Category Archives: Travel

Henry’s Island: A quaint getaway in West Bengal Spending a laid-back weekend close to Kolkata

Long, white beaches and a clear blue skyline is Henry’s Island’s distinct feature

Among the numerous beach destinations close to the eastern Indian metropolis, Kolkata, Henry’s Island is an offbeat choice for those looking for tranquillity.

In a lazy, white sand beach, where red crabs crawl, one could expect to find solitude and solace. Located at a distance of around 130 km from the bustling city of Kolkata, Henry’s Island is home to one such place. An area where government fisheries can be found, this tranquil destination is located close to another popular beach spot, Bakkhali.

Henry’s Island is still undisturbed and unspoilt by the markers of human civilisation – plastic packets, blaring sound systems or abandoned bottles. Pristine white sands are often hued by shifting tinges of red, owing to the crawling crabs, with the occasional fisherman walking by – this is the image that Henry’s Island leaves behind. The entrance to the beach involves a walk through a swamp of sorts, with a line of trees that hides the beach from the rest of the world.

For the traveller, who is looking for an experience that doesn’t involve heavy activity, Henry’s Island plays a welcome host. A watch tower, above one of the two guest houses on the location, is what visitors to nearby destinations frequent most. Views on a clear sky showcase the Sunderbans mangrove, which are located very close to the beach destination. One could also opt to walk around the beach and villages nearby.

Henry’s Island is also a great place to sample some seafood, which is locally grown and acquired. Locals are used to guests coming in to try the food at the Sundari Canteen, which offers the fresh catches. The Fisheries Department of the Government of West Bengal uses area for pisciculture and also takes care of forest conservation.

Getting there

Located some 130 km away from Kolkata, one would expect to reach the place in a matter of a short time. However, the journey by road takes much longer, owing to a change through a ferry which crosses the Hatania-Doania creek, which involves a long wait. There are also direct buses available, but since these buses ply once a day from Kolkata’s Esplanade bus depot, it is better to enquire a day in advance for seats and timing. To save some time, a local train can be taken from the Sealdah station in Kolkata, with a stop at Namkhana station. After this, a boat ferry, which costs a mere rupee or two per person can be taken, and on the other side, buses are available to drop at a location close to Henry’s Island, or one can opt for vans.

Getting to Henry’s Island is a slow journey, yet it provides the perfect window of transition from the busy city into the tranquil paradise. As a spot to unwind, relax, catch up on some reading or simply a chance to spend some time by yourself, Henry’s Island is a weekend getaway from Kolkata that reinvigorates the senses.

source: http://www.mediaindia.euc/ Media India Group / Home> News-India & You> Tourism / by Mehk Chakraborty / May 08th, 2017

Assam to convert Bhupen Hazarika’s Kolkata house into archive

Assam Government wants to convert music legend Dr Bhupen Hazarika’s Kolkata residence into an archive, Chief Minister Sarbnanda Sonowal said today.

Director of Assam Bhawan in Kolkata was instructed to pursue the matter in obtaining the ownership of the house from its current owner, an official release said here today.

Hazarika, who died in 2011, lived in a house in Tollygunge area of south Kolkata for decades starting from the middle of 1950s.

At a meeting with the officials of Assam Bhawan in Kolkata, Sonowal also said that steps would be taken to erect a statue of Assam’s literary icon Lakshminath Bezbaruah in the Assam Bhawan premises in the metropolis.

Taking stock of the construction works of Kolkata Assam Bhawan, the Chief Minister said that the house must reflect Assamese culture and tradition through its architecture.

An auditorium inside the Assam Bhawan would be used commercially to generate revenue, he said.

The Chief Minister also directed the Chief Engineer of PWD department to construct a ‘namghar’ (prayer hall) in the Bhawan premises.

Sonowal also directed the officials to start a helpline and website for the benefit of the students and patients from Assam to Kolkata coming for higher studies medical treatment respectively, the release added.

(This article has not been edited by DNA’s editorial team and is auto-generated from an agency feed.)

source: http://www.dnaindia.com / DNA – Daily News & Analysis / Home> News> India / PTI / Thursday – May 04th, 2017

Memorial on Mahasweta Devi to come up in Kolkata

(Pic Credit: Google)

A memorial to Magsaysay award winning late author and social activist Mahasweta Devi will be set up at her residence in Rajdanga in Kolkata, Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee said on February 27.

“The memorial is ready. The memorial will house her belongings, books, and other materials used by her,” Banerjee said during an informal interaction with mediapersons at Eco Park.

