You might have seen a lot of lists already that tells you what is special about Kolkata and what makes you fall in love with it. This is my effort to capture the spirit of Kolkata in just 12 points. It’s difficult to capture the true essence of Kolkata in 12 points as there is always something or the other that you want to include. So, let me just try. I leave it to you to judge. Here are my chosen twelve reasons. Let’s see if you can relate to it.
1. The Language
Bengali is the sweetest language in the world. No, it’s not just me who says that. This has been rated by UNESCO. No matter how far away from Bengal we are, someone speaking in Bengali brings an instant smile on our faces and we form an invisible bond with that person. Moreover, even if a motorist wanted to slander the taxi driver because of the rash driving he would start with, “Ei je dada shunchen, eta ki holo?” and then the swear words flow in. Start with ‘brother’ even when you want to shout at a person! Yes, that’s the sweetness of the language!
2. Rabindra Sangeet
No matter how much we love Rock and Rap and Reggae and RnB, we Kolkatans simply can’t ignore Rabindra Sangeet. On a rainy Sunday morning, when things are all quiet except for the pitter-patter of the raindrops, a soft Rabindra Sangeet playing in the background gives a unique kind of happiness. We end up spending hours simply looking outside the window enjoying the rain along with the music.
3. Princep Ghat
Even though we like to spend our time in South City in the cool comforts of the AC nowadays, a once in a while walk along the River Ganges in Princep Ghat is absolutely priceless. Sometimes a boat ride underneath the Vidyasagar Setu can give as much peace of mind as only meditation can.
4. Park Street
Park Street holds a special place in every Kolkatan’s heart. It’s not about the posh streets or the swanky shops that draws us to it. That is there everywhere. It is an unmatched feeling, a nostalgia that never fails to bring about happiness and joy in us. There are umpteen restaurants and pubs scattered across in Kolkata, some costly and some cheap but the memories attached with an Olypub or a Peter Cat is truly one of its kind. Every Kolkatan has his/her favourite spots and favourite moments of good old Park Street.
5. Victoria Memorial
This majestic building of Kolkata, is the first thing that comes to every Kolkatan’s mind when we are asked about a place to visit in Kolkata. The beautifully crafted white structure, surrounded by greenery all across is the perfect place for lovers, joggers and everyone who wants to get a feel of Kolkata.
6. A taxi ride across Howrah bridge to catch the early morning train
This might sound a bit strange to all those who haven’t experienced this feeling. But if you are a Kolkatan, you would know what this is about. The near empty Howrah Bridge with the Sun rising in the distant horizon and dimly lighting up the Hooghly River is a sight to reckon. As the Howrah station standing regally across the river, slowly approaches us, our hearts get filled with a sense of sorrow for having to leave the place we call home, even if it is for a few days.
7. Rosogolla and Mishti Doi
We are never tired of having rosogolla and mishti doi. The soft syrupy rosogolla and thick sweet curd scores over any kinds of pastries and ice creams that you can offer to a Kolkatan. No celebration feels complete without these two sweets
8. Book Fair
We Kolkatans are a cultural group of people. Books score above most other things for us. The Kolkata Book fair is the world’s largest non-trade book fair and the most attended one in the World. For a Kolkatan, a year is not complete unless he/she goes strolling to the book fair during the winters, for the most unusual books in the world. And not to mention, the bite of the fish fry from the Benfish counter after hours of book hunting is probably something that flows down through generations.
9. Rickshaws and Trams
Even though we may regard it as inhuman and not the best of jobs, we simply cannot seem to agree with rickshaws being completely eradicated. It’s the only place in the world where you would find hand pulled rickshaws and it is a lot of nostalgia for us. So is the tram. We may not ride it much but the ring of the bells of the tram when it approaches brings Kolkata alive for us.
10. Kolkata Biryani
Well, there are quite a lot of varieties of Biryanis available in India. There is the Hyderabad-i, the Lucknow-i, the Delhi Biryani and quite a few of others but the Kolkata Biryani with its boiled egg and potato stands out for us. A plate of Biryani from Arsalan, Shiraj or Rahmania tastes heavenly every single time we dig into it.
11. College Street and Coffee House
I am sure by now, many of you were wondering, “Why isn’t College Street mentioned yet?” It is indeed a very nostalgic place for all Kolkatans. The confluence of major schools and colleges, it is where Kolkatans still head to buy books. If we needed that ridiculously expensive book by a foreign author, we would have definitely gone to College Street for a second hand version of the book or maybe an Indian print of it. And after the end of a hectic book buying session, coffee and cutlet at Coffee House was always a norm. It is where ‘Adda’ with friends had a different meaning altogether.
12. Roadside Tea Stalls
Nowhere in India will you find so many tea stalls across every nook and corner. We are big tea drinkers. Sipping tea from a ‘matir bhaar’ (earthen pot) along with a biscuit or a smoke while chatting up with friends or colleagues is one of those little pleasures we love to indulge in. No amount of branded cappuccino or espresso can replace that.
Yes we are Kolkatans. We find joy in little things. We are very emotional and all these small emotions and nostalgia have a lot of meaning for us. We love Kolkata immensely, no matter which part of the world we are in.