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Archive for the ‘Places’ Category

A short vacation was long overdue. After some discussion among family members, we finally decided upon Lansdowne in the state of Uttarakhand.

Setting off early, we crossed Ghaziabad and headed towards Meerut. Lalitji, our man at the wheels, seemed reasonably aware of the routes to be taken.  He kept praising the quality of UP sweets and savouries available in Meerut , especially items like Soan Papri made of pure ghee, and lip smacking Kachoris—items that the Punjabi in him missed back home in Haryana.We were looking forward to such delicacies but when we reached Meerut around7:30 am, the revered shops were yet to get going for the day. The unflappable Lalitji,mouth watering in anticipation, waded through the bylanes of Meerut bazaars in search of those coveted sweets, and after much circling, took us to a similar joint. TheKachoris were quite filling, and Ma raved about the quality of the Kalakands.

Enroute we crossed several UP towns such as Bijnore, Jalalabad & Najibabad and finally reached Kotdwar by midday. We decided to break for lunch before climbing uphill, the landscape of Kotdwar receding in the distance. It took us a couple of hours to hit the Cantonment town of Lansdowne, which statistics claim is situated at a height of 5800 feet above sea-level. Our joy knew no bounds, for the picturesque hill views, the fresh mountain air and the towering pine trees cast its web over us. We were, it seemed in

Ghanta Ghar @ Meerut                                       Wonderland, and the sight of Fairy Dale, the Resort tucked away in the labyrinthine recess of the hills, transported us to a world well lost. The Resort dates back to 1912 and carried with it an unmistakable colonial charm.It was a property fringed with little cottages and pretty patches of green and flowering shrubs. The rooms @ FR were spacious and neat, complete with derelict fireplaces and wood engraved ceilings. There was                                                           no provision for ACs though, and our time of the visit —mid October–made that redundant.

We Bengalis have a habit of carrying our intellectual pretensions wherever we go.That, and our passion for travelling—discovering quaint places and idyllic views–gives us a great sense of self. We met our match in two Bengali families who were staying in at the resort and extolling the virtues of a Tom Cruise and Martin Scorcese film. The adda had all the makings of Kolkata’s Coffee House culture, and there we were at Fairydale, recreating a mini-Kolkata.  I remember our acquaintance with Mr. Nirmal RC, a rather interesting and well-read Bengali gentleman from Dwarka, New Delhi,who seemed like a raconteur at his best.

Mr.NRC is a consultant in a well known International Consulting firm and makes a bi-yearly trip to Fairydale with his wife and children.  He seemed enchanted with the quietness and beauty of the hill station which compels him regularly to flee from the madding crowd of the Capital and to keep his date with nature. He likened himself to Indranath, a character of a Sarat Chandra Chattopadhyay novel who possessed a tremendous lust for travelling and seeing places.

The following day we got up early. Rambling around in the forest soaking in the refreshing morning air, the serene hills created an ethereal milieu…

Post breakfast, we embarked on our sight-seeing. Firstly we went to Bhulla Lake, a small lake neatly maintained by the Army folks. There is a facility of boating in the lake. However, we decided against taking the ride when we heard that the depth of the lake touched 30 feet.

BhullaLake

From Bhulla Lake, we proceeded towards St. John’s church. This is a beautiful church. The board at the entrance of the church incorporates the Hindu philosophy of Sanathan Dharmasignifying the symbiosis between the two major religions of the world.

 

St.John’s Church

Uphill at some distance from St. John is the other famous church – St. Mary’s Church.The spectacular view of the Alakananda range with its snow capped peaks from this point is truly breathtaking.

St.Mary’s Church

Finally,we reached Tip N Top, the highest peak of the town, from where one can capture a panoramic view of the hills & the settlement below…

We returned to the city centre, the hill town marketplace and cosied up for a late lunch.

The following day we enjoyed the magical morning hours, watching the hill views and the sprawling greens. My son played with Pluto, the lovable Labrador of the resort who takes to strangers like duck to water.

Tip nTop


   City Centre

The short trip had come to an end all too quickly, and as we said goodbye to everyone around us, we knew we would come back, only to recapture the romance of a world that authors like Ruskin Bond recreate in their books and novels. I had forgotten that there exists a world beyond the frenetic pace of life.Fairydale had become a metaphor for a childhood, where all is right with the world.

