City of Joy – P Meets V!

city of joy, kolkata, victoria memorial

Now that you’ve read about my Day One in Kolkata, you can read a detailed account of my 2nd day.

I’m not a fan of gyms but as I’m used to morning walks, I end up visiting hotel gyms to use the treadmill. And that’s what I did in KOL too. all would have been well had I not been subjected to the sight of male guests taking to the swimming pool in their underwear, rather than in trunks! Ugh!!

Getting the adrenaline going!

A tasty breakfast at Kava, however, put the bad sight behind me. And soon after that, I was ready for an excursion to cultural institutions. I headed first to the Saint Paul’s Cathedral (~45 minutes).

As I admired the stained-glass windows & the memorial reliefs, it began to rain. The initial idea was for me to walk down to the Victoria Memorial but I waited for 30 minutes for the rain to cease & it didn’t. So, I made my way in the drizzle to the Victoria Memorial (10 minutes’ walk).

Irrepressible Subhas, an exhibition on Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose was ongoing on the ground floor while on the first floor of the Memorial was the Biplobi Bharat Gallery. Those who know me know that I read every single exhibit but the wealth of information here overwhelmed even someone like me.

The Victoria Memorial was crowded beyond imagination. So, I was glad to step out into the fresh air after a while. My legs were aching by now & I desperately wanted to sit down.

Kolkata was my one saudade, the other being Flurys (~15 minutes). I don’t even remember since when I’ve wanted to visit this iconic café. My wish got fulfilled on this excursion.

Lunch was followed by a solemn, humbling drive to The Mother House of The Missionaries of Charity (~10 minutes). How does a person be so selfless?

I wanted to visit the South Park Cemetery as I’d read articles about the gorgeous mausoleums & tombstones but they now prohibit casual visitors.

Thoughts kept churning in my head as I walked later on the James Prinsep Ghat (20 minutes), a promenade on the river Ganges.

With my heart so full, I needed to loosen up & Soul – The Sky Lounge (~25 minutes) in the Park Street Area provided the perfect spot for this. As the dusk sky turned pink, I reminded myself that maybe we can be both – fun-loving & selfless, & that not all of us can be Mother Teresa, but can try to be good human beings!

Back to Fairfield (~1 hour) & wraps on Day 2!

Saint Paul’s Cathedral

Saint Paul’s Cathedral is an Anglican Church & was the first of its kind within the erstwhile British territory, outside of Great Britain. It was built when a need for a bigger cathedral was felt, courtesy the growing European community in Kolkata.

Rain rain go away…

The cathedral was damaged twice in earthquakes. The steeple we see today is the renovated one after the second earthquake. Lighter bricks were used to build the Cathedral but these bricks also could withstand extreme temperatures & natural disasters.

After paying an entry fee of INR 10, I walked down to the white facade which looked absolutely magnificent. The moment I laid my eyes on the tall structure, my jaw dropped at its surreal appearance.

The interior has a high ceiling, carved pews, frescoes & reliefs. A number of the memorial reliefs were dedicated to soldiers & officers of the British Army who had fallen in the two World Wars & other battles.

Not-so-little P wants to play!

Seeing the chiselling of marble done so finely was a treat to my eyes. I wish I could have clicked a few pictures but photography was prohibited inside.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Victoria Memorial

For the Victoria Memorial, two kinds of tickets are available – one for the gardens (INR 10) & one for the gardens + museum (INR 30). With the wispy rain on my face, I bought the latter ticket & proceeded inside.

The pathway was flanked by gardens on both sides. Walking down, I first came to a bronze statue of Queen Victoria. It depicted the Queen in her later years sitting on a throne.

Lord Curzon wanted the Queen’s memorial to be stately with beautiful gardens. What’s interesting is that the building fund came from Indian princes and native states! The Victoria Memorial was opened to the public in 1921.

The Victoria Memorial Gardens

The Victoria Memorial is an iconic structure & is synonymous with Kolkata! I’d been desirous to see the Memorial for donkey’s years now. So, even the rain couldn’t dampen my excitement.

The Victoria Memorial is, in one word, breath-taking. I got a chance to drive around it at night & it looked even more marvelous with its illumination. It’s constructed with white Makrana Marble that was brought from Rajasthan.

Irrepressible Subhas

This ongoing multimedia exhibition celebrates Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose’s 125th birth anniversary. I walked around absorbing Netaji’s life stories, ideals & beliefs. Instead of a linear narrative, the exhibition was presented as a set of FAQs made the viewer naturally curious to know the answer to the question posed.

As I soaked up all the information, many new to me, I pondered how we’d not been taught as much about this important facet of the Indian freedom struggle as it warranted.

My favorite was the map depicting Netaji’s ‘great escape’ – travel by various means from Kolkata to Berlin (7,000+ KMS), evading the British authorities.

Royal Gallery

This gallery on the ground floor consisted of oil paintings from the British Raj. A painting depicting the Prince of Wales’ entry in Jaipur by Vassilli Verestchagin was impressive.

The other set of paintings I liked were by the Daniell duo; they traveled across India & documented what they saw in their paintings.

Entrance Hall Gallery

Here, paintings & photographs showing the stages of the building of Victoria Memorial were displayed.

