Thursday, January 12, 2017

Himalayan Diaries-2: Kolkata beats continued

By the time we reached Belur Math, it was 5:30 and we got to know that evening Aarati has started. So, we hurried to the main hall, not wasting much time in watching the surroundings. Anyhow, sun was gone long back and no good pics were coming unless one uses flash. If i had to take a pic with flash, then i could try it anytime after watching Aarati as well. But by the time we went, the hall was already filled with people and we could not find any place to sit even in the last rows people who were sitting and praying for the Aarati. People were singing in Bengali and we could not make out anything.We thought of walking to the front using the side lane and watching the Idol of Gurudev atleast instead of standing at the back and not seeing anything clearly. Got some place to kneel ourselves near one of the pillers. We had to strech our necks inwards to the maximum to get glimpses of Gurudev. Prayers and Aarati were going on and on and for long time and I was surprised by the energy level of the Swamiji who was holding the Aarati for such a long time.  As we could not block the views of people sitting at  our back and to relieve our necks which started paining after
strechings. Thus we came out and had a look at the outside atmosphere.
View of Belur Math
 If you try to cover the place during Aarati, you could notice a place at the back where only women would be sitting and praying. That is kind of right corner of the Gurudev Idol which is not visible from the front. We were not allowed to go there and could not ask for more details as well as nobody was speaking over there except to pray for the bhajan. The localites or the ones who visited over there in the past might throw further light on that. As the photography was prohibited inside the Math, we had to take the pics
from outside and leave from there.
Bus, Train, Ferry Service timings for Belur Math
It was around 6 when we came out. The next destination in our plan was for to see Howrah bridge.But before that we wanted to eat something as there was no lunch apart from Breakfast cum lunch which was served in the flight around 11 AM :-) So, visited one of the bhelpuri shop of Belur. What a catchy name isn't it ? But they wanted to name it as Mumbai famous bhelpuri ! however it was nice and was time to explore the high ISO settings as well :-)

On reaching the port from where we could get ferries, got to know that we  need to wait till 7:30pm for the next ferry to go to Howrah Bridge. It was not far, but probably Aarati might finish around 7 and no-one might be travelling during the Aarati time.So, it was quite logical to keep the ferry when more people travel. There was a local train as well to reach Howrah, but not in the time when we needed. We had already travelled in Ferry, and i was not a big fan of Ferry ride again if we had to spend more than 1 hour waiting for it. Have given the timings of Ferries, trains connecting Belur math (taken at an info booth cum free slipper stand at Belur math entrance) so that friend who are visiting next time can plan accordingly.

We had the option to wait or walk almost 1 km towards Belur math to find the buses going towards Howrah bridge. When we walked till there, we realized that we could have choosen to walk out from the other gate of Belur math to reach towards bus stand. Nevertheless, the walk towards port and walking back to Belur math turned out to be an info collector for the next time visitors, if at all someone reading this plans to visit Belur math next time.

When we reached bus stand, could see many electric Autos and were actually happy about the government's efforts to reduce pollution. There were buses with boards "Belur Math Esplanade" . Last Name Sounds spanish ? Later got to know that Esplanade is an area and has railway station as well and buses from Belur Math to Esplanade travel via Howrah :-) Bus left around 6:50 and reached Howrah around 7:15.
Bus At Belur Math
 From there we had to walk to the magnificent view of Howrah bridge in the night. Its actually an amazing view to see. If you reach there in the morning, you can enjoy the beauty of River flowing underneath the bridge. But as it was eve, we had different view altogether as in next pics

 The narrow path leading to Howrah bridge is so crowded that you feel as if you are in some procession. One can easily get lost in a group while taking the photographs unless he is walking along a group full of photographers or all are walking very slowly posing for his pics :-) The crowd reduces a bit once you reach the mid of the bridge.

After that we headed back towards Sealdah railway and had to get down at a cross before the market streets near railway station as the bus was going in other direction. Here you start witnessing the varieties of food and culture in Kolkata. Can see a barber shop with only a mirror and a place where a single guy can sit next to the road. There is a chicken shop, a Kati roll center and an ATM center in the opposite side of the same road.