THIS IS AN INCOMPLETE ARTICLE. Will add text and pictures soon…

Uttarakhand has several wonderful touristy spots. Among them Nainital certainly tops the list. Apart from the beautiful Naini Lake, one can enjoy shopping on Mall Road, polishing your bargaining skills @ Tibetian Market or buying exquisite Wax candles besides other items there. The nearest railhead is Katgodam & the nearest airport is Pantnagar. Nainital Peak is the highest point. You can also enjoy boating on Naini Lake, and cable ride for an aerial view of Nainital.

About 100 kms from Nainital is Bhimtal. Besides the beautiful lake, there is Bhimbisara temple. Legend has it that it was made by Bhim during the Pandava exile, when Bhim had spent some time around this place. The temple is dedicated to Lord Shiva.

One can go to Ranikhet from Bhimtal. An attraction in the town is the Jhula Devi Mandir dedicated to Ma Durga. It is said that Ma Durga appeared in a dream to one of Her devotees & he had erected the temple. Ma Durga reappeared in the dreams of another devotee longing to play on a swing, and thereafter Ma Durga was placed on a swing in this temple.

Gir National Park where Asiatic lion roam freely is in the vicinity of Ranikhet.

 

One fine morning over a weekend in June, we set out for Mussoorie from Faridabad in our car.  Very soon we found ourselves in Noida crossing HCL, LOGICTEX, NTPC & …. we filled gas, sorry petrol,  at a station in Noida, because the price of petrol  in the country  moves northwards with the altitude of the place…. we whizzed past  Indirapuram in  Ghaziabad and soon found ourselves in Mohannagar. A thirteen kilometer stretch along the NH-58 brought us to Muradnagar….continuing straight for 10 km on NH-58 brought us to Modinagar…after crossing Modinagar and before Meerut city we took left on to the Meerut bye pass to reach Khatauli…we stopped for a while and had breakfast at a dhaba….our next target was to reach Purkaji via Muzaffarnagar city…

@Dhaba

We were enjoying the drive when suddenly our driver pressed the brakes and our car went and rammed into the rear of a van filled with passengers, some of them hanging from the back…needless to say, our car bonnet went  asymmetric…an intrepid passenger complained of a leg injury…this culminated in our taking him to a local doc who prescribed ointments to tide over the mishap…he ruled out the possibility of a ‘fracture’…we continued on our journey and after crossing Roorkee soon reached Dehradun…we had a rather late lunch in Dehradun…

A distance of 30 kms separates Missouri from Dehradun…towards the end of this journey, the road ahead steeply rises upwards…@ Missouri, it was difficult to find a decent accommodation @ a decent price in the peak season over a weekend when the entire summer travelers of the capital seem to have descended on this town…

view

The distance of Mussouri, an enchanting hill station in the state of Uttarkhand, from the National Capital is 281 kms…we checked into a hotel in the vicinity of Gandhi Chowk, the main hub of the town…this was just a 2-day trip, and so after resting for a while in the hotel, towards the evening we went to the Mall area of the town, and made a few purchases…

The following morning, we set off early to see Kempty Falls….one has to travel 13 kms downwards to reach a vantage view point…

on way to Kempty

on way to Kempty

View

Kempty falls

view of the serpentine road

Thereafter, we went to Municipal Garden (also known as Company Garden), a good spot with artificial waterfalls, nurseries, boating, fun rides etc.

@company garden

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The weather of Mussourie changes rapidly, and towards the evening after a bright day, there was hailstorm, and the ‘best part’ was that we could get a glimpse of the snow-capped mountain from the terrace of our hotel after the downpour…we couldn’t make it to Gun Hill, a spot in Mussourie from where it was said one could have viewed the snow-capped peaks…

snow capped peak from terrace

The next day, we started on our return journey, and made a brief halt at Dehardun, and paid a visit to Forest Research Institute, an internationally renowned institution established in 1906 for conducting research and education in the fields of forestry and environmental sciences. We also sampled the renowned bakery of Dehradun by stopping @ Ellora Bakery, a well known shop in the city.

Forest Research Institute

FRI

FRI

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FRI

Late in the evening, we reached our abode.

Hawa Mahal

The capital city of Rajasthan offers two different faces to a visitor. While one has history and royalty written over it, the other is a city of industrious people eager to put it at par with the best metros of the country. The achievements of the art and architectures of the royals are showcased in City Palace or a museum in Amer Fort. The Amer Fort is quite spectacular and it was here that the royals used to spend their days meeting people and taking strategic decisions. Intricate designs of floral wall art are visible, and a small rectangular garden is housed within the fort. Nearby is another fort – Nahargarh, also known as Madhvendra Palace. This isn’t as grand as Amer, though one can get a spectacular view of Jaipur below from the windows of the rooms on the first floor. At some distance from this point, one need to go to Jaigorh fort which has preserved what it claims – the largest cannon in the world.

