Memories of the City of Joy, Kolkata
It’s known as the City of Joy, so I went there to find out for myself. Yes, I am talking about the former capital of India, Calcutta, or as it is now called—Kolkata. And I brought back some of the best memories with me.
I had the good fortune of visiting the beautiful city at the most colorful time of year, Durga Puja. Warm weather, fish curries, mishti doi, the pleasant aromas of agarbattis – where do I even begin? It was my first trip as a solo traveler, and Kolkata was the best choice I could have made. I found good rooms to stay in, and for food, I preferred street hopping for some good old street food. The locals were just as sweet as the rasgullas, too! The city was more crowded than I had expected it to be, but that was mostly due to the festivities.
I brought back some great memories from Kolkata. Here are a few precious moments from the places I visited in the City of Joy.
Victorian Architectural Heritage
Kolkata’s architectural heritage reflects its British colonial history. To explore, I caught one of those yellow ambassador taxis. All through my ride I stuck my head out, taking in the beauty of the old buildings and churches.
Being a museum fanatic, I had to visit the Victoria Memorial, one of the most famous museums in India, known for its beautiful architecture and gardens. I spent most of the day learning about Kolkata’s history, admiring the glorious monuments and relaxing in the beautiful garden.
By the time I was back to my room in the evening I was exhausted, yet full of awe. I hadn’t realized how much this city could teach me.
Across the Hooghly: Howrah Bridge
Of course I’d been on bridges before, but the Howrah bridge is one of the most beautiful I have seen so far. The enormous steel bridge, with no support beneath, stands strong and bold over the Hooghly River, a distributary of the Ganges.
It was late evening when I went cycling over the bridge, with the water flowing underneath, the stars above, all by myself. I loved it. It made me dwell on many thoughts, especially from my childhood. I teared up while standing on the bridge, staring into the river. Kolkata looked breathtaking at night.
Durga Puja, Pandal Hopping
When you travel solo, you gotta get down like the locals. So, it was time for some fun and culture. The best part of my trip was experiencing the city during Durga Puja, a major Hindu festival. The whole city lights up so beautifully at this time. There were thousands of pandals—or temporary structures of worship—around the city. Going pandal-hopping is the best way to get a true feel of the festival. It gets pretty crowded at this time because everyone is outside enjoying themselves and celebrating. I befriended a group of local youngsters and joined them on a pandal tour. Every pandal had a unique decorative theme, and the goddesses were adorned with jewels and silks.
Street Food in Kolkata
Bengalis sure know their way around food! They love to eat, and love to feed their guests. The staples are fish and rice, but I got to taste much more. One night, I explored the streets looking for some real Bengali food. I tried egg rolls, rasgulla, biryani, prawn curry, and mishti doi. TThanks to my local cabbie who guided me to the best street food corners!
I spent my last night sitting in an open restaurant by the Howrah Bridge Hooghly River, looking over the entire city. I was lost in the beauty of Kolkata’s nightlife, the stars, the river, the lights, the smell of food, and the sound of celebrations. I was not ready to leave the City of Joy. But I know I will return one day.