phone will be switched off and if you send me an email you will get a response only after I am back.

And regarding the good news, you might have to wait till I am back ;)

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When kolkata transforms into art gallery

Durga Puja, the ceremonial worship of the mother goddess, is one of the most important festivals, is celebrated every year in the month of October with much gaiety and grandeur in India and abroad, especially in Bengal, where the ten-armed goddess riding the lion and killing the Buffalo-Demon (Mahishasura) is worshiped with great passion and devotion.

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The traditional icon of the goddess worshiped during the Durga Puja is in line with the iconography delineated in the scriptures. In Durga, the Gods bestowed their powers to co-create a beautiful goddess with ten arms, each carrying their most lethal weapon. The tableau of Durga also features her four children – Kartikeya, Ganesha, Saraswati and Lakshmi.

The huge temporary canopies – held by a framework of bamboo poles and draped with colorful fabric – that house the icons are called ‘pandals’. Modern pandals in Kolkata are innovative, artistic and decorative at the same time, offering a visual spectacle for the numerous visitors who go ‘pandal-hopping’ during the four days of Durga Puja.

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Day at Sonagachi

Sonagachi, the largest red-light district in Asia. The whole group came, along with our trip advisor and one of her friends who knew the way. Its about 15 minutes from my hotel, a 1 minute walk from the metro station . I didn’t expect to enjoy it necessarily, but I thought it would be interesting to see. It turns out…..its pretty awful. Really awful. Go figure.

There are somewhere around 10,000 prostitutes in the district, which has hundreds of multi-story brothels. We went through a few alleys around 8am, which is before business starts. There were old women and children around, so I assumed that things would clear out before business started. We saw a few buildings and alleys which were pretty clearly brothels, but it wasn’t obvious. They don’t have the money to make things look nice. Its just a run-down residential area…with a different function at night. By the time we went through our third alley, it was around 9am, and suddenly business had started. Women lined up down the street, each one looking at me at I passed. Our guide told us that if one of us guys was there by ourselves, every one of them would be badgering us, negotiating a price. He said, “I wouldn’t dare go down this alley alone.”

Here’s the thing about the red light district: in your head, you might have pictures of what its like. You might be able to imagine your prototypical prostitute. But when you’re there, looking at these women in the eyes, you realize how incredibly real and human each one of them is. I saw humanity in each of their faces. In many eyes I saw fear, in many others I saw a clear look of self-degradation. None looked happy, or excited. Thousands of women in Sonagachi are held there against their will; I couldn’t help wondering which women face that horror as I passed them. Many of the girls were….just that. Girls. To see a 14 or 15 year old girl standing out there on the street….is tough. Especially for the girls in our group. The women don’t have the money for lingerie or anything like that; the majority of the girls were just wearing jeans and the smallest t-shirt they own. Its a clear example of how poor the women are; indeed, poverty is the reason they are all here in the first place.

I saw a mother walking down the street in front of us with her son. The boy was about 8 or 9; the mother was wearing a skimpy glittery yellow dress and high heels, holding her son’s hand. That’s when I started to realize how real it all really is. How human these women are. And how sad it is that, for whatever reason, they’ve been driven into this. And the reality is, I still can’t understand it at all. There are so many alleys, so many women, and a personal story attached to each one. I just saw a handful of women, tried to avoid looking them in the eye, and never said a word to them. The full reality is beyond what I could possibly fathom. Maybe beyond what anyone could fathom.

I learned that the small group of girls from our group have been saved from trafficking. I don’t know whether this means that their parents were trafficked and the children were saved, or whether they themselves were trafficked for the sex-trade and got saved. Probably both. Either way, these girls must be under 12.They are beautiful girls. If I saw one of them on the street, I think I’d cry. I think they might too.

And the worst part about it is that this exists in every country in the world.

Made it to kolkata,craziest city on earth

I have never seen a city like Kolkata. It is the wildest, most crazy place I have ever been. Engulfed by poverty it is still vibrant and full of life. After the flight from Hyderabad I landed in Kolkata. I was staying with an extremely nice Indian couple that live in the heart of Kolkata.

On Day 1 I explored all the local roads,malls,food courts near by,where i am staying.With the help of my Smart Android I can travel/explore any place.

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Kolkata is like a piece of shit on the face of this earth”, wrote the famous writer Günter Grass.

Like there is some who would agree with this bad notion, there are many many more who loves the city of joy and would disapprove of one such statement. A person who is not associated with or is ignorant of the Indian culture and tradition will probably generate one such idea and never understand the true spirit of the city. It could also be our shortfall that we had been unable to show many like Grass the brighter side of things that are here.

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I have heard many of my friends calling Kolkata to be chaotic, cluttered and dirty. True, some parts of Kolkata is dirty, is chaotic. Yet Kolkata is the City of Joy. Kolkata is the city of tradition and culture. Kolkata is the city of football and cricket. Kolkata is the city of Tagore, Netaji, Mother Teresa. Kolkata is the city of lavish shopping malls. Kolkata is the city of booming IT industry. It’s the city we all love.