Jnanpith awardee Mahasweta Devi, who crusaded for the rights of tribals and the marginalised throughout her life, died on July 28, 2016.

Banerjee also said the state government would establish memorials for famed journalists Barun Sengupta, Gour Kishore Ghosh and Amitabha Chowdhury. The government also had plans to rename roads after the three journalists. A road close to the office of the Bartaman newspaper on the Eastern Metropolitan Bypass founded by Sengupta would be rechristened after him.

The government was on the lookout for sites to set up the memorials on June 19.

source: http://www.timesofindia.indiatimes.com / The Times of India / News> Lifestyle> Books / IANS / February 28th, 2017

At last, Chandraketugarh gets a museum

Kolkata :

Historians have often linked the archaeological site at Chandraketugarh with Alexandar and the Greco-Roman maritime trade. But on ground zero, nothing much has been done till date to preserve the site with a 250-year-old history. Prodded by Barasat’s Trinamool MP Kakoli Ghosh Dastidar, things have finally started moving in the right direction. Fianlly, Chandraketugarh has started getting its due.

A museum has been readied to preserve artefacts that have found at Chandraketugarh. Though the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) protects the site officially, there is no sign of “protection” anywhere apart from two signboards that stand at two ends of the mound. The half-excavated matrix lies exposed to daily loot and other ravages.

In 2009, after she became an MP, Dastidar was approached by local school and college teachers who had been trying to raise awareness over the site on their own. “They requested me to visit the site and see how soon everything will get lost. I was aghast at what I saw. ASI had done some piecemeal job and had left the site open and unattended. Since then, I have raised the issue in Parliament and approached the culture ministry to which the ASI reports. When nothing happened, I approached the West Bengal Heritage Commission, but unfortunately I was unable to stir up the imagination of the chairperson,” Dastidar said.

Finally, in August 2016, Dastidar wrote to chief minister Mamata Banerjee, seeking her intervention. “I told her clearly that unless we are able to set up a site office and a museum, the state will lose its most ancient archaeological site,” Dastidar added. Within days, the CM sent an investigation team — comprising the DM, bureaucrats and historians — that assessed the site, interacted with local activist groups and submitted a report that confirmed its antiquity.

Two TOI reports, one dealing with the deplorable state of things and another of a new research by IIT-Kharagpur experts trying to establish the antiquity of Chandraketugarh to Sandrocottus mentioned by Megasthenes, were also cited.

“Finally, at the CM’s insistence, we have been able to set up the museum and the site office, which will start functioning within a month. Local people who have been zealously guarding the excavated artefacts have agreed to donate them to the museum,” Dastidar said, adding that she has been able to recover artefacts worth a few hundred crores.

source: http://www.timesofindia.indiatimes.com / The Times of India / News> City News> Kolkata News / TNN / February 21st, 2017

Chinese New Year celebrated in the oldest China Town in Kolkata

The first sounds you hear as you head towards Bentinck Street in Central Kolkata are those of measured thumping and co-ordinated beats of the drums. As the clamour reaches its crescendo, a giant lion mask made of paper mache, red and golden cloth springs to life and starts twisting and turning to the beats.

Welcome to India’s oldest China Town nestled in the chaotic central Kolkata which is decked up in red and golden to celebrate the Chinese New Year. Only, there are not enough members of the community left to conduct the lion dance for the 20 odd clubs that is an integral part of the New Year celebrations. Youths from other communities perform this ritual for several clubs.

“We thrived here,” said Jen Lee, 72, sitting in a tea shop near Kunga Hotel, close to Tiretti Market. “Our children played in these lanes and attended local schools. We had Chinese schools and our own newspapers. But now it’s mostly memories. In a few years we’ll all be gone or dead.”

But the dwindling number of the community did not hamper the spirit of the festivities on Saturday. The congested and dilapidated neighbourhood of Chatawala Gali, Lu Hsien Sarani and Tiretti Market where residences, small Chinese eateries and small manufacturing units hang cheek by jowl metamorphosised into an island of revelry. The entire neighbourhood is decorated in red and gold.

Members of the community dressed in their gladrags and festive fineries strutted to their local churches early in the morning. They light incense sticks and pray at temples to wish for an auspicious start to the New Year.

“The day starts with offering prayers after which friends and family visit each other. The lion dance where groups of youngsters visit households to offer their wishes and collect gits is the highlight of the day,” said Dominic Lee, a businessman and community veteran in Central Kolkata.

