Friday, August 26, 2011

Why Walk When You Can Fly?

I received this interesting story from a friend today. Thought I must share this on my blog. Here goes:
Once there was a king who received a gift of two magnificent falcons from Arabia. They were peregrine falcons, the most beautiful birds he had ever seen. He gave the precious birds to his head falconer to be trained.
Months passed and one day the head falconer informed the king that though one of the falcons was flying majestically, soaring high in the sky, the other bird had not moved from its branch since the day it had arrived.
The king summoned healers and sorcerers from all the land to tend to the falcon, but no one could make the bird fly. He presented the task to the member of his court, but the next day, the king saw through the palace window that the bird had still not moved from its perch. Having tried everything else, the king thought to himself, "May be I need someone more familiar with the countryside to understand the nature of this problem." So he cried out to his court, "Go and get a farmer."
In the morning, the king was thrilled to see the falcon soaring high above the palace gardens. He said to his court, "Bring me the doer of this miracle."
The court quickly located the farmer, who came and stood before the king.
The king asked him, "How did you make the falcon fly?"
With his head bowed, the farmer said to the king, "It was very easy, your highness. I simply cut the branch where the bird was sitting.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Ya Juley Ladakh!

As I am writing this, I am feeling extremely depressed! After an awesome week in Ladakh, we are returning back to our base. Right now we are sitting in Delhi's swank new Terminal 3, waiting for our flight back to Bombay.
"Was it just last Sunday that we took that GoAir flight to Leh? Feels like just a moment back, that we took off for Leh!"
Those were the thoughts ringing in my head interspersed with the rythmic, soothing chants of "Om Mani Padme Hum - ༀམཎིཔདྨེཧཱུྃ།" and the Avalokiteshvara Mantra.
If anything defines the week that has just gone by, it has been undoubtedly a catharsis, of the mind and of the soul. The peace that I felt in the icy wilderness was unknown till now. The beauty I saw in the stark mountains, the snowy peaks, the azure blue skies, the white clouds, the gushing streams, the pristine meadows, the crystal clear waters of Pangong Tso was all too intoxicating for the soul.
We got to know a lot about Ladakh from Rinchen, Tenzin and Palges. It was a revelation that genuine hardwork and patriotism is not only alive but also very much in vogue. To see the Ladakhis actually toiling to grow enough food in the summer months to last them for the rest of the year makes our cribs, citydwellers' rants on infrastructure, traffic and everything else seem very, very, childlike and trivial. Despite all that they go through, the Ladakhis brave the odds each day with a zest that I have never seen in the city.
Little did I know that this icy wilderness had a lot of history behind. The region is so rich, rich with history of migrations, of trade and of roving monks. This region region stood at the crossroads of the booming east-west trade in the middle-ages, which gave the region its wealth. The cultural intercourse brought the Ladakhis and the Tibetans closer to the ancient Indian philosophy and language. The religious chants liberally use Sanskrit, the script is very similar to Devanagari. Little did I know that the Ladakhis, who are followers of the Tibetan variant of Buddhism, also religiously follow principles (Om Mani Padme Hum - ༀམཎིཔདྨེཧཱུྃ།) similar to those enunciated in the Gayatri Mantra ( भूर्भुवस्वः) that we, Hindus, follow. It was a revelation that Guru Nanak had visited these parts and the locals revere as Nanak Lama! There is a gurudwara dedicated to him, Gurudwara Pathhar Sahib, on the outskirts of Leh, which is frequented by the local Buddhists! "How little do we know about our great country?", I wonder!
To see our brave soldiers, from all corners of our great nation patiently guarding our icy frontiers, miles away from the comfort and safety of their home is both touching and humbling. That means a lot more to me than flying the Tricolour on Republic Day or on Independence Day!
What always baffled me till now was how could a Prince give up everything and attempt to gain the 'knowledge'. But Ladakh answered the mystery that i carried with me all along. Indeed there is more to life than the worldly pleasures and that what Lord Buddha and the monks we saw in Ladakh have attempted to achieve. I can only wonder how enriched our lives would be if we tried even a fraction of what Lord Buddha has taught the world and what these monks have done!
After we return back to Bombay, before we know it, the rat race would have begun. Deprived of sound sleep, waking up will become a struggle again. Getting through the traffic will become an ordeal worse than third degree torture. As the stress levels will mount, I am sure I will wonder if all that "torture" is worth it?
We are now awaiting the boarding announcement for our flight back to Bombay. Peering out on the tarmac, I can see an array of aircraft, of various domestic airlines, which will fly passengers to different corners of our country today. Some of these places would be idyllic, exotic locales - the North East, Rajasthan, the Andamans, Khajuraho, and many more. As we, Indians, venture abroad to discover the world, should we lose sight of the gems like Ladakh and the North East, Andamans, Khajuraho etc. that we have at home?
The boarding has now been announced. Shortly, we will walk down the aerobridge to our Boeing 737-800. Watching the 737s and A320s lined up at the boarding gates is always a sight to behold. But such a sight is zilch when compared with what we saw yesterday at Leh airport, after we boarded our Kingfisher A320. Just as we boarded, we saw the formidable Indian Air Force Ilyushin IL76 "Gajraj" land against the backdrop of the mighty Himalayan snow capped peaks and the blue sky. That was a fitting goodbye to the glorious and historic land of Ladakh, a land that I have come to love so much, a gem for all of us to cherish!
Ya Juley Ladakh!