Biplobi Bharat Gallery

As I began to exit the Victoria Memorial building, I realized there were people on the first floor too on what looked to be a balcony. I took directions from the security guard & headed upstairs. There the Biplobi Bharat exhibition was on display.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi had inaugurated this Gallery on Shaheed Diwas (23 March 2022). It contains aspects of the Indian freedom struggle that haven’t been given their due importance in the mainstream narrative (Revolutionaries & Armed Resistance).

This, to me, was an eyeopener because while I knew about a few of the revolutionaries, there were so many more I’d not heard of. I took my time reading through contribution of Naval Mutiny, formation of significant associations etc.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Flurys

My initial plan was to have lunch at Peter Cat & then come to Flurys for a dessert but when I found that the former had a 45 minutes’ waiting, I marched straight into the latter the next door.

Flurys on Park Street – What a landmark!

Best decision! Like I’ve said earlier, I don’t even know since when I’ve wanted to visit Flurys. It’s the distinction of introducing Swiss & other international delicacies to Kolkata.

Over decades, Flurys has become a part of Kolkata culture. The Park Street outlet is a landmark. And this is where I was now sitting. I’d a Cola Float (tasty), a Summer Crunch Salad & a Rum Ball (OK).

The Summer Crunch Salad had walnut & cheese & vegetables & apple, drizzled with vinaigrette. Certainly delish!

Delish Salad!

My servers were absolutely great, giving me just the right amount of attention & a whole lot of courtesy. The soothing pink décor made for an extremely lively ambience. The heritage Kolkata pictures on one of the walls was worth stopping & looking at.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

The Mother House of The Missionaries of Charity

This was the house where Mother Teresa lived & served, and where today she’s entombed. Entry is free. I was shown to Mother’s tomb where I sat awhile & brooded over her life.

We read a lot of conflicting messages today but in my childhood, all I knew about Mother Teresa was that she was a pure, selfless soul who served the poor & destitute community till her last breath.

The entire Mother House & specially the tomb room were so peaceful that I could almost hear my own heartbeat. Next to the tomb room was a small museum named ‘Mother Teresa’s Life, Spirit and Message’.

Here I saw & read through displays of Mother Teresa’s enamel dinner-bowl, crucifix, handwritten letters etc. On reading that she’d left her home to join a convent at 12 years of age, I was again struck by how clear some chosen ones are on this earth w.r.t. their calling!

I then climbed the stairs to view the Mother’s Room, i.e., the room Mother Teresa occupied. It’s been preserved the way it was when she was alive. But its small size left me amazed.

Please note that photographs are allowed only at Mother Teresa’s tomb and of her statue.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

James Prinsep Ghat

As if I’d not already walked enough for the day, I decided to tire my legs some more! I stood in front of the James Prinsep Memorial with the Vidyasagar Setu as its backdrop. The sky was showing its evening colors now. The entire effect was magical.

James Prinsep was the Assistant Assay Master in Calcutta Mint & later the Assay Master in Banaras Mint. He pioneered the idea of building a tunnel to drain swamps. He introduced uniform coinage. He decoded the Brahmi script.

He died young & in his memory was built the James Prinsep Memorial. The monument is in the Palladian style – six sets of Ionian columns holding a 40’ white roof. I believe due to increasing graffiti on the walls, the administration had now cordoned off entry inside the Memorial.

Countless number of visitors were sitting in the Memorial lawn & even more were visiting the riverside. So, I did too!

To get to the Ghat, I first crossed railway tracks of a railway station called Prinsep Ghat Station. A train was waiting for its last passengers to embark & while I crossed the tracks, a shiver of thrill ran down my spine.

On the other side, a few steps further, stone steps led to the Ganges. This is where you can engage a boatman for a river cruise. Further ahead, walking along the Ghat, I figured it was a popular place to meet friends & chat over bhelpuris. The innumerable stalls ensure no taste bud goes unfulfilled.

Gwalior Monument

While walking, I came across a cenotaph named Gwalior Monument. Lord Ellenborough got this memorial erected in the memory of the British Army soldiers who died quelling the resistance in Madhya Pradesh.

The Gwalior Monument was an unassuming structure & would have gone unnoticed, if not for my keen sense of sniffing out heritage!

I watched the Ganges flow. Little boats bobbed on it. The mother river cleansed my heart of doubts, if not permanently, then at least momentarily. I’d wanted to watch the sunset but there was still an hour to go + it’d begun to drizzle.

James Prinsep Ghat is a splendid place to evoke – nostalgia, old world charm, life’s calling, spirituality…

No entry fees.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Soul – The Sky Lounge

By now, I was drained. I just wanted a meal & a bed. With one last effort, I made my way to Soul in the Park Street area. It’s a rooftop lounge with both covered & open – air seating. The weather was beautiful; thus, I chose open – air.

The ambience was first-rate. The sky at dusk was nothing short of gorgeous, showing first its pink hues, then purple, then blue & finally fading to black. I sat enraptured at the sky for quite a few minutes.

I was soul-ed!

The service was great. The manager lady, realizing I was dining solo, chatted up with me & made me feel at home. I’d a Gandharaj & Basil Mojito which wasn’t just delicious but also fitted well with the foot tapping music.

Dinner was Chicken Chelo Kebab which was succulent but too large a portion for one person. So off it went in the doggy bag!

Enervating but thoroughly cheering – that was my Day 2. Back with Day 3 soon!

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