Other New Year’s traditions include the eating of dumplings and the lighting of fireworks on the eve of the New Year. “Lion dancing is our way of not only paying tribute to our ancient culture,” Tseng said. “It is also our chance to hold on to the past while living in the present. Since there are such few Chinese youths are left in the city, youngsters from other communities are keeping this tradition alive. This tradition will stay even if the city is left with no Chinese.”

Mohammed Imran, who was born and brought up in China Town learnt the lion dance from one of his Chinese frinds who has not migrated to Canada. “Uncles and aunties tell request me to perform the lion dance for their clubs because there are no Chinese youths in their clubs. They have all migrated,” said Imran.

Each Chinese New Year is characterised by one of 12 animals that appear in the Chinese zodiac. This is the year of the rooster and people born in the Year of the Monkey are believed to be hardworking, courageous, resourceful and talented.

Calcutta, which was home to 30,000 ethnic Chinese in 1962, has just about 3,000 today. Although Chinese food keeps soaring in popularity the affable Chinese dry-cleaners, the shoe-makers, the dentists and the tanners have all but gone.

Kolkata has the oldest China Towns in the country that exist in two clusters. The one in central Kolkata nestled between New CIT Road and BB Ganguly Street is the older of the two. The other one is in Tangra.

A revival plan that has hit a road block due to a dispute over a garbage dump on New CIT Road reflects that hardly anybody is bothered about restoring the dwindling Chinese population in Kolkata. This is the year of rooster which denotes courage, talent and hard work. In a few years to come, the slice of city will be no more.

Though the numbers of the community has been dwindling fast, Chinese New Year is an occasion when members of the community get together and greet each other.

Kung Hei Fat Choi (wishing you happiness and prosperity in the New Year)

source: http://www.timesofindia.indiatimes.com / The Times of India / News> City News> Kolkata News / by Zeeshan Javed / TNN / January 28th, 2017

Queen Victoria’s last letter to India unveiled at Victoria Memorial

The three-page hand written letter, dated December 14, 1900 with a Royal Seal and Windsor Castle being written next it

The letter, written nearly a month before the monarch’s death, was was gifted by Lord Curzon in 1904.

Queen Victoria’s last letter to India, written 116 years ago, is on display for the first time at the Victoria Memorial, one of the finest monuments built in her memory.

The three-page handwritten letter, dated December 14, 1900 and bearing the Royal Seal, was unveiled for the public on December 16 at the Prince Hall of the Victoria Memorial.

“This letter is an important piece of historical correspondence between British India and Britain. The letter was gifted by Lord Curzon in 1904,” Jayanta Sengupta, curator of the Victorial Memorial told The Hindu.

Mr. Sengupta, also a historian, pointed out that the letter by Queen Victoria was written nearly a month before her death. She passed away on January 22, 1901.

The letter is Queen Victoria’s reply to the then Viceroy, Lord Curzon, who in an earlier correspondence to the Queen had expressed his sympathies on the death of one of her “soldier grandsons” “The Queen Empress has to thank the Viceroy for the very kind letter of the 9th November, full of sincerest sympathy of her beloved soldier grandson…,” the letter begins.

The references in the letter are to the death of Prince Christian Victor, the eldest son of the third daughter of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert. Prince Christian died on October 29, 1900 in Pretoria, South Africa during the Second Boer War.

“He was as good as he was brave,” Queen Victoria writes in the letter about her grandson. “All the Viceroy says of her own trials and anxieties the Queen feels very much, and she cannot deny that she feels a good deal shaken by them.”

Along with the handwritten letter, a typed copy of the text has been displayed alongside for the convenience of visitors.

Within few weeks of Queen Victoria’s death in January 1901, a meeting was convened at the Town Hall of Calcutta in February 1901, when a resolution was passed for constituting an all-India fund for building a memorial. King George V, then the Prince of Wales, laid the foundation stone of the Victoria Memorial on January 4, 1906 and it was formally opened to the public in 1921.

source: http://www.thehindu.com / The Hindu / Home> News> States> Other States / by Shiv Sahay Singh / December 21st, 2016

Kolkata: Streets of India festival showcases street food, arts

The rasogollas, a signature sweet of Bengal, is available in tangy pudina and dhaniya avatars, besides paan and yummy mixed fruit and pista crush.

‘Streets of India Festival’, Kolkata. (Source: Facebook/@Streetsof India2016)
‘Streets of India Festival’, Kolkata. (Source: Facebook/@Streetsof India2016)

The ongoing ‘Streets of India Festival’ in Kolkata showcasing fashion and food festival, is a gastronome’s paradise with mind boggling 170 varieties of rasogolla and 34 flavours of fusion icecream waiting to be savoured. The rasogollas, a signature sweet of Bengal, is available in tangy pudina and dhaniya avatars, besides paan and yummy mixed fruit and pista crush.