Friday, August 19, 2011

The Paradise That Is Pangong Tso!

In the final leg of our tour of this icy wilderness, we left Leh city for Pangong Tso, yesterday.
The route to Pangong Tso goes through the Changla Pass, which is at an altitude of 17,586 feet. The Changla Pass was as snowy as Khardung La, but as we had acclimatized by then, we were a lot more comfortable at the Pass!
As we descended from Changla Pass, the environs gradually turned from drab to absolute pristine with each passing mile.
As we were approaching the forward area, we passed by a number of military bases, some small, some big. These establishments are some what like mini-cities of sorts, sustaining the local economy. Each garrison has a uniform shop, a grocery supplies shop, a phone booth, tea stalls, and many more providing employment to locals. No wonder, the armed forces form a significant contributor to the Ladakhi economy, besides tourism.
These army establishments are showing the way to environmental consciousness by using solar and wind energy for use during the day. The garrisons have installed quite a few solar panels and windmills.
We passed by the Tangtse Garrison, which had a practice range named after Major Shaitan Singh, a Param Vir Chakra awardee and martyr of the 1962 war with China. Major Singh had single-handedly and successful defended the Chushul sector, at over 14,000 feet against the invading Chinese. His exploits were proudly mentioned at Leh's Hall of Fame, lest we forget!
We also passed by Durbuk Garrison, which had a firing range named after General Zorawar Singh, a pioneering military campaigner who brought large parts of Ladakh under the Kingdom of Kashmir in the 1800s!
At Durbuk Garrison, we came across an Indian Air Force helicopter, a Mil Mi8, which was being loaded with supplies, presumably for some forward posts.

After crossing Tangste, we entered Changtang bioreserve. Changtang has a few pristine and verdent pastures with gushing streams running through. We came across herds of sheep, mountain goat, bovines and yak grazing around.
At one particularly picturesque pasture we stopped at, there was a teenage girl tending to her grazing sheep and goats. On seeing us watch the grazing animals with curiosity, she brought a goat calf for us to hold in our arms. I am told that it had velvety, soft and smooth hair. After a while, the little thing got a bit restless and when Neeti was holding her gingerly, the restless creature jumped from her arms and made a dash to the rest of the flock. It all happened in a split second, and the incident left us a wee bit shocked. The cute Ladakhi girl went all giggles and reassured us that nothing was amiss!