On day 2nd and 3rd day

I and Mytri planned to explore Kumartuli, one of the cultural precincts of Kolkata. It was a Saturday morning that we headed towards Kumartuli. From Shobhabazar- we took a car to Kumartuli, where clay sculptors were busy in making idols. Bright sunshine on my shoulders and the deep blue sky above were telling that autumn  is on the threshold and with only one month left for the Pujas idol making would be in full swing.

It was my long cherished desire to visit Kumartuli, the alley of the potters, where gods and goddesses are born (read created) in the skilled hands of mud sculptors who are in the profession of clay idol making for several generations

Well, coming back to where we started our journey. As we moved on down the lanes the brick walls and structures were like closing in on us. I have never seen such narrow lanes and by-lanes in my life. Much to my astonishment, artisans live in there, with their families and have set up their studios for pottery and idol making! Well… studio, not in its literal sense.

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On 3rd day I  had to take a hand-pulled rickshaw. As soon as I boarded the rickshaw childhood memories thronged my mind. Such rickshaws were aplenty on the roads of Hyderabad those days.  We used to ride rickshaws often, especially in the evenings while returning home after a shopping or a visit to some relative’s place. The rickshaw puller is almost running pulling the rickshaw, and the sound of the bells hanging in his hand … ting ling ting ling (this bell worked like horns) and a small lantern hanging at the back of the rickshaw, just like the rear light of a car – the images are still so vivid in my mind!

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I sat stiff and terrified, thinking all the time, what if the rickshaw puller loosens his grip and we’ll land up up-side down (LOL!). Finally, I reached my destination and I was relieved to get down from the rickshaw.

Trams are rare to see on the roads of Kolkata.The thought that Kolkata will be losing its heritage one day pains a lot. The metro has transformed a lot with a number of lavish shopping plazas, bustling multiplexes, flyovers and BMW, Skoda and Chevrolet plying the city roads.

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Slowly the tram reached the terminal at Bagbazar. From there we caught the bus to Kalikapur. As the bus was passing through Shyambazar crossing I caught a glimpse of the statue of ‘Netaji’,

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basking in the sun, amidst a number of enormous hoardings and signboards trying to cover up the skyline, the bamboo structures for pandals on the roadside, posters of political rallies and the same zeal and enthusiasm for the Pujas reminded me, ‘Kolkata ache Kolkatatei” (The spirit of Kolkata still remains the same)!

Mother Teresa:

Truly memorable and moving; be sure to go up the stairs to see the room where she slept and lived and ran this tremendous Sisters of Charity worldwide. The Orphanage which is also worth a visit is nearby!! Do not miss seeing both!! Try to visit in the morning or late afternoon when the children are not sleeping.

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Howrah Bridge:

Never imagined that something as big as that bridge is hanging on its own. The British were famous for their civil engineering and they proved this by constructing such a long Howrah bridge. The bridge is never short of traffic, very busy indeed.Walk across this bridge and you will feel the awesome magnificence of the bridge. Be careful of the crowd though.

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Victoria Memorial :

Majestic entrance to a beautiful monument in the heart of city of joy Kolkata  nice greenery on both sides once entered, beautiful stone walkway, mesmerism you. Once you enter the main hall you are thrilled with the construction of the hall, marble edifice and the whole hall gives you a picture of dominance of British in India. There are plenty of collection time taking to browse around but worth watching. There are very detailed eye catching glimpses display of history of Calcutta (Kolkata) which gives an idea of British period’s Kolkata  Overall it is worth watching and one should always visit this place once if they visiting Kolkata.

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 Kumartuli:

What is amazing is that they have still have kept a lot of old traditions alive. The idol makers still use water from Hoogly to mix the clay and make the models. It is not the easiest things to do since the have to hire water carriers, but most of the artists still folow this tradition.Kumartuli streets are narrow and there are lanes and bylanes and that is what lends Kumartuli a character.It not not a typical studio where potters do their clay modeling, these streets are as old as Kolkata and is a historic place. I am posting a few photos of goddess Saraswathi, there was also a very interesting and beautiful old building, no one lives theres, must have been grand at some point. I walked through two three lanes and then headed straight for Hoogly. It was a nice and peaceful evening.

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Birla Temple:

This white marble temple, resembling the famous Lingaraja temple of Bhubaneswar, is a marvel of architecture and adobe of peace. The main temple houses statues of Radha-Krishna. The left side of temple houses goddess Durga and the right side of the temple houses Shiva. There is no nuisance that could disturb the devotees and the place is well maintained and clean.

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Netaji Bhavan:

Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose, known popularly as Netaji (meaning leader in Hindi), was one of the most prominent reformists in the Indian Independence Movement. The building that is known as Netaji Bhavan today was once the residence of the reformist. Managed by the Netaji Research Bureau, the old bungalow-style structure houses a museum and the bureau’s archives and library. The museum is divided into various rooms, each detailing certain phases in the leader’s life. The top-most floor has photographs and documents from the life and works of Subhash Chandra Bose, arranged in chronological order. The library and archives include comprehensive collections detailing the Indian Independence Movement. Netaji Bhavan also has an auditorium called the Sarat Bose Hall which is used for events like lectures and seminars. Located on Elgin Road, opposite, Forum Mall this is the place to visit if you’re interested in learning about India’s Freedom Struggle.

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Few of my clicks

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For more clicks you can find in my Kolkata album in Photography menu