“We have used natural colours for 170 varieties of rosogollas with no preservatives. In keeping with the fast food tradition there are varieties like cappuccino, phuchka and green chilli. Also there are fusions like golgappa rasogolla, a fusion inspired by a popular Delhi’s fast food,” its owner Swati Saraf told media.

She said in keeping with the theme of the event the sweets were given a different spin by introducing bitter and chilli tastes which became an instant hit with the visitors.

There was no dip in footfall despite the currency crunch, she claimed. The lip-smacking fusion ice creams included the natural tender coconut flavor, caramel crunch, rose (sugar tree), south Indian coffee and kesaria rabri malai to fit the quick grab concept of street food.

“Anjeer (dry fruit) and seven varieties of paan flavoured icecreams are our signature items this festival. But yes we are a little way behind expected sales apparently due to crunch of big currencies,” a stall spokesman said.

While a lady customer was seen paying through card for her choice of lemon grass icecream, another said she was not familiar with card or electronic wallet use and was finding it difficult to use her now demonetised Rs 1000 currency note.

source: http://www.indianexpress.com / The Indian Express / Home> Lifestyle> Art and Culture / by PTI / Kolkata / November 13th, 2016

WRITER’S BLOCK – Of love, lust, and death in Calcutta

Every time I visit Calcutta — I prefer to use the old name when I look back fondly at a recent visit — there is something I do without fail. I take a taxi to Kumartuli, where idol-makers are at work round the year, stroll through its lanes before walking along the river up to Baghbazar, where I get into a ferry bound for Howrah station. The boat, carrying anywhere between 100 to 200 passengers at any given time, goes under the iconic bridge to get to the station, where I walk around aimlessly for a while before taking the next boat back.

This is my way of paying tribute to Calcutta, my most favourite city in India, because it owes its existence to the river: it was near Baghbazar that Job Charnock dropped anchor in 1690, and soon Calcutta, the British city, came into being. The best part is it costs next to nothing: one-way fare, until recently, was five rupees, now it is six. The trip invariably takes place at dusk, and most of the time I have company.

So last week, before the roads could get clogged up by Durga Puja festivities, a friend and I arrived at Kumartuli in a yellow taxi to watch the Durga idols being carried away by parties of able-bodied men representing different neighbourhoods of the city. My friend watched the spectacle awestruck: she has lived in Calcutta for 20 years, but this was her first visit to Kumartuli, whereas I started exploring the city as recently as in 2011, and knew much of old Calcutta like the back of my hand.

Before she could take enough pictures her phone died, so I led her through the narrow lanes to the riverbank. We watched the sun — now a gentle orange ball — slowly lower itself behind the buildings on the opposite bank. Once it was no longer a circle but just an orange smudge, we sat on a concrete bench by the river. Conversation is meaningless at such an hour, in such a place — when the day slowly melts into night, and when the river that gave birth to Calcutta changes colours — all you can do is sit in silence and watch the spectacle unfold. But silence was impossible at the moment. We happened to share the long concrete bench with four other people — two men and two women. Since they had identical ID cards hanging from their necks, it was clear that they all worked for the same company. What was equally clear was that they had come on this outing as couples, but it was difficult to decide who was whose girlfriend. One moment it appeared that Ms. C was Mr. A’s partner, but the very next moment it seemed Ms. D was Mr. A’s girlfriend. And then suddenly Mr. B put his arm around Ms. D.

What aggravated my confusion was the conversation (it is so easy to eavesdrop on Bengalis) I could overhear: they were talking about hotels that asked no questions when a man checked in along with a woman — or a woman checked in along with a man.

“Next time you are in Pune, check into such-and-such hotel,” one of the men advised the rest of the gang.

“That hotel?” one of the women retorted, “but they asked me for my entire family history before I could check in.” “How silly of you,” the man rebuked her, “You could have just shown your ID card.”

Precisely at that moment, something came floating down the Hooghly and everybody’s attention turned to it. All along, things had been floating on the river: the ferries, the hyacinths, nobody gave a second glance. But right now, all eyes were fixed on that something — a human body, bloated and skinless — floating down the river.