Ajmeri Gate

The city is named after Maharaja Jai Singh, and he and his illustrious progeny like Man Singh looms large on the city psyche.  Jaipur bears a striking similarity with Jodhpur in its touristy appeal – both has a spectacular fort (Amer in Jaipur, Mahrengarh in Jodhpur) and a dazzling palace (City Palace in Jaipur, Umaid Bhavan in Jodhpur), so for a tourist one can chose to visit any one of the two cities, and I guess one would have sampled the Rajasthani lifestyle – hardworking simplistic folks engaging in business, industrial  & agrarian  pursuits using animals (camels, cattles, elephants)  as helpers to survive (and how regally!) in this hot arid region.

Amer Fort

Amer Fort

In 1876 Jaipur was colored in terracotta pink to welcome Prince Albert, and thus the name “Pink City” was attached with the city. Jaipur is famous as largest exporter of gold, diamond and stone jewellery in Asia. It  has been ranked 31 among the 50 Emerging Global Outsourcing cities. Genpact and Infosys have their BPO already established and running successfully. In fact Genpact has the fastest growing location in Jaipur. Real Estate business is flourishing well from last 2–3 years. Some companies already present here include Bosch, Coca Cola, IBM, Ericsson and NEI, popularly known as NBC Bearings.

The distance by road from Faridabad to Jaipur is about 260kms. Enroute we touched a developing Manesar (or Greater Gurgaon?),  thereafter an industrial Rewari where bicycle and motorbike companies like Atlas and Harley Davidson operate from the place, before the rolling Neemrana hills announce that you have reached Rajasthan from Haryana. We took a break at Neemrana on the onward journey, while on the return journey we stopped at Behror which boasts of a Sagar Ratna (popular food chain).

The blossoms in the city are in abundance and similar to the National capital. The roads are well maintained, and the place is much less dusty in comparison to Faridabad. Hawa Mahal, Jal Mahal & Jantar Mantar are some of the other attractions of the city.

 (THIS PIECE WAS WRITTEN IN 1999)
 ‘Come see the World! The Kaleidoscope! See Calcutta!’
                  – A character in Mrinal Sen’s Parushuram

Asia can boast of a number of remarkable cities like Dacca, Colombo and Bangkok beside several others. The pull of these cities have been such that all of them are gradually becoming very densely populated, tottering almost on the brink of demographic disaster. However, there ends the similarity between them. It’s amazing to look at their uniqueness as
most of them are so vastly different from the other one begins to wonder how it
could have happened between cities at close proximity to each other. Take Mumbai
and Bangalore as an example. Both qualify as great, happening cities in their
own right. But look at the cultural differences between the predominant Marathis
in Mumbai and the Kannadigas in Bangalore. Tremendous contrast in spite of an
undeniable national unity binding them.

I’ve had the opportunity to visit and have stayed for at least a short period in most major cities of India — New Delhi, Mumbai, Bangalore, Chandigarh, Guwahati, Pune, Nagpur and a few more, and also some places in Bhutan. Each of these cities that I have been to have a
distinctiveness and a charm of its own. Yet, in my opinion, none quite equals the mystique associated with Calcutta.

Calcutta has an identity of its own. It retains its own culture, for good or for worse, setting it apart from the glossy westernised cultures of Mumbai or Delhi and some other big cities. Most
interestingly, it always generates extreme emotions in anyone visiting the city. Rudyard Kipling’s ‘The city of dreadful nights’ & Rajiv Gandhi’s ‘A dying city’ acts as a counter to such descriptions of the same city as ‘The city of joy’ by Dominique Lapierre, and ‘Calcutta, My El Dorado’ by Mrinal Sen.

The city of Calcutta was founded by Job Charnock who started as a junior member of the
Council of the Bay of Bengal in 1655. By 1686, Charnock was Governor of the Bay of Bengal based in the settlement of Hooghly. On a monsoon afternoon in August, 1690, Charnock rowed ashore to a swampy village Sutanati. On that day in 1690,Captain Job Charnock founded Calcutta on these three closely placed small villages. The villages soon grew into a city which came to be known as Calcutta. Less than three years later, Charnock was dead. Little did he knew he had sown the seed of a megapolis.