Another interesting sight was that of a marmot, a large ground squirrel coming out of its burrow, when it got the aroma of Parle G biscuit!
Relieved we proceed to our car, where Palges was anxiously waiting for us. I suppose he was a bit hungry or he wanted a pee-break. We were pleasantly surprised to experience that Ladakhis have a very keen civic sense. Leh city was spic and span, there was no garbage littered around. We never saw anyone peeing outdoors. Shops in the city also do not give plastic bags to shoppers to prevent contamination.
After sometime, beyond Lukung, we encountered a painfully bad patch of road, the worst (or rather the first bad road) we had encountered in our travails across Ladakh. (Roads in Ladakh are maintained extremely well by the Border Roads Organisation, which ensures that the frontiers are accessible all throughout the year to the armed forces!)
As we gained altitude, the mountains revealed how they have been weathered by the elements, the wind and rain. Some of the mountain-sides showed some very interesting patterns.
The anticipation of reaching Pangong Tso was a kind of analgesic, relieving us from the pain. Then it appeared - a signboard said "The first view of Pangong Lake". Truly that was a sight to behold - a shimmering pristine body of blue water a few kilometers away.

Pangong Tso is a 150 kilometer long salt-water - nearly 120 kilometers of the lake lies beyond the Line of Actual Control and is illegally occupied by China, ever since the 1962 war. The Indian Army maintains a constant vigil over the lake. In fact, Pangong Tso was opened to tourism only a few years back. Till then this was an area out of bounds for civilians.
The lake is surrounded by snow-clad mountains on all sides. Given the usually clear weather in these parts, the lake can be seen in magical colours depending on the time of the day.
After a short drive, we reached the shores of the highlight of the trip - Pangong Tso. Honestly I had never seen anything prettier than the lake before.
Despite the brightness of the sun, the air was rather cold. But we dared the elements and spent the rest of the afternoon by shores of the lake, peering into the crystal clear waters and the lofty mountains and imagining we were in Heaven, a rare feeling of true bliss, a feeling of oneness with the Almighty.
By evening, the clouds reappeared and we missed the riot of colour the riot of colour that Pangong Tso has to offer.

Before settling into our tent for the night, we walked along the campsite gazing at the stars. This was the first occasion in nearly 25 years that I could distinctly see the Milky Way!
Temperatures at night were sub-zero, but our tent was pretty cozy, though without heating arrangements.
Today morning it was time to head back to Leh city. Before leaving Pangong Tso, we stopped by at that long sandy strip where the closing scene of the Bollywood blockbuster, 3 Idiots, was shot. The panoramic views from this strip were postcard perfect! Looking into our territory illegally occupied by the Chinese, I could only speculate how beautiful the other side would be! And when would we reclaim that territory from the Chinese?
Leaving this paradise was heavy on our hearts, but leave we had to!
On the way back, we took the same route - Lukung, Chantang, Tangste, Durbuk, Changla, Tsoltak, Karu and Thiksey. At Changla, we had our snack - Maggi and bread-omelette, the latter was the best I ever had!
The journey to Leh was otherwise pretty uneventful, perhaps because this was the last day of our vacation and we were dreading the mindless grind that lies ahead in Bombay! But we were kept entertained by witty (or rather saucy) one-liners that the Border Roads Organisation had put up on the highway to caution the drivers to take care. One said "Lower your gear, the curve is near" while another was more overt "Be soft on my curves!" But I wonder if Palges or other drivers really get the embedded wit.
It was nearly 3PM when we reached Leh. Just as I would normally do, I insisted on visiting the famous Pumpernickel German Bakery in the main market of Leh city. The eatery finds a mention in most guidebooks and travel shows. We ordered lasagnas and pastas alongwith tea. The food hardly tasted Italian and was rather cold. I had to get my tomato and olive lasagna reheated. Then when the bill came, to my horror, I found we had been overcharged for the tea. In short, we regretted visiting the Pumpernickel German Bakery, any other place would have been better, by most standards.
After a round of the Tibetan markets, where we picked up a few curios, we retired to the hotel for our last night at Leh.
And the thought lingering on in my mind was that it would be back to the hopeless and mindless grind of the metropolis.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

From the Cradle of the Silk Route

After reaching the Nubra Valley last evening, we went to check out the sulphur springs at Panamik. The road to Panamik snaked along the Shyok River and through quaint villages and fields.

