What is the first thing that greets you when you visit Kolkata? The ramshackle yellow taxis which seems to have a character of their own. In my many visits to the city, the streets have changed, the red flag (Left) has given way to Trinamool's white and blue but what has not changed is perhaps the image of the city. It is a city of stories. Of pujos in the many paras, to the street side addas, to the smell of cha and cigarette - yes, you can almost smell it. Kolkata may symbolise and signify different things to different people - as do all cities but for me, Kolkata or Cal is embedded in sepia toned nostalgia. There is no high school or belonging nostalgia, though. The nostalgia Kolkata evokes for me is difficult to put down ion words - it is the crowd at Boi Mela and college street, it is the rasp attention with which the denizens of this city read their newspapers, it is the morning cola and cha at Balwant Singh's dhaba at Russel Peter street, it is in the pace of the tram which runs at its own speed giving a damn to what the world thinks - I think that in a way does conjure up what the city also stands for. In economic progress, the city has been left behind. New and smaller cities have sprung up which offer much more to the youth and people are ready to lap it all up. Yet, when you think of Kolkata; it brings a smile to your face no matter how transitory.
There is a lot to do in Kolkata, depending what fancies you -
There is Park Street and its list of glorious restaurants. You won't be disappointed -
Take a stroll cross maidan in the evenings
Watch young boys play football; not cricket
Visit Jorasanko Thakurbari in North Kolkata
Flury's - Find it overrated but loyalists pledge by it. It is as elite and British as it can get. Choose anything from the menu - Scrambled eggs, mutton puff, Club sandwiches. Reserve the desserts for Kookie Jar and you will not be disappointed
Have an elaborate lunch at Suruchi or 6, Ballygunge Place and you will not be disappointed
Calcutta puts potato and egg in its biryani so don't be surprised - everyone ha