Can see trams, buses travelling in the same road.By the way, ATM was having cash and there were only one or two people visiting it rarely! Its a  important point i thought of mentioning explicitly for the interest of people and paid media creating news about people starving and falling sick at ATM queues :-) I was not interested in Kati roll probably because i was not completely hungry and was more interested in exploring the Bengali veg food. We had a walk around those streets and reached railway station around 8:30 PM. Could not get any restaurants over there and had to visit Jan Aahar. Was expecting some veg food over there. But had to explicitly mention that i wanted something without egg and Fish ! Got the food. But was not satisfied. Was definitely not expecting a five star dinner over there. But neither the dal nor the curry or even the people sitting and chatting after their meal is over was a pleasant experience. Probably the tiredness of we travelling, walking since morning without proper food added to it. I politely requested one guy for seat who was not eating and was just keeping his bag in the other chair for a seat. But did not get. As i got one more seat later, did not mind asking again. Those couple were still there when we finished our dinner and came out and there were many waiting for the seat. That was the first and thank god, the last experience in Bengal where i had a bad experience like this. Would mention about the superb Bengali thali in NJP and the friendly people i met over the journey later.

I was still hungry after that dinner and wanted to explore the chat street cum market again. We had 2 more hours for our train. So, visited the markets again. Spotted the different varieties of carrot, Seme(don't know
the english name of them yet) vegetable and may more local varients of the vegetables which i have seen in our place. Enjoyed the Mitha Lassi at a shop by name Kalpataru. The shop initially looked like a goldsmith shop where the shop owner would be sitting on the Galla. But it was a lassi shop instead and we could get sweet lassi with various flavours. Also purchased a cube of Nolen Gur(Jaggery made from Date palms) which is a unique thing i found here. My Food guide Adrita(just kidding) was suggesting to taste Pithe and Rasgulla over there. Tips from Adrita to identify original Nolen gur is to take a piece of it and rub against your fingers, it should not remain in crystals and should become paste. Luckily the cube i got was
matching those characteristics :-) The above tip is to safegaurd you against fake Nolen gur cube made with sugar and artificial colours ! But could not Pithe or Rasgullas over the bakeries in market and had to search
in NJP later.So, Will post the NJP pithe story when i come to NJP part :-) 

Nolen Gur
Dec 16th night:
We boarded our train in midnight and reached NJP by 10:05 AM. The padarthik Express which we boarded was supposed to reach around 9 !.Anyhow,that day we did not have any other plans than reaching to Darjelling and reporting to YHAI base camp. We took few snaps near the heritage train of the 1798
which is kept directly infront of NJP station and were thinking whether to have breakfast or to board a shared taxi to Darjelling.

There were multiple taxis each asking us to give 500 ,400 etc to Darjelling. one offered at 200 also. But that was a tourist guy expecting us to be a tourist willing to roam around in Darjelling. I was of the openion to have breakfast and board a taxi as we would get one or the other taxi later. But friends were of the openion that we have to board a taxi first as all people in train might leave and the final taxis might charge us more or we may have to wait for the next train to get some passengers. The taxi which we got was telling he will leave in 5 mins and would stop on the way for breakfast. But neither did he leave in 5 mins nor he stopped on the way for breafast :-) So, one
more day was supposed to go without proper breakfast :-)

Four of us were sitting in last seat of  sumo and a pinky (sorry i forgot the name of the girl and her dog now :-) ) and her family was sitting in our front. The dog was more friendly and was willing to visit us :-) Don't ask me if the girl or her parents were friendly or not :-) We enjoyed the beauty of terrain as we slowly ascended.

The boy sitting at the front could not resist himself from vomitting due to the heavy curves and had to stop the
vehicle for a while.  Sleeping buddha in our vehicle was asleep and other 2 were in good condition as well. Probably because we did not had anything in stomach which could come out :-) Could see the tracks for the heritage train of Darjelling(more about it in next part) once we neared darjelling. The tracks are interwened with the roads and cross the road from left to right and right to left in many places. It has only 2 bogies and they horn from a long distance so the vehicles in any such cross overs would be alarmed. Still i heard that , 2 days before that train was derailed ! Anyhow, had seen that diesel train passing us on our journey. And seen the steam varient as well during our stay in Darjelling later.

The roads of Darjelling and places near it are very well planned with the stones on immersed in it so that roads don't skid even in winter or with snowfall. It was around 1:20 when we reached Darjelling city and one guy was shouting to our driver if we belonged to YHAI trek. our rack sacks at the top of vehicle made him guess so. We thanked that guy and walked towards Orchid guest house in the way shown by him as our driver had already crossed that hotel and came ahead of it. The beautiful views of Kanchanagana and  YHAI
boards were welcoming us to Darjelling

Coming up next: Day of Reporting and explorations in Darjelling

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