These villages are like oases in this cold desert. I imagine they must have provided a lot of succor to caravans, criss-crossing the continent, in the days of the Silk Route!
The weather played truant and the sun was about to set, so we skipped Panamik Lake and headed back to our pit stop for the night, a tented camp at Sumur, amidst fields of vegetables, marigolds and sunflowers.
This morning we headed to Hundar, home to the Bactrian camels, a legacy of the Silk Route, when caravans used these beasts to transport silk, spices, gunpowder and other wares. Little seems to have changed in these parts, except for a few army convoys or tourist taxis passing.
The Nubra Valley is of strategic importance to the Indian armed forces. Nubra is the gateway to the Siachen Glacier, the world's highest warfield. Because of this one needs special permits to visit the Valley.
We came across an Indian Army convoy which had stopped in a meadow. The soldiers, numbering about 50 or so, some were resting but most were on their mobile phones. Presumably they were headed to Siachen and this was probably a good place to catch up with families while the signals were still strong. This is true sacrifice, the Indian Army soldiers leave their homes, their loved ones, everything behind just to guard us on these icy frontiers. I doff my hat to these brave men in uniform.
The next stop was at Diksit Gompa monastery, an ancient seat of Tibetan Buddhism since ancient times. Located in a sea of Stupas, the Gompa itself is quite nondescript. Stupas are small shrines containing relics and are believed to have protective powers - shield travelers from accidents, prevent rivers from flooding.
After steep breathless climb, we reached the monastery. It was a peaceful 10 minutes there, turning the prayer wheels and bowing before the Lord Buddha! We got ourselves photographed with monks - little boys and toothless aging monks!

The view from the Gompa was stunning with the 5-storey high Maitreya Buddha, overlooking the Nubra Valley, blessing the valley with fertility and prosperity.
As we started back for Leh from this cradle of the Silk Route, I could only wonder how many secrets from the past that this Valley holds!

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

ༀམཎིཔདྨེཧཱུྃ། - Om Mani Padme Hum!

After successfully acclimatising in Leh, for nearly 2 days, it was time to head to Khardung La Pass and beyond to Nubra Valley.
Leh city itself is at 11,000 ft, but Khardung La is at 18,000 ft, with even more rarefied air than Leh, with lower oxygen levels. Risk averse as we are, we decided to pick up one canister of oxygen, for nearly Rs. 350, just in case!
And then we left Leh with a prayer on our lips that we be fortunate enough to be able to get there, as Leh had been facing inclement weather for the last few days. We had heard that it had snowed quite a bit at Khardung La and the Pass had been closed for some time.
But the good Lord Buddha answered our prayers. Leh got its first sunshine in days today. The sun seemed to be coming out just for us! So we proceeded towards Khardung La!
The road from Leh to Khardung La winds along the lofty Himalayan range which offers some breathtaking sights of snow covered peaks, green valleys, everchanging cloud cover and the bluest of skies I had ever seen!
Beyond the Khardung La Pass lies the Karakorum range of mountains that stretches from Tibet to Afghanistan.
Fortunately for us, the journey was not as dreadful as many spoke about. The lack of oxygen did not hit us hard.
In a few hours after a bone wracking ride, we touched the snow covered slopes. The air turned cold, we had to close the windows of the car.
And then we reached Khardung La at about noon! The sides of the road were covered with snow. We stopped for a while and we spent some time taking photographs. Our pit stop was the canteen, where we had steaming Maggi noodles and black Ladakhi tea, its said to be the tradition have Maggi at 18,380 feet!

The soothing Ladakhi prayer chant "Om Mani Padme Hum", true music for the soul, gave me a feeling of being closer to the Heavens and the Almighty! This song is mesmerising, even though long, the chant goes on like a soothing stream! One just has to close his eyes and let go.
Where else in the world could one drive upto 18,380 ft, have a Maggi in an Army canteen and feel close to God, amidst chants of "Om Mani Padme Hum"!

Monday, August 15, 2011

Juley Ladakh!