I have lived in this intriguing city for seven long years at a stretch apart from numerous sojourn that I have made, and as such I will endeavour to bring out the city in its different moods and flavour — the joys, hardship, frustration and excitement of living in this city.

Is Calcutta really a city of joy? Let’s see. It is grossly over-populated, the prime reason
being cost of living is the cheapest amongst the Indian metros. So, people from adjoining areas and states flock towards it in droves. These poor people often find employment in the small scale industries like textile mills which have sprung up in the city and thus they manage to eke out a livelihood.

Calcuttans are basically warm people, albeit a bit garrulous at times with some who
profess, quite irritatingly, to be the all-knowing type. If you can overlook
such minor drawbacks and can deftly handle yourself amidst such characters, it
becomes really an irresistible metropolis. Bombs don’t erupt in the same manner
like it does in Delhi, and riots rarely occur like it does in Mumbai. Of course,
political clashes do take place and often innocents too lose their life, but it
hasn’t become anything alarming as yet.

Most Calcuttans believe in the golden adage “simple living, high thinking.” And they practise it. Intellectual Calcuttans have set high standards in art and literature, theatre, academics
etcetra and are recognised even Internationally for their talent. There exists
concern for all sections of society. Concern for the Elderly and the Ladies have
seen an alternative sedate transport system viz Trams still existing when other
cities have long discarded them. Even hand pulled rickshaws still survives. They
exists alongside the Esteems and the Mercedes. Cases of eve-teasing is a rarity.
Concern for children have led to several parks springing up in different parts
of the city. Besides education, children are encouraged to take part in sports
like swimming, take training in table tennis and such activities. There are many swimming
clubs, or clubs where the young can pick up other sports as well.

Calcutta love reading, and this accounts for the fact that Bengali publishing Industry is
the largest regional publishing Industry in the country, even bigger than the
National language Hindi which ranks third, after Malayalam in book-publishing.
The CALCUTTA BOOK FAIR, annually held during the month of January-February every
year is eagerly awaited by book lovers of the city who flock to buy books,
available at a small discount, when the fair is held. The CALCUTTA BOOK FAIR is
the largest book fair, in terms of books sold at a fair, in the whole world.

It’s also interesting that almost all Indians who have won the Nobel Prize have
had strong links with Calcutta. Rabindranath Tagore, Mother Teresa and Amartya
Sen were from the city. Ronald Ross, a foreign national who won Nobel for his
research on Malaria did his study in Calcutta. Physicist C. V. Raman worked for
several years in Calcutta. Besides them, there’re numerous stalwarts in several
fields from the city who have left a mark in their respective fields and are
recognised both nationally and internationally. Calcutta-based personalities
like Rabindranath Tagore(Jana Gana Mana Adhinayaka Jayahe) and Bankim Chandra
Chattopadhyay (Vande Mataram) have penned the Indian National Anthem and Indian
National Song.

The major attractions of Calcutta, particularly for tourists from
other parts of India, are the Underground Railway ( Metro ), Science city,
Alipore Zoo, Victoria Memorial, Indian Museum, Botanical Garden, NICCO park,
Diamond Harbour, Park Street, St. Paul’s Cathedral, Tagore’s house at Jorasanko,
Birla Planetorium, Aquarium, Netaji Subash Chandra Bose International Airport,
Ferry ride, Salt Lake Stadium, Howrah Bridge, Vidyasagar setu, Royal Calcutta
Turf Club(RCTC), Royal Calcutta Golf Course (RCGC), Tollygunge Club and numerous
good restaurants. Shahid Minar, a 52 metre tower with 200+ odd steps to reach
the top, is a patriotic spot, and the view of the city from the tower is
enchanting. Sweets of Calcutta like rosogollas and a few other varieties are
famous across the world. For the academic, there’re numerous good libraries like
National library, British council library and others. And premier institutes of
learning and research like Calcutta University, Jadavpur University, Shibpur
Engineering College, S. N. Bose Institute, Presidency College, Indian Institute
of Management, St. Xavier’s College, Calcutta Medical College, Satyajit Ray Film
and Television Institute, Indian Statistical Institute, School of Tropical
Medicine, Saha Institute of Nuclear Physics, Indian Institute of Chemical
Biology, Academy of Fine Arts and several others. In institutes like Max Mueller
Bhavan, Ramkrishna Mission Institute ( near Golpark ) or Alliance Francaise one
can learn foreign languages as well.

