Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Calcutta Nostalgia: Park Street

[Text by Uttiya Das and Photos by Google]

When The City Of Calcutta is uttered, "Park Street" is automatically on the lips. You cant think of Calcutta without Park Street. The street derives its name from a deer park of Sir Elijah Impey, Chief Justice of the Supreme Court in Calcutta, 1773-1789, that was located on this street. Take away Park Street and you take away the charm of Calcutta City.

The street starts at the western-end of "the breathing grounds of Calcutta"-Maidan (literally open field in english) runs to Park Circus (a commercial district) in the eastern-end. Park Street remains Calcutta's foremost fine-dining district with notable restaurants, pubs and bars such as Trinca's, Blue Fox, Kwality, Oasis, Bar-B-Q, Waldorf, Olympia, Moulin Rouge, Peter Cat, Mocambo, Marco Polo, Floriana, Flury's, Some Place Else, Aqua and many more. Its all about good-pubbing, fine-dining and exotic-nightlife.

The street also has landmarks in form of Asiatic Society, Adventist Church and also Music World & Oxford Bookstore.

I have grown up with Park Street and also have fond memories spend there with friends and family. The weekend family-dinners during my childhood-days are still afresh.
When i was young, the evenings were mostly spread with latest-film-shows at Globe or New Empire theater and a evening-stroll at park street with Kusum's double egg-chicken roll/ muton cutlets at hand. And a quick bite of ham-cheese omlette and pastries of Flury's. Then a weekend participation at line for complete family-dinner either at Peter Cat or Mocambo or Moulin Rouge or Bar-B-Q.

It changed when i was in my teens. Almost every evening-schedule contained watching movies at Inox-Forum with friends, then straight-away to dear-Flury's or KFC or Barista and have a good-"adda"-session over sizzlers, doughnuts, pastries and coffees. We used to settle ourself at the table by the window and watch life go by on Park Street. It was so wonderful to watch little-kids & couples walking by with their rolls/chops/cutlets/burgers.

Even when a lonely, Park Street never bored me. A quick check-out at "Music World" collections and evenfully listening new-songs on stock, then, a visit to "Oxford Cha-Bar" to occupy myself with a good-book and my favorite blueberry bliss tea/ decaf spiced green tea/ dargeeling gold tea/ organic korakunda tea. A good-read and a good-cup of tea made my evenings there.

Park Street was so much a part of my Calcutta-life. After a day's schooling, we used to walk down to kalimpong confectioners to feast on their wonderful cream rolls (i didn't bothered to visit Nahoum's in New Market for their famous cakes and cream rolls, as the job was left to my Father to bring home those) even under a scorching-calcutta-sun.

And when it's Park Street, you can not just forget the Christmas Celebrations. The christmas celebration in Park Street is perhaps unparallal and unmatched to any other indian city. As Christmas is lovingly called as "Boro Din" in Bengali and is much-celebrated among bengali families too along with the christian & anglo-indian community of the city, the entire park street is decked up with fairy-lights on christmas-eve. As the star-hotels, restaurants, pubs and bakeries alongside the street arrange their fairy lights, the coffee-table-bookstores decorate themselves with christmas-balls & christmas-trees. They all gear up for discounts and christmas parties. The christmas celebrations on park street is as nostalgic as the fireworks during newyear.

Every evening of Park Street live up to the city's nickname "The City Of Joy". I wish i could be a part of it more often.

No amount of Colaba Causeway and Connaught Place can inculcate the joy and happiness associated with Park Street evenings & nightouts. The enigma and the essence surrounding Park Street still bring out the madness in me.

I miss my Calcutta, i miss my Park Street....

Park Street Christmas Celebrations
Oxford Bookstore & Cha-Bar
A Casual Evening at Park Street

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Calcutta Nostalgia: Shubho Nabobarsho

The Bengali New Year's Day generally falls on 14th or 15th of April according to the English Calender Year. It's the "Poila Baisakh" (The 1st month of a Hindu Calender Year) of Bengali New Year.

The Bengali New Year Day starts with late-morning wake up-a little later than usual- to the Special New Year Supplement of Bengali & English Newspapers, namely, "Ananda Bazar Patrika", "Bartamaan", "Aajkal", "Pratidin", "The Telegraph", "The Statesman", "The Times Of India", "Hindustan Times", "The Indian Express", "The Hindu", "The Calcutta Chronicle" with Dudh-Cha (Milk-Tea) & Creamcracker/ Marie Biscuit.

....A leisurely read is followed by an even-leisurely breakfast
Breakfast is well-spread of Luchi/Radhaballavi ("puri" in hindi made with maida, hing & stuffings) and Alur-Dum with Payesh (a cold-dessert prepared with milk, rice/ vermicelli, gur, almond & pistachio). The Breakfast is followed by a quick-look at the ingredients of the Lunch-Menu, and a check-out of Sweets (Rossogolla, Sandesh are a must) stocked in Refridgerator at every hour till Lunch.

Then telephonic-wishing round of "Shubho Nabobarsho" to friends & relatives across the globe and also tell them about the lunch-menu. After that, getting ready with a new set of Payjama & Punjabi ("punjabi" is a bengali-kurta usually embroidered with elaborate motifs) for "Adda"-Sessions.

Time For Lunch
The Lunch is as elaborate as-ghee bhaat (rice with ghee), shukto (bengali style mixed-vegetable with an emphasis on bitterness), dal-maachher matha diye (moong-dal cooked with fish-heads), begun bhaja (cubes of brinjal fried with ricedust), potoler dorma (parwals stuffed with paneer cooked in dry-gravy of coconut & mustard sauce), bagda/golda chingri malaicurry (tiger/jumbo prawns cooked with coconut-milk), elish/bhetki/koi/pabda/chitol/parshe/topshe maachher jhaal (types of fishes in masala-curry)- and the dessert is loaded with plastic chutney/ anaras chutney/ khejur-aamsattar chutney (sweet dish extracts of mango/pineapple) and mishti-doi (sweet curd).

The Lunch is punctuated with political discussions, literary criticism & other topics strictly requiring raised-voices and passionate points-of-view !!

The Evening sees a walk around the locality, a taste of chaats/phuchhkas and a halt at a para-function where somebody would inevitably be singing: "jibone ki pabona, bhulechi shey bhabna, saamne jaa dekhi janina sheki, ashol ki nokol shona" or "purano shei diner kotha, bhulbi kire haay o, shei chokher dekha praner kotha, sheki bhola jaay". Then another round of Rolls/Cutlets & a good "adda"-session there itself.

And if you are a Calcuttan Bengali, then its time for Dinner....
No-matter where you are through-out the evening, its a must to be at Park Street/China Town by 9pm & participate in the line to get through your-choice of restaurant. The Gastronomical Newyear's Day should end with Peter Cat's chelo kebab, Waldorf's mandarin-fish, Blue Fox's lobster thermidot, Skyroom's mixed-grill with baked-alaska, Mocambo's chicken supreme & crab meat cocktail, Floriana's spicy hunan chicken.

As you come back home and turn-in for the night, you have a hope that is all well with the world. And if isn't, it will turn out just fine.