Friday, April 1, 2011

Calcutta, ahoy!

Calcutta aka Kolkata was the one metro among the erstwhile 4 metros of India which I had not visited till last week . When the better half informed that he was travelling to this place on business , I couldnt find a better opportunity to tag along and visit the place. So, there I booked the tickets , much to my own surprise without much thought and started googling about places to visit, eat and shop. I had even disclosed the travel plan to all who cared to ask and listen. Usually , so far, I havent had the habit of revealing my plans in detail to many. Now, I am having a vacation after a llong loong time (last time, we had been to Kurumba village enroute to Ooty many years ago). So, I decided to have a good time and not worry about office stuff or anything that would disturb me.

The previous day of our travel being International Womens Day, I was all dressed in a beautiful maroon saree to the office, had a good time enjoying  the events organised in our office. Had mehendi too which provided a cooling effect. Not sure if there is someone who conspires to somehow disrupt my peace, just after lunch, I see a series of emails asking for my comments/suggestions to solve a critical issue. Phew!! Of all times, should these mails come when I plan a vacation and just about to wrap up things at work?? Had discussion with colleague based out of the the same location I work in, made sure to assign work in my absence and asked people to ping me when I'm out of office. My boss calls me multiple times, but I'm unable to talk to him because of the low batetry and poor signal strength . Called up the boss later in the evening, informed him that I'll be unable to support the next 3 days, cant attend any conference calls and indirectly told him not to be disturbed. Got some lecture, nevertheless, this didnt put me off completely.

Took time to pack clothes, pack stuff that I might require for the travel and stay, and was all set. Wednesday(March 9th) dawned bright , we got readied and boarded the cab on the long drive to the airport. I've driving to the airport after about 3 years. All my flight travel prior to this one has been on work and this was teh first time I was taking the flight for personal reasons and more importantly taking the flight with the husband beside me. I tried my best to put office tension behind my back, and travel light. I wouldnt say I was 100% successful in not thinking about office, however, I was close to the mark :-). Squirmed in the flight, yes, I'm claustrophobic, couldnt get sleep, chatted with the better half . Poor thing, the husband had to get on to work once we alight from the plane. So, I was resisting myself from not pestering him too much.

Alighted from the plane in the humid Kolkata which welcomed us with a temperature of 35 degrees. Dropped husband in the office and I drove to central parts of the city where our booking for the hotel was done. I enter Taj bengal and I went WOW!! Every aspect in the Taj campus is a testimony to the brand , the luxury, the quality and the legacy!! I have stayed in good resorts in the past, but this one, though not a resort is the first 5 -star rated hotel I was vacationing in. Freshened up , and was time for lunch. Upon husband's insistence, I reluctantly went to The Hub in the premises of Taj. Why reluctant? because I was not very OK with spending all of 1500 bucks for food, on myslef. Was very unsure even after entering the restaurant. Not sure what made me start with the starters. Had a 5 course meal, relaxed, enjoyed the food and the ambience.

Came back to the room, checked the calcutta guide,ordered for a DVD player, browsed the channels in the TV and dozed off, only to wake up when I call from the husband. Now, the DVD player also came, and I watched some portion of a movie whose dvd I had carried along. Dressed up, and was now ready to paint the city. Checked with the concierge the timing of Kali Mandir. Now, I was already having a nagging feeling about spending on lunch( I need to make a point here: I'm no miser. I love to spend, love to buy stuff and indulge my loved ones than indulging myself). so I was a lil bit averse about spending about 30 bucks a kilometer on the taxi, if arranged via the hotel. Inspite of the husband insisting on taking the taxi from the hotel, I walked out on the road , bravely in a city totally new , in a city where I dont understand the local language, and only posses an average Hindi speaking ability.

Saw a few people on the road just waving their hand to board in to a taxi. I did the same too and asked to be taken to Kali Mandir. I was dropped at the temple and I was charged 30 bucks for what the meter said Rs.17. I wasnt sure if I need to argue with my poor Hindi speaking skill. hence, got the change and proceeded twoards the temple. As soon as I stepped down from the taxi a group of priests swarmed around giving details about the rates to be paid for a quick darshan to the Goddess. I dismissed them and walked forward and could see only a line of stores usually found in front of teh temples . I couldnt spot any trace of the temple gopuram which is usually seen in the temples of the South.  I asked for directions from a passer by and proceeded forward. Waited in a long queue , while on the queue, observed that devotees were performing waht I assume to be archanas. A lady who stood behind me told me details of what is the bes way to get these pujas done in a Bengali mixed Hindi. Had a darshan of the Goddess, and now, proceeded to Birla Mandir. The taxi driver was not sure of the timings of the temple , nevertheless, I went to the temple. There, we are not supposed to carry camera and there wasnt any locker safe. Hence, with the guidance of the security guards in the temple, I left the camera with the Calcutta Ploice who were stationed in fornt of the temple. There were 3 men, 2 in uniform and the third in plain clothes. The two uniform-clad men directed me to deposit the camera to the man in plain clothes. I blindly trusted these men and left my newly bought camera with him and proceeded to the temple. On returning from the temple, thankfully, the camera was safe.

Back at the hotel, freshened up, M and I left for dinner. We chose the Mediterranean cuisine at Taj..Need I tell that the food was awesome. But, one fact which proved to be true yet again is that you really need to ne a non-vegetarian when you like to taste different kinds of food. Because, even in the mediterranean  menu, we hardly had options to choose from , being a vegetarian. Anyways, the quality and taste was awesome and we called it a day.

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