Well well well! I never thought I will write about my experiences during my first visit to Kolkata. I consider myself reasonably well traveled but I had never been to Kolkata. Last week I spent a couple of days in the city.
The Ubiquitous Queue
I landed in Kolkata close to midnight. I was staying at ITC Sonar and as soon as I collected my bag from the carousal I Iooked around for a prepaid taxi booth. Stepping out on the streets at close to midnight in a strange city and than trying to hail a cab was not something I fancied. Soon enough I spied a counter, which said Pre Paid Taxi and immediately my heart sank. There must have been over 60 people standing patiently in a queue that wound its way almost across the terminal. There was no chaos that you would expect in Delhi. I mustered as much courage as I could and joined the queue at the fag end. After about 15 minutes I realised that I was in the middle of the queue only because more people had joined in behind me. Realising the futility of this I plucked up some courage, left the queue and stepped out of the terminal. I crossed the street right outside the airport and was soon approached by a cabbie, who readily agreed to take me to the hotel. And he also kindly directed me to a pre-paid counter, right across the airport terminal. And guess what, this counter was completely deserted. I readily paid my fare and was off to the hotel wondering about the oft heard and now seen Bengali enterprise.
Dinner at Arslan
My former colleague (at both Max and Artemis) Pallavi now lives in Kolkata. Her husband Sushant works for the retail chain ‘More’. I called Pallavi and invited her over for dinner. When Pallavi and Sushant arrived in the evening, they had other plans. The three of us are suckers for good Mughlai food. They took me out to a great food place called Arslan in Park Circus. We ordered ‘Arslan Special Kebabs’, Reshmi Kebabs, some mutton stew and the Biryani. The food was amazing particularly the succulent ‘Special Kebabs’. The restaurant is quite popular and was buzzing with people enjoying a nice dinner. We finished off with the trademark ‘Mishti Dahi’. Sushant has promised that he will take me to other similar joints when I visit Kolkata next. I intend to hold him to his promise.
Folks working in Kolkata informed me that one of the greatest perks of living and working in the city are the 10 odd extra days of ‘chutti’ in a year. Thanks to the bandhs and the political agitations that are a part of life in Kolkata. No wonder, there are not too many large private enterprises in the city (or for that matter in the state of W Bengal) and those who have dared to invest in Kolkata are leaving in a hurry. The matters in Singur 50 miles from Kolkata are top of the mind and everyone is lamenting the fate of the Tata’s plant for the Nano. It is also Bandh, maybe permanently so. Shameful indeed.
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