If anyone asks me which is your best trip till date, I would without even shuffling trips in my mind, shoot – Kolkata trip during Durga Puja 2014. It was a 4 day non-stop Pandal Hopping extravaganza! All streets lighted-up, food stalls everywhere and the craziness amongst people who start hoping at 10 in the night and continue till morning, that’s the true zeal of the festival.
If there is madness in India, it is here it is here it is here – a Kolkata fan
Keeping aside all the praise aside for a while, let’s find out what exactly happened during the journey, that the writer of the post is going crazy to tell the readers about it.
Who is this Rajiv Handa?
Ever been to Kolkata? Don’t tell me you weren’t mesmerized by the yellow ambassador taxis outside Kolkata airport. It looks like we’ve have gone back in time and will get a chance to ride in these iconic machines in such a fast paced and modern world. My punjabi cab guy in the city of Bongs was not only funny but a life-saver too. On the way to my friend’s place from airport, he told me a lot about Kolkata’s culture, his cab stories, his network with some big political player Rajiv Handa and much more! As it happened, I was so excited to start my journey that I forget my bags in the cab. We called the cab services and was feeling so stupid that this day will go in vain and all this because of me. Suddenly after 20 minutes of panicking, the cab guy came where he left me and told me, “Even if I had gone to Bangladesh, I would come back from there and return your bag”, also added, “This is the promise of Rajiv Handa’s man!”. Thank you so much for making this the clumsiest memory ever and returning my bag safely.
Pandal checklist by Kuttoba
My partner-in-crime, Kuttoba a.k.a Soham made an exhaustive list of Pandals and got a printout of the maps of all zones of Kolkata, divided Pandal wise.Now this is what we call the serious insane Pandal hopping plan. The plan was so clever, that he made me travel till 4am on Day 1 of the trip. It just felt like an achievement when we visited a Pandal and checked it out from our list. Check out our hopping plans here.
We’re the critics
It’s a normal human tendency to judge and compare stuff in the world, following the same norm, we found a new interest of rating all the pandals. It was not only on the scale of 1-10 but other factors such as theme, crowd, presentation, parking and food also had an independent score, which would give us the final ranking of the pandal. Hence, the critics in the making, here are the scores that we gave to the Pandals.
Eureka! A new Pandal
Kolkata is full of Pandals during Durga Puja, so there’s a high chance of finding a new Pandal when you’re at popular pandals. Make sure, you cover all the small and big pandals, as each is unique and great in its own way.
We ate. We hopped
There was nothing like breakfast, lunch or dinner for few days, wherever you get a cup of chai, puchkas, fish fry (Do try this at every possible pandal), etc. Just eat and travel whole day long. We used to stop by KC Das and try new sweets, as they have quite many branches over the entire city, very easy to find.
The Bengali Naara
There was a saying invented by Kuttoba in Bengali “Baurofe haatchho naaki, taraataari cholo na”, this means “Are you walking on ice, walk fast!”, it didn’t annoy the people there but gave them energy to walk fast in the long queues.
Some very frustrated random uncle scolded us for pushing him while he was busy eating his ice cream while crossing the road connecting the College square and Md. Ali Park. We just heard him and later just laughed at his stupidity.
The photogenic crime
You know how these young DSLR holders behave when they see a huge crowd – Insane and getting pictures from all possible angles. At Belur Math, we were behaving exactly like so called ‘monkeys with a camera’.Hence a policeman took our Camera and told us to come to the police station with him and do blah blah blah. We were shocked for a while, but then I told Kuttoba, not to worry, just open your innocent Bengali child mode and beg him to return the camera, meanwhile I will say “Sorry Dada, Sorry Dada” until we win the case. Our plea was accepted and we literally ran away from Belur Math, then had Puri-Ghoogni at a local stall, what a escape it was.
The Cool city life
If you have a day left in your trip, do visit Park street area for it’s awesome restaurants. Must try – Breakfast at Flury’s, little expensive but an impressive place. Visit Victoria Memorial for its magnificent architecture and horse ride around and off course, Howrah Bridge, the pride of Kolkata.
It does takes a lot of effort to pull the Rickshaws in the city of trams and a lot of crowd, kudos to the guys who do so. Just tried pulling a rickshaw for 50 metres, it really requires a lot of strength and coordination. Dada was giggling at us throughout the episode, next time we will take someone for a ride, hopefully.
After all the craziness, it was the time to bid adieu Durga Maa. Everyone from the Pandal committees or the ones who had Mata at their places (only they are allowed till the end of ghat banks, rest of the people have to stop at a distance before), come to the ghat for the Visarjan. You can find the city filled with people loaded into trucks with the Goddess idol and playing with Sundar right before Visarjan. We stood at the barricades and recorded the entire action in our cameras – that last time enthusiasm and sadness on devotees’ face was precious.
In contrast to the previous year, I could only visit Sushant Lok Durga Puja Committee’s Pujo here in Gurgaon last year, which was a super fun. Here is the link. I would be visiting Delhi’s Durga Puja this year. Lets see what we have in our stock. Till then make plans with your friends and family, pick an area, do Pandal Hopping, rank each one of them, eat at the local stalls and finally, cherish all the moments!