It's time to say Juley Ladakh! Hello Ladakh!
After passing whole day yesterday acclimatising, we dared venturing out today.
We started in the morning and headed straight to the Hemis Gompa monastery, which is about 40 kilometers from Leh city. The monastery was built in the 1600s by the Ladakhi king, Sengge Namgyal.
Our guide, Tenzing, kept us well entertained all through the way with a lovely collection of songs from Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara and other Bollywood movies. Our driver, Palges, ensured that we had a safe drive!
Tenzing told us that he was named by the Dalai Lama himself. Now the Dalai Lama's real name is Tenzin Gyatso, and our Tenzing claimed that Dalai Lama often names babies after himself!
The route to Hemis Gompa snaked along the Indus, which barely looks like a river. That's the river that gave our nation its name. This is the river along which we once had a mighty civilization, the Indus Valley Civilization, some 3000 years back!
The road, maintained by the armed forces, passed by a number of military establishments, Karu Garrison and many others. These brave men who guard the frontiers of our nation do deserve honors for putting up with adverse conditions to ensure we stay safe.
Tenzing mentioned that the Ladakhi economy is sustained by tourism and the armed forces.While tourism is a seasonal phenomenon, much like agriculture there, the armed forces sustain the local economy in winter.
The Hemis Gompa monastery, the oldest in the region, was quite impressive. Built nearly 600 years back, the monastery is home to the Drukpa sect of Mahayana Buddhism. Nestled between mountains, carved up by the elements, the monastery is surrounded by quaint little stupas.

We started back for the Thiksey monastery and stopped by for lunch at a place called Chamba Kitchen. As always I opted for local fare. This was an earthy warm vegetable broth called Chutagi Thukpa. Chutagis are steamed dough, shaped like wontons. The Chutagi Thukpa was instantly and immensely comforting and pleasurable!
The next stop was the Stok Palace of the Namgyal dynasty of Ladakh, which had ruled this cold desert for over 500 years.
Stok Palace lies across the Indus. The approach to the Palace passes through patches of green. A unique thing in Ladakh is that the mountains and hills are starkly barren, the valleys are green and fertile! They grow wheat, barley, sunflowers, vegetables and fodder for cattle. The Ladakhis raise cattle, asses and sheep. They need to toil for six months to grow enough food and fodder to get them through the winter.
The Stok Palace contained relics of the Namgyal dynasty. The Palace had a small shrine dedicated to the Drukpa sect and the Dalai Lama. And much to our amusement, our guide, Tenzing, took time to catch up with the caretakers of Stok, pretty Ladakhi girls, attired regally in purple.
It was nice to know from Tenzing that the Ladakhis migrated from Mongolia long, long back. Proximity to Tibet, when the Silk Route was booming centuries ago, aligned the Ladakhis culturally with Tibetans. The result is that the Ladakhis today use the Tibetan script, use Ladakhi, a dialect of Tibetan, as their language and revere the Dalai Lama as much as the Tibetans do.
The next stop was the Hall of Fame. At the edge of the Leh air force station's runway, lies this little tribute to the nameless soldier of the Indian armed forces who stood guard and killed and died for the Indian nation. It was interesting to read about Zorawar Singh's expeditions into Baltistan and Tibet in the 1800s.
But it was surreal and poignant to read about the accounts of the martyrs of various wars in this region, especially the letter of Captain Vijayant Thapar to his family moments before he died.
The captured Pakistani arms on display spoke a story of our valour. The section on the Siachen battlefield, the highest warzone in the world at 20,000 feet, showed the struggle our men in uniform face day in and day out.
But the best part was standing besides the unfurled Tricolour in the drizzle, watching the clouds move past the mountains, saluting our flag on our Independence Day. Undoubtedly this was the best Independence Day I ever had, that too on the roof of India!
Juley Ladakh!

Sunday, August 14, 2011

A New Day Dawns!

