Now that I’ve summarized my Kolkata excursion (you can read that here), I’ll write a more detailed account of my days there. The first day, of course, was partly about getting to the city of not just joy, but diversity too.
A first-rate weather in Delhi NCR calmed my resfeber (noun. Swedish. The tangled feelings of fear & excitement before a journey.). The blue sky I saw from my IndiGo flight gave me hope that my expedition would go well.
The KOL airport has undergone a transformation since I was last here (2011). It’s streamlined now but still retains its compact nature; it took me barely 15 minutes from disembarking from the plane to exiting the airport.
I’d booked a Bharat Taxi; my cabbie, Fakhre Alam, promptly picked me up. Over the next four days, Alam bhai gave me a fine download of Kolkata & how it changed visibly over the last 20 years or so.
My first stop was my hotel, Fairfield by Marriott, to check in. I thank the hotel for assigning me a room with a fantastic view – from my panoramic window, I could look at the Biswa Bangla Gate, a futuristic structure; a curved metro line; & the skyline of Newtown.
It was early for lunch but I also wanted to grab a nap before heading out in the evening. So, I made my way to Chowman, an Asian restaurant owned by Debaditya Chaudhury, the founding member of a popular Bengali Rock Band, ‘Lakkhichhara’.
As I packed away on Chili Teriyaki Potato & Chowman Special Noodles (both of which were tasty), my tryst with the KOL rains began.
Luckily, when it was time to step out in the evening, the rain had ceased. I was on my way to Kaee Contemporary, an art gallery owned by Ms. Ambica Beri, whose Art Ichol I’d visited in Maihar in January. (Read my verse dedicated to Maihar here.)
It was the opening night of the exhibition, When the Other Stares Back. While I’ll write about it in detail below, let me just use one compound word to summarize it: thought – provoking!
My cousin, SD, picked me from Kaee Contemporary & we drove to Polo Floatel for dinner. At The Bridge, overlooking the river Ganges, we noshed at copious amounts of kebabs & biryani, gossiped about the past & the present, and had a fantastic time.
An adventurous Uber ride (where the driver told me he’s not the driver :D) brought me back to Fairfield & I called it wraps on Day 1.
Ever since I heard the name of the art gallery, I was curious to know what Kaee meant. It didn’t strike me that it referred to the Hindi word for moss. But, on visiting, my doubt was dispelled.
Like moss, Kaee Contemporary is perceptive to the changes within the environment. It elucidates Kolkata’s contemporary art ecosystem. The gallery nurtures a community of patrons, practitioners & public.
TBH, Kaee wasn’t part of my original sightseeing plans but when I came to know it was the opening night for a new exhibition the same day that I landed, I knew I’d to go. I’m glad I did!
‘When The Other Stares Back’ is an exhibition that will make you think about the dystopia we’re moving towards. It’ll move you with its dejection & it’ll frighten you with its atrocity. “What ARE we doing to our world?” is a question you’ll be forced to ask.
The very first set of art by Mr. Jagannath Panda caught my eye with its big & bright brocade birds (alliteration unintended!). The work The Custodian of Untold Truth (I) held my gaze for long. The multicolored rooster standing on an upturned Lamborghini with migrants on the move in the background (amongst other things) spoke ominously of a time when wealth will come crashing down when those whose labor helps in wealth creation will turn their backs on it.
Amongst Mr. Gigi Scaria’s work, Wrapped made me ponder about its significance for a while. It took me a few minutes to realize that this is what we’d been doing to our mountains – blasting them, cutting them, rounding them up, fencing them in & so on. We don’t even realize that in the end, it’s the mountains that will survive & not us.
Ms. Jayashree Chakravarthy’s Twigs to Creepers made me gasp. Her use of cotton, jute, paper, tea stain & the like make this piece of art so real & yet so surreal at the same time.
Ms. Radhika Agarwala’s Primordial Ooze series made me think, for a moment, that I was looking at fossils in amber. It reminded me of the multiple times I’d felt that nature will find a way, if left alone.
Ms. Sonia Mehra Chawla’s Vital to Life brought the microscopic world of plankton to the fore.
Lastly, Ms. Suhasini Kejriwal’s sepia – tinted artwork gave forth a new dimension to our everyday streets.
While many of the art works left me brooding, let me add that the opening night was also a lot of fun. For one, it gave me a chance to meet Ambica ma’am again as well as other interesting art practitioners.
The exhibition is on till 2022 September end. I’ll urge Kolkata residents to give a dekko.
The Bridge is the casual dining restaurant at the Polo Floatel. Walking the plank to enter the ship – themed hotel, I was immediately taken in by how vibrant the decor was.
I’d expected the hotel/ restaurant to bob & was disappointed when it didn’t. We chose to sit inside as the weather was pretty airless. Soon we were munching on a Non-veg Kebab Platter in which all the types were succulent. An Assam Tea Spritzer performed the role of the perfect accompaniment.
Entrée was a Kolkata Chicken Biryani. What makes a Kolkata Biryani different is the inclusion of potatoes apart from the main meat.
We called it a night with a set of pictures on the Sky Deck. The soft sound of the river in front of us & the shimmering lights of the Howrah Bridge made for a fitting end.
A small eatery but serving pretty scrumptious Asian cuisine – who dislikes that? My initial thought was to just eat an appetizer but when my Chili Teriyaki Potato turned out to be spicy, I ordered myself a Chowman Special Noodles. This was a mixed meat noodles & was pungent.
The decor had a black & red color scheme while the centerpiece was a Buddha statue, giving the place a soothing ambience.
I’m enraptured I booked Bharat Taxi. Conveyance was my biggest apprehension as I dislike the uncertainty of app-based cabs. Bharat Taxi turned out to be the best decision of my Kolkata trip.
Coordinating with them was easy. Ms. Noori, my coordinator, understood my requirements well & remained in touch throughout my journey to ensure a hassle-free travel.
Mr. Fakhre Alam, my driver, was amiable, flexible & knew Kolkata well. Being a solo women traveler, I felt comfortable traveling with him.
No wonder Bharat Taxi is a reputed name in this service.
That’s about my Day 1. Back with Day 2 soon.