A Perfect Beach Holiday

Sunrise at Bakkhali with Low tide

Sunrise at Bakkhali with low tide

For anyone at Kolkata, who wish to have a secluded yet economic weekend beach holiday, Bakkhali is an obvious choice. The beach is located at one of the 50 odd island clusters of Sunderban area – famous for its mangrove trees and the Royal Bengal Tiger. Although there are enough mangrove trees at Bakkhali, thankfully there are no tigers roaming around.

On a lazy afternoon, one can just sit at leisure at Bakkhali beach sipping tea from earthen pots enjoying the breeze whilst the low waves caress the feet. The sea at Bakkhali is not ideal for swimming as there are no large waves here. Perhaps it is one of the reasons that many tourists do not visit this place often. However, the accommodation facilities are very cheap. You usually get a decent accommodation at a very reasonable price without any prior booking.

One can also take an extended morning walk through the long stretch of sand to the town of Frazerganj. A cycle rickshaw van ride through the rural landscape takes you to the Frazerganj fishing harbour. Add to it a visit to Henry’s Island – the latest holiday spot at Bakkhali developed by the fisheries department jointly with the ministry of tourism.

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Durga Puja of “Bonedi Families” at Howrah

Youngest family member of Ghosh family , Salkia

Youngest family member of Ghosh family at Salkia taking a look at the proceedings

After my blog post  “Durga Puja of “Bonedi Families” at  Kolkata”  became immensely popular among viewers, many have asked me to start writing blog posts on such bonedi families of West Bengal outside Kolkata. Members of many such families have also e-mailed me their details and asked me to visit their places.

Since no one is sponsoring my travel for writing such blog posts, I decided to start with Howrah. Howrah is nearer to Kolkata than many other districts. At Howrah, many age-old Durga Puja gets celebrated in the residence of many bonedi families. In this blog-post, I will start with describing Pujas of few such families residing at Shibpur, Andul, Salkia and Panchla. This list will increase with the passing of time.

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Monsoon Photography at Tamhini Ghat

A local resident taking a bath at one of the many waterfalls at Tamhini Ghat

A local resident taking a bath at one of the many waterfalls at Tamhini Ghat

With the monsoon at its top in India, wouldn’t it be nice if one could take a short drive to a pathway studded with lush green hillocks and gurgling waterfalls?  One would stop the car occasionally and wade into one of the huge mass of water. The more adventurous ones would climb up the rocky and muddy ridges and get soaked in the natural shower.

Unfortunately, you cannot think of such a frivolity sitting at Kolkata. The nearest waterfall from the city is at a distance of no less than around 250 km at Ghatshila and unless you go to North Bengal region you can forget about hillocks.

However, such a drive is not impossible if you visit the city of Pune in eastern India.  During the monsoon, a drive to a place called Tamhini Ghat is one of the most popular ways for the residents of Pune to relax and enjoy the rainy season. Granted the Mulshi road which leads to Tamhini is infested with numerous potholes and often you encounter over enthusiastic and slight off balanced city animals near some waterfalls. However, during monsoon, the surroundings looks so inspiring that you overlook such “little” hindrances. 🙂

Three years ago when I visited Pune to take my Monsoon trip to Amboli and Ganapatipule, my friends suggested me this drive. After having a rain-soaked outing, I was definitely interested in more. Also shooting waterfalls in slow shutter mode with my camera was an added interest.

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A rainy day email from late 90s

Familiar Scenario during Rains at Kolkata

Familiar Scenario during Rains at Kolkata

The Late nineties saw some serious changes in the present Capital of West Bengal.  To start with its name changed from Calcutta to Kolkata. Cell phones came into existence and the distant future of paging devices looked bleak. Maintaining a cell phone was very costly, there were charges for incoming too. People talking in mobile in public were stared upon by the masses with jealousy and awe.

The idea of having personal computers for residential use was considered as a luxury. The only internet connection was available from Videsh Sanchar Nigam Limited. There was only one scheme which will look crazy in today’s scenario – 500 hours @ Rs 10,000 per year. It was to be a one-time payment. Incidentally, our family was among the first lot of subscribers opting for this crazy scheme in 1997 after my brother brought home a personal computer from Singapore when he came from home to take a break from his first overseas job.