After months of meticulous planning, the D-Day finally arrived!
We woke up early for our early morning departure to Leh, Ladakh. We boarded the Jet Airways Boeing 737, at Delhi's swanky new terminal T3, as scheduled at about 6.30AM and were airborne in no time.
We flew in the northerly direction, overflying my hometown, Yamuna Nagar, Simla, Rohtang Pass and Zanskar Valley. There were dense white clouds below us, but weather was expected to clear up in Leh, as it is expected to be at this time of the year.
Very soon the Route Display on the IFE showed we were over Leh. The expectation in our minds, and hearts, had built up a great deal. The Captain, Vishal Sharma, made an announcement that things in Leh had taken a turn for the worse, weather-wise. Since a visual approach for Leh airport is required, landing in adverse weather would not be advisable. Leh being a high altitude airport, pilots prefer to go visual in their approach. The Captain chose to turn back to Delhi and wait for a while, till weather in Leh cleared up.
We were crestfallen, what happens to the break that we had been planning for long now?
We landed in Delhi, and after a while in the aircraft it was announced that the flight stood cancelled. We had by then booked an alternate flight, with GoAir, thanks to the mobile enabled site of
We got off and then there was a struggle with arrogant staff, to get the fare refund, on Jet Airways. That struggle lasted about 2 hours(!) and they call themselves the best airline in India(?). What's odd is that Kingfisher landed in Leh after the ETA of Jet Airways. Couldn't Captain Vishal Sharma divert the flight to Srinagar or Jammu instead of Delhi? That would have bought us some time.
So headed back home, feeling pooped, kind of jet lagged.
The next morning we had to wake up pretty early at 2AM to reach the airport at 3AM - the check-in time had been increased to 2 hours as there was enhanced security because of the Independence Day celebrations coming up.
At the airport, we met quite a few passengers from yesterday's Jet Airways who chose not to take up their offer for a special flight at 930AM today. There was an absolute trust deficit amongst passengers because of the way Jet had behaved yesterday.
GoAir's flight was pretty uneventful to begin with. Their head steward had an irritating accent, while the stewardess looked like well painted mannequin!
But the redemption for all the stress of yesterday came faster than I expected. A new day was dawning! The rising sun in the east was a sight to behold (we had chosen seats specifically for this view). In some time the mighty snow capped Himalayas became visible with the thinning cloud cover. An amazing sight, the mighty peaks left us nothing but mesmerized. Words cannot describe that feeling, such surely that was the sweetest redemption, that came with the dawning of the new day!

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Heaven On Earth!

