Kolkata sleeps early. So when by chance I met a certain gentleman (whom the local newspaper later reported was a Mr. Poddar) at around 9.00 pm somewhere on the street, we were intrigued by his car.
“It’s a custom made car….” He said. The vehicle was a twin seater with huge wheels resembling a Go-karting sportster. We were amazed at the unusual vehicle. What we didn’t know that he was probably just returning from an exhibition of these jet setting beauties at a prominent mall.
Fast forward to Chetla market. Nestled at the backside of the outrageously priced Alipore Road is this humble settlement on both sides of the road. Gracious local shopkeepers invited me to view their merchandise.
“No, I’m not interested in the fishing nets, but can I stand here and wait for my cab?” They seemed surprisingly courteous.
The road was lined with buses. Tomorrow is Election Day. Cars are moving at snail’s pace. Its takes us 45 minutes to cross a 2 km stretch. Somewhere in a building nearby, a supervisor seems to be giving instructions to party workers in Bengali. A hand cart vendor tries to negotiate the road. A pedestrian tries his luck as well in an attempt to board his bus. Among this chaos, a premium styled Jaguar is also stuck with the same fate. With traffic, it equalizes the rich and the poor. No one furthers faster.
Elections were on in Kolkata. The city branded itself in Blue and White. The railings were blue and white, the LED covering itself on its quaint old world lamps was also the same colour. Some random thoughts follow.
Too much traffic. Its like Bombay , but moving in slow motion.
Too many traffic rules. Too many one way restrictions.
Fresher air than Mumbai. More trees. More birds.
Too hot and humid. Again combine Bombay and Delhi weather at its worst…or maybe its the dry spell.
Beautiful old world buildings. Same issue as Mumbai, neglected and covered with telephone wires.
Parks. Schools. A city that studies.
Stark Rich Poor Divide.
Poverty. Saw a beggar woman licking an empty bowl of curd.
Better lighting than Mumbai/Delhi for historic monuments.
Sleeps at ten.
After having lived in tourist destinations for some years, I had long written off the idea of visiting another tourist destination nearby but eventually made a trip. It’s called Lonavala and it is around 2 hours drive from Mumbai. It’s a much favored spot for domestic tourists seeking respite in the hills from the neighboring cities of Bombay and Pune.
Lonavala has positioned itself as a Chikki destination. The market centre (not longer than 500 meters on road) is lined with shops selling Chikki on either side. Chikki is a hard sugar candy, generally in block forms. Peanuts, dry fruits and sesame are added to make different variations. Some enterprising shops have created figs based rolls, but we preferred the chocolate and strawberry fudge.
I wouldn’t go into the accommodation aspects, because we didn’t eventually stay here, but there are many little hotels and resorts along the road. A Mc Donald and KFC have also set up shop a little further from the market predominantly for tourists.
A Samosa ( potato filled local savory, usually had at teatime) lined for frying.
The band setup and “bandwallahs” for a marriage party procession. The bride groom will be riding that horse which you can see in the background.
A sadhu crossing the city centre. We don’t get many such sights in cities.
Tourism being the chief occupation of the locals, you’ll find many tours being provided to sight see nearby places. This was off season time. The best time to visit is during the monsoons as rivulets of water run over the hillocks dotting the scene with mini waterfalls.
I’ll write next about Karla, the place nearby, where we actually decided to stay.