Victoria Memorial, Fish, and Rasogolla. It is great to be known for all of the above, but depressing for a hyper-cosmopolitan city Kolkata to be caged in a few. So, the next time you plan for a tour to West Bengal, India, explore Kolkata beyond Victoria, Fish, and Rasogolla.
I have been personally outside West Bengal for more than ten years. I was tired to the bone for being born and brought up here. I was tired of the faces, the food, the festivals, everything. Most importantly, my exhaustion was triggered by the ennui for mundanity.
Over the ten years, I travelled almost 70% of India and 20% of the European continent. I have lived places and also learned to live an old home in new ways. That’s where I perceived a challenge that was accepted head-on by my writer self. So, when I finally had to recede to Kolkata, my optimism found a new verve.
Now, not only I see Kolkata in a new way but also show Kolkata in a new way. At the cost of sounding repetitive, I feel that, besides health insurance, access to food, and shelter, the government of every country must sponsor one annual travel for its people. Hmm. I know it is asking too much, but since I asked, you know that the ask exists.
Victoria, Fish, and Rasgulla
What is the Significance of the Victoria Memorial in Kolkata, West Bengal?
Kolkata is quite voyeuristic and does indulge in a public display of affection. You know why? Because the Bengali intellectuals think that love is an act of rebel and we must rebel for dissent. So, places like Victoria Memorial, which is ideally a pre-independence museum of the whites, has earned a reputation courtesy the PDA dwellers.
Why is Fish Popular in Kolkata, West Bengal?
The fish stereotype is a bit too much because, after Kolkata, you have Kerala where people are crazy about fish. These are coastal areas and honestly, earlier due to the abundance of fish supply, the price was affordable by even the poorest of families. For example, at a wedding, if the bride’s family cannot afford meat but not treat the guests with Hilsa, it would be an everlasting embarrassment. You know now.
Are you Kolkata Rasgulla?
No, I am not because I am allergic to sweets, but I feel pra-uud (pronounce: proud) for Kolkata to win the legal custodianship of Rasgulla from Odisha. I can tell you Rasgulla in Kolkata is a sentimental yard-stick with which families would determine the sweetness of a bride and open-heartedness of the groom. It is an essential, welcome tool for matrimonial leads generated from Ananda Bazar Patrika.
Other Kolkata Stereotypes
O, we are not done stereotyped for the Victoria Memorial, Fish, and Rasgulla. The list is pretty long and offensive. It includes the Howrah Bridge, Rabindranath Tagore, Aloo Biriyani, Boudi (sister-in-law), gazelle-eyed women, Jhola bag, Coffee House, and our ruling party under chief minister Mamta Banerjee. Interesting, right? I won’t blame you; over the years, they have become cultural anchors of the state.
What is a Good Kolkata Travel Itinerary?
It depends on your taste. But when you travel to a foreign country, if you travel without prejudice and think less of your privileges, it would be great. On your Kolkata travel itinerary, instead of going by location, you should go by the local life in its various shades and quirks.
College Street and Coffee House
If you are a book lover, you should visit the College Street, Asia’s largest second-hand book market. College Street is the earlobe of Kolkata. Commerce and Literature foreplay at the iconic Coffee House from dawn till dusk and forever.
Kachori, Aloo Dum, and Jalebi
If you would like to try authentic Bengali breakfast, you should be in one of the subskirts. The one I know very well is Bally (not Bali) and then Barasat. There, people are comfortable numb in the inflow and outflow of daylight, routine life, and Kachori, Aloo Dum, and Jalebi.
Kumors Make Gods
If you are curious to find out where all the deities are born, then you must visit Kumartuli by the Kumors. Gods who bless the world with riches are born in poor families, such as the houses of the idol-makers or the Kumors in Kumartuli. If you have a thing for mud and art, don’t forget to get dirty with the consent of one of these brown men who would lovingly host you.
Handloom & Handicrafts
This is a rich experience affordable in a poor budget. Take a train from Kolkata and go to Malda (approx 8 hours by train) or Murshidabad (approx 3 hours by train). Take the local vehicle which is mostly a van rickshaw and explore the countrysides where people are mostly the weaver birds. The weave anything from wearable fabric to jute, cane-baskets, to even a nice wearable smile for your face.
Bengal’s Darling Darjeeling
Well, if you are planning for a Kolkata itinerary and at the same time, long for some mountains like the Swiss Alps or the Appalachian, we have the foothills of the mighty Himalayas ready to welcome you in Darjeeling. It is an absolute thrill. There is a religious stereotype that the Muslims can go as far as the mosque, and for the Bengalis, a fairly progressive Hindu community, it is the Darjeeling.
- Are you upset? Go to Darjeeling
- Do you need an inexpensive honeymoon? Go to Darjeeling
- Do you want to experience some adrenaline rush? Go to Darjeeling
- Do you want to eat momos? Go to Darjeeling
- Do you want to taste authentic yet inexpensive British breakfast? Go to Darjeeling
- Do you want to feel your privilege over the lower-income Nepali families, Go to Darjeeling
- Do you want to Instagram in an exotic location? Go to Darjeeling
Dear traveller, we have Darjeeling to cater to any demand. But I tell you, it is a place where I go to be one with nature. And I know when I am due for a visit because my element is the mountain and that’s the source of my being.
Of course, Darjeeling is also a stereotype but I will not discourage you because it is a place for nature lovers. Kolkata does have a good ecological balance when you consider waterbodies and palm trees, but Darjeeling is a slow dream cooked on low fire.
All that I have suggested, you can do it on your own or hire a guide. And if you are thinking of a guide, it is actually a good idea if the person can match you intellectually with humour and good language. So, give me a holler, message me when you are here. But please do so at least two weeks in advance because I am always on the run for my digital consulting business and writing.