Ever since I watched Barfi, I was fascinated with Kolkata. The narrow lanes, the Howrah Bridge, the amber hues depicting the bygone era, fed the traveler in me with a curiosity to explore this place.
There is something very special about those hand-pulled rickshaws resting on brightly colored walls, those yellow taxis in Kolkata, the heavenly Roshogullas, not to forget the irresistible street food. The city of Kolkata certainly carries the character of a retired poet who looks at the world through Tagore’s verses. So when I decided to go home and spend time with my family for the rest of the COVID year, I thought to take a quick detour to Kolkata and relax my senses after months of being locked up.
My only concern was safety during the travel period. I could not have taken the public transports for exploring the city. So I looked up online for the safest car rental options in lockdown. After reading the reviews, I realised Savaari cabs in Kolkata were very safe for travel during lockdown. They followed strict safety guidelines, sanitized their cabs well and masks were mandatory for drivers as well as passengers. I booked them for my 3 day trip in Kolkata.
Arrival in Kolkata
As soon as I stepped out of Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose Airport, the first thing I felt on my face and my body was its infamous humidity. A long queue of yellow taxis will greet you right outside the airport, but Savaari’s on-time Kolkata airport taxi service helped me with a quick pickup at the arrivals.
My first day in Kolkata looked something like this – Roshogullas, some more Roshogullas and lots of puchkas. It is true, once you eat puchkas you cannot taste paani puri again. My short affair with Kolkata street food did not end here. I gobbled down some freshly made gulab jamun from a local sweet shop, and I keep wondering how gulab jamuns could also taste different here. Also so delicious.
My second day in Kolkata was again, just about food and a few cultural places. No surprises there. I first stopped at the biggest book market in Asia, College Street. You name a book and they have it. From thick engineering to medical, from a gazillion novels to the legendary Presidency College, this place is a paradise for bookworms with classics available anywhere between INR 50 to 100. You can pick up a lot of books here at dirt cheap prices and most of these second-hand books are in great condition.
After a nice, long stroll in College Street, we stopped at Paramount Sherbats and Syrups, since 1918. Fun fact for non-Calcuttans: this place was frequented by revolutionaries like Subhash Chandra Bose, Prafulla Chandra Ray etc etc. I tried their Chocolate Lassi and Cocoa Malai which left the traveler in me jumping with joy. So creamy, so rich and so thick! I would suggest this place to everyone visiting Kolkata for the first time, gives you a great introduction to all the good food coming your way.
For a quick lunch, even though the options are endless, I had made up my mind to visit the famous Park Street. Everyone who has been to or visited Kolkata has spoken so much about this place that I had to see it myself. So Park Street is a paradise for food lovers. This upstreet locality is one of the most happening places in Kolkata with restaurants like Peter Cat serving Chelo Kebabs to Kussum Rolls selling the best kathi rolls. An evening stroll here is a must-try. I have for sure left a chunk of my heart in Park Street.
An avid lover of architecture, on my third day in Kolkata, I wanted to explore the rich heritage of this place. Top one on my list was Victoria Memorial. I had read about the architectural beauty of the monument, its grand marble structure reaching out to the skies. Unfortunately, most of the heritage destinations were temporarily closed due to COVID. So I simply had to admire the famous monuments like Victoria Memorial, Shaheed Minar, Raj Bhawan, and James Princep Memorial amongst others from the car. However, the experience of the drive on the deserted roads was extremely refreshing.
I ended my third day at Belur Math where I witnessed devotees worshipping the river. The atmosphere inside the temple was simple, quiet and sacred with devotees meditating inside blissfully. The monument looks stunning, even after sundown. A cool, refreshing breeze makes you forget all about the heat in the evening.
This trip introduced me to a world that I had read and heard so much about. It is only safe to say, Kolkata will feed you like your grandparents and when you leave this place, you will not mind the few extra kilos because the food is the soul of this place and it is evident in most places in Kolkata. You can randomly walk into a restaurant in Kolkata, and the food will delight you regardless.