Crows sat on the body as it glided downstream, pecking on whatever they thought was still edible. Suddenly, I found the silence I was looking for, as the men and women who flirted with lust now contemplated death.

source: http://www.thehindu.com / The Hindu / Home> Features> Metroplus> Society / by Bishwanath Ghosh / Chennai – October 14th, 2016

Mask gallery doors set to open

The number of masks in Indian Museum runs into hundreds and acquisitions date from the colonial period to 2000.

The collection has masks from not only India but also Australia, New Zealand, Central America, Africa, Bhutan and Nepal.

Most are dance masks of ancient folk traditions. Like the torso-covering Satriya mask of Narasimha used in Assam’s indigenous theatre, the Bhaona, or the brass mask of guardian spirit Bhuta of Karnataka or the golden deer from Bengal’s Gamira Dance ‘Ram Banbas Yatra’. There are masks of the Maoris and native Americans as well.

The mask gallery on the museum’s top floor was thrown open to the public in 2010. But it had to be shut in 2014 when some masks got drenched in rainwater because of a leaking roof.

MUSEUM TREASURE TROVE

The revamped mask gallery at Indian Museum will reopen on Tuesday
The revamped mask gallery at Indian Museum will reopen on Tuesday
(From left) terracotta mask of Bakasura from Bihar; chhau mask of Lord Ganesha; Narasimha Satriya mask of Assam. Pictures by Bibhash Lodh
(From left) terracotta mask of Bakasura from Bihar; chhau mask of Lord Ganesha; Narasimha Satriya mask of Assam. Pictures by Bibhash Lodh

The gallery, revamped and redesigned by curator Mita Chakraborty, will reopen on Tuesday. Eight-five items will be on display.

“Many major museums have masks but few museums have a gallery dedicated solely to masks,” director Jayanta Sengupta said. “We have a significant collection. The Indian Council for Cultural Relations has decided to make Indian Museum the nodal agency for a large comprehensive exposition on Masks of India, which will be showcased in the next edition of The Festival of India. We will select items from museums across the country.”

The museum has arranged for a school workshop on Chhou and Gamira mask-making to mark the reopening.

Birinchi Medhi, professor of Gauhati University’s anthropology department, will give a special lecture on ‘Satriya Mask’ from 2pm. Sarit K. Chaudhuri, director, Indira Gandhi Rashtriya Manav Sangrahalaya, will inaugurate the gallery at 3pm. A mask dance is on the cards.

source: http://www.telegraphindia.com / The Telegraph,Calcutta,India / Front Page> Calcutta> Story / by Sebanti Sarkar / September 27th, 2016

Horse carts get life… and a burden

Kulti :

A 50-year-old tanga (horse-drawn carriage) operator in Burdwan’s Kulti had been planning to sell his two horses and look for some other source of income as the business, in which his family has been involved for four generations, had fallen on hard times.

The same was the fate of around 30-odd tanga operators in Kulti town on the Bengal-Jharkhand border.

Pilfered coal being ferried in a tanga in Kulti. The faces of the operators have been blurred. /  Picture by Santosh Kumar Mandal
Pilfered coal being ferried in a tanga in Kulti. The faces of the operators have been blurred. / Picture by Santosh Kumar Mandal

However, the tangas have now got a new lease of life and the horses are back on their feet, ironically though, because they are being used to carry the burden of an illegal trade. Local coal pilferers have chosen the nearly forgotten mode of transport to ferry their booty to brick kilns and depots as tangas are much faster than bullock carts.

The horse-drawn carriage was introduced in Kulti by the British after James Erskine founded Bengal Iron Works.

The journey of the tanga since then has been chequered. From a symbol of glory during British rule, it became a popular mode of public transport. However, with the advent of modern means of transport such as buses, autorickshaws and totos, the tanga lost out.

Earlier, pilferers used to transport coal in trucks. However, because of a crackdown by police, they had chosen bullock carts and bicycles. However, bullock carts are slow and ferrying huge amounts of coal on cycles is a labourious and time-consuming task, prompting the pilferers to choose the tangas.

The owners of at least 30 horse-drawn carts in Kulti town have modified the vehicles so that they can be used to ferry coal. The hoods and seats have been removed to make space for coal sacks. Sources said the tanga owners charge between Rs 200 and Rs 250 for each trip.

Some residents alleged a section of policemen took bribes from tanga owners and pilferers.

Asansol-Durgapur police commissioner L.N. Meena said he did not know that tangas were being used to ferry pilfered coal and dismissed as “baseless” the allegation of bribe.

source: http://www.telegraphindia.com / The Telegraph,Calcutta,India / Front Page> Bengal> Story / by Abhijeet Chatterjee / Wednesday – August 17th, 2016