If I talk of food, there is always one city in this country that I absolutely adore. That city is Calcutta - I prefer this way of calling the city to the politically inspired Kolkata.
Whatever way one reaches the city of Calcutta (or Kolkata, as it is called now), by air or by train, the two things that hit you are the stench and the sweaty humidity that is ever present. And after one makes through a cacophony of "Ami", "Cholbe?", "Hobe Na!", "Tumi" to taxi stand, the grime and filth of the rickety yellow taxis of the city hits next, real hard. "God! Where have I reached?"
But if you are sure that life always has good things in store for you after the bad, then Calcutta does not disappoint at all, especially with all its gastronomical delights.
I had the good fortune of visiting Calcutta on four occasions, of which two were for weddings. Truly there isn't a better way of exploring the authentic delights that a region has to offer than to visit a wedding. The weddings I attended in Calcutta were for extended periods of time, covering pre and post marriage celebrations and that was a real, real treat.
It was a real revelation that no matter how innocuous or bland the Bengali treats look, they can be real fiery! As a perfect carnivore, I fell for the various fish starters on offer - the fried hilsa, and rohu swept me off my feet, like no Bengali belle ever could. The mild-sweetness of the fish was complemented by the intense sharpness of mustard! The dishes that followed were matched to perfection - machher jhol, shukto, aloo-poshtos along with other bhajas, etc. To end it all, rossogollas and sondesh, and yes you cannot help it, a few loud belches too!
But Bengali delights are not the only treats Calcutta has on offer for the foodie. In the yesteryears the city of Calcutta was a true melting pot. The British had made the city their capital, the administrative capital of India. The city beckoned wealth with its trade in jute, muslin, cotton and other commodities. And with this wealth, the city assumed the status of a coveted port city, which brought the city a good deal of migrants. The Armenians, made the city their home. The Baghdadi Jews came in, after persecution back home. Impoverished Chinese in came after battling famine at home. Parsis and Marwaris came to the city when the Opium Trade flourished in the 1800s. With these new cultures came in diverse cuisines, remnants of which can still be found in the once glamorous city of Calcutta.
As you walk past the heritage structures of Park Street, one can only wonder, in sadness how rapidly the grandeur can evaporate. But places like Flury's and Moulin Rouge still stand firm as vestiges of the bygone era. These were popularised in the Bollywood movie, Parineeta!
Flury's still carries with the amazing charm of English delights and a wondrous variety of teas. My first meal at the Flury's was a tuna sandwich with a cup of golden nectar, Darjeeling tea. Now that is an absolute heaven on earth on a cool, relaxed Calcuttan winter morning. Flury's charm floored me completely, or rather absolutely. On same trip, we took out an hour to have dinner at Flury's. I ordered a grilled breast of chicken with salads and mashed potatoes. The subtle salads went well with the smokiness of the chicken, but the live jazz performance was amazingly out of this world. But the next morning, rather early, was the flight back to Bombay.
I had to promise myself that I be back at Flury's for more, more food and more music to feed my soul. And I hope Flury's lives on, at least till the time I get back to Calcutta again.
The Chinese who came to Calcutta, made the city their home and gave India its first and only Chinatown at Tangra. They blended their flavours with the Indian ones to concoct a wondrous of Indian version of Chinese. I recall pigging out at a fancy Chinese place (I cannot recollect the name now) on Park Street - that was an amazing meal with a steaming, subtly flavoured fried rice, having just about a hint of flavour with peppery chicken gravy.
But then there is more to explore in the city. I first read about this place in the early 2000s, in an online article on the Jewish heritage of India. Nahoum's, a bakery located inside the crumbling heritage structure (with the clock tower), on Lindsay Street, New Market, was founded by an immigrant Baghdadi Jews, Nahoum Israel Mordecai, in 1902. The bakery offered an array of Middle Eastern pastries, like the Backlava and unleavened breads that the Jews have on Sabbath. But those days, the city was far more cosmopolitan than we can imagine today. Nahoum's diversified its menu to include English pastries and savouries as well. But things change, eras end. Change came to Nahoum's too - I am told that the bakery has been sold to a Bengali sometime back. My visit to Nahoum's was a pilgrimage of sorts to the Mecca of desserts and I had to, I just had to buy Backlava.
Our trip to Calcutta was not complete without a visit to the KC Das outlet at the Esplanade. The chain was founded by Krishna Chandra Das, in the 1930s. Krishna Chandra Das's father, Nobin Chandra Das got into the business in 1866 and is said to have concocted rossogollas and sondesh, that are much enjoyed till this date. That is certainly not surprising considering the Bengalis' addiction for all things sweet, pun intended!
On the streetfood front, while the Bengali versions of chaats, particularly their versions of gol-gappas, which are called puchkas are nothing much to talk about. But the kathi rolls are simply out of the world. Made with parathas, coated with egg and wrapped around juicy chunks of chicken, fish or vegetable kebabs, and sprinkled liberally with chopped onions, green chillies, spices and mint-coriander chutneys, this spicy concoction, is essentially a quick bite on the go, an essential comfort food infinitely delighting the tastebuds. Living in Bombay, I am fortunate to enjoy this spicy treat at the Hangla's Lokhandwala every few weeks, and that takes me back instantly to the treats that Calcutta has on offer.
For Bengalis and Calcuttans in particular, food is not sustenance, it is a pleasure, to be enjoyed, to be savoured, every moment of one's life. Truly, in a sense, when it comes to food, Calcutta is the Paris of India.
In all, Calcutta is certainly the place I would never like to live in, if I could, and did have a choice, I would have every meal of my life, from now on, in Calcutta! For the epicure, Calcutta is indeed, Heaven on Earth!
Aviation Photo Search Engine
Biggest aviation photo database on the 'Net
Aircraft Type...[ Help ]
Airline...[ Help ]
Country / Airport...[ Help ]
Category...[ Help ]
Uploaded... [ Help ]
Keywords... [ Help ]
Range...[ Help ]
Sort By...

Include only photos for sale

Stop searching after hits [ Help ]