With the arrival of the internet, I got introduced to email. Although I was working with computers in my office, there was no facility of email there. A software named Trumpet Winsock developed by the unsung developer Peter Tattam was used to get connected to the internet. First it was the Shell account with a black creepy screen where the white typed letters appeared in a halting fashion.  Vsnl provided us with an email id. We later dumped it and upgraded to Hotmail with its graphic interface.

I did not use Hotmail for long. Initially, the account had a lot of security loophole. After having my email hacked for several times, I switched over to Yahoo.

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Byomkesh Was Here

The Changing Faces of Byomkesh down the years

The Changing Faces of Byomkesh down the years. Photos sourced from Youtube.

In films and serials of Byomkesh, many remarkable historical and heritage locations have been shown. Many people have asked me about these places. It has been always my interest to identify these locations and write about them.  This blog post “Byomkesh was Here” is mainly about those places and their history. It covers Five of such locations

There has been a sudden interest in the Indian film industry for Byomkesh Bakshi, the fictional sleuth created by Saradindu Bandopadhyay. Byomkesh Bakshi hated to be referred as Detective. Instead, he preferred to be known as “Satyanweshi” (The seeker of the truth). Byomkesh is a very humble man, leads a simple life with his wife Satyabati and his friend / sidekick – writer Ajit Bandopadhyay.

It was not that earlier directors and producers have not shown interest in making films about Byomkesh Bakshi. From 1967 to 2010, four Bengali films, three Bengali serials, and one Hindi serial have been made on Byomkesh. Out of them, Uttam Kumar as the first Byomkesh and Rajit Kapoor as the first “National” Byomkesh had their presence felt.
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History revisited at Murshidabad

Ruined Fouti Masjid, Murshidabad

Ruined Fouti Masjid, Murshidabad


I looked at the ruined mosque. Then I turned to my guide Abbas Bhai, a middle-aged Muslim gentleman clad in a sherwani.

 “I have seen old brick mosques having their domes broken. Then why only this particular mosque is known as Fouti Masjid or Phuti Masjid. ?”  I asked Abbas Bhai.

Despite the fact my hotel was close to Hazarduari Museum, I decided to start my tour with this dilapidated structure. Structure wise the Mosque is unique than many mosques of Bengal.

The Mosque is located near a railway crossing, almost 1 km from Hazarduari. Surrounded by Trees, thatched huts and a pond the 135 feet long structure looked like a sick giant counting its last days.  Getting into the mosque is itself a problem for the aged as there is no stairs or even a raised platform.  Curious local children were looking at us.

Abbas Bhai did not reply immediately. He was chewing paan. He spat some of it, looked back at me and said “Because Janab, in those mosques the domes were completed. They broke down at a later stage. In the case of Fouti Masjid, only two domes out of the five were constructed. The rest three was never made at all.  It was incomplete. Nobody had read Namaz here. It was an unfinished work, a failed mission of Sarfaraz Khan – the grandson of Murshid Quli Khan. ”

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Unlimited fun In “Happy Streets”

Boxing Event Participants of "Happy Street" in front of  "The Park

Boxing Event Participants of “Happy Street” in front of The Park Hotel

It was 08:00 in the morning of 22nd February. Two pairs of men were hurling punches at each other on Park Street (alias Mother Teresa Sarani) right in the front of Park Hotel at Kolkata. Granted the traffic is less in the early hours of Sunday. However, the traffic is not that less to allow people to hurl punches against each other standing in the middle of the road. Also people were cheering them, instead of restraining them to punch each other.

But the case was different on this Sunday. Looking closely, one could see that the men were actually practicing boxing wearing boxing gloves and required attire right on the middle of Park Street in broad daylight. However, impossible it may seem the event was happening.

More action could be seen throughout a portion of Park Street and some part of Russell Street and Camac Street. Youngsters, teenagers and some young adults were practicing Karate, gliding on roller skates, balancing on Skate boards, doing stunts on cycles, playing cricket, having a kick at football, swishing badminton rackets, trying a Michael Jordon stunt at basketball, singing songs, staging a road theater – you name it and this Sunday, Park Street had all of them happening simultaneously in the middle of the road.

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