Tuesday, March 20, 2012

3 Days in Calcutta

In one of my earlier food posts, I had talked about iconic restaurants and caused the controversies that inevitably emerge when Bengalis discuss food! Recently, the post attracted a long, well-written comment seeking recommendation. 
Was going through your old blogs about Calcutta. Even though I am from a 'Hai Raam-you said ANDA' variety of UP brahmin family, have always been a wannabe bong. And now have turned my thoroughbred beef eating mallu husband into one hell of a bong convert. So much so that we are sneaking away to Calcutta for 3 days which has left our families befuddled and enlightening us about Air Asia and cheap foreign travel ;). I have always been a fan of yours and would love to have a chance to explore the place through your eyes. The must dos and eats and drinks! I have been there once and did the Victoria memorial, Flurry's routine but would love to spend these 3 days as a true blue bong would. Would you mind helping me out if it is not too inconvenient for you? I promise to return the favor by divulging all the secrets held close to my heart about Lucknow and Bangalore! Pretty please?

I immediately replied on how outsiders can spend 3 days in Calcutta. But after writing that comment, I realized it probably applied to more people desirous of spending some time there.
So, re-posting my response here…

You want to spend 3 days in Calcutta like a true-blue Bong would? Check into Ffort at Raichak and don’t move unless you have to eat or drink. I am told there’s a new place called Ganga Kutir – which is even more luxurious, pays even more attention to culinary matters and frowns at physical activity and raised voices. But I am sure you don’t want to do that…

Try to eat at Mocambo (Devilled Crabs), Peter Cat (Chelo Kabab), Arsalan and Shiraz (Mutton biriyani), Kewpies (Bengali cuisine) for the meals. Remember – it is important to eat at both Arsalan and Shiraz. Otherwise you would never be able to take sides during the Great Biriyani Debate and remain a perennial outsider to Calcuttans.

Between meals, make do with (double-egg, double-chicken) rolls at Kusum (Park Street), pastries at Kookie Jar (just ahead of La Martiniere school), phuchka near Bibekananda Park (on Southern avenue) and coffee at, well, Coffee House (College Street).

Don’t forget to sneak in a drink or two at Olypub (Park Street) along with cocktail sausages. Browse books at College Street. Watch a movie at Nandan. Catch a play. Visit Presidency College. Take a tram ride around the Maidan.
While on the subject of drinks, it has been ages since I had a drink during the interval of a movie. Do that as well. Unless the world has come to an end, New Empire or Lighthouse should still have the bars.

Chat with the cabbies. Ask the Nandan usher for a review of the movie. Tell the Presi students their college sucks. Walk past 1/1 Bishop Lefroy Road. Get on the Metro and get off at Uttam Kumar. Buy a CD of Rabindrasangeet. Passionately criticize the ‘blue colouring’ of the city. Floor the citizens by asking “amai ektu Bangla shikhiye deben?

Fall in love with the city. And then spend the rest of your life trying to explain to the infidels why.

People are watching Kahaani, liking Kahaani and praising Kahaani. They are singing eulogies of Vidya Balan, Sujoy Ghosh, Parambrata Chattopadhyay and Bob Biswas. Nobody (except Abhishek) is talking about the bewitching presence that deserves all the Best Supporting Actress awards for this year. The film couldn’t have worked without the hynoptic setting of Calcutta. 
You sexy thing. 
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