The only irritant for a small town guy like me is the fact that Calcutta is over-populated, and also highly polluted. And those everyday avoidable problems like traffic jams ( good transport system like Mumbai would be a solution ) so often caused by massive rally on various issues sap me of all my energy when I am in the city. Monsoon wreak havoc in Calcutta. The drainage system is abominable, and a slight drizzle causes water-logging.
When there’s a heavy downpour, pedestrian have to wade through knee-deep or even
higher level of water, and on many an occasion, manholes which are left open at
times can result in the death of many a pedestrian during the season.

For art lovers, Calcutta is really a good place. Good writers, poets, filmmakers,
painters, magicians, musicians and theatre directors abound. Cinema houses like
Nandan screen good films from across the world. Dover Lane classical music
concert is an annual event. Other similar cultural functions keep happening
throughout the year and Calcutta Int’l Film Festival is also an annual event.
Several temples and ashrams in the city attract the religious-minded. There’s
Kalighat temple, Belur Math, Dakshineswar, Narendrapur Ramakrishna Mission where
the devotees flock in multitude.

In Calcutta, the difference between the northern and the southern part of the city is tremendous. North Calcutta houses
most of the old buildings and some of these once imposing structures is now in a
dilapidatedstate. Development in South Calcutta has been recent, and the
wealthy segment inhabit these areas. As such, one can view newly high-rise,
impressive buildings in these localities. According to filmmaker Mrinal Sen, who
made a documentary on the city a few years back, “North Calcutta is more
interesting.” Possibly because of the history associated with it.

Calcuttan are crazy about sports. Football and cricket are the two most popular games liked by its people. One interesting divide among Bengalis of Calcutta is the Ghoti (
West Bengal ) and Bangal ( East Bengal ) factor. And a jingoistic streak is
markedly visible during the football match between the two traditional rival
teams, Mohun Bagan and East Bengal. When there’s a cricket match, a capacity
crowd of one lakh would fill up the Eden Gardens. Nowhere in the world a cricket
match draws such a massive crowd.

Durga Puja and Kali Puja are famous festivals of Calcutta, and celebrated with tremendous pomp and gaiety. October and November are the festive months.

There are certain things to be cautious about when you’re in the city. Beware of pickpockets! Because of rising unemployment, it has become a regular occurence. I also particularly abhor the bus-burning phenomena which happens whenever there’s a slight fare hike, or an accident leading to some deaths. In such cases, angry Calcuttan mobs will set ablaze a
few buses. Why take your anger on these inanimate objects? There exists other
forms of protest. Catch hold of the erring bus-driver and hand him over to the
police. And let Law decide what punishment ought to be meted out.

There’re quite a few expensive hotels in Calcutta. Grand Hotel, Hotel Hindusthan International, Great Eastern, Taj Bengal, Kenilworth and Park Hotel are some of the expensive ones. There’re numerous hotels for middle-class budget as well. Poor people can
look around for dharmashalas in the city. Calcutta presents a kaleidoscope of
life in varied colours. While the predominant Bengalis are content with
‘maach-bhaat’ ( fish and rice ) the rich and the elite dine in a luxury
hotel/restaurant.

The Calcutta port is the lifeline for almost the whole of
eastern part of the country. It is also the lifeline of Nepal’s supplies.  With
the influx of immigrants, flesh market too have developed in Calcutta.
Sonagachi, a red-light area of Calcutta, is a notorious center of prostitutes
where they can be hired for pleasure. In some ways, Calcutta lacked behind other
Indian metros. Like oppurtunities in IT. Now things seem to be on the right
track. The present ruling Govt. has emphasised that thrust on IT development
would be its priority and lately a number of private engineering colleges have
sprung up to bridge the gap between demand and supply. I foresee Calcutta
becoming a hub of IT activeties in the near future. Moving with the times.
Blending modernity and tradition. And retaining its own unique place and
culture.

 



  • None
  • Subhajit Ghosh: Have been reading that he had 'left' leanings in some articles recently..
  • mystic wanderer: Well put. It's difficult to imagine the sacrifices of our freedom fighters. But can Netaji Subhash Ch. Bose be called a leftist? Nationalist perhaps
  • Subhajit Ghosh: Your wish has been granted, and look how! Even NDA possibly didn't dream of this huge victory. Let's hope they deliver, and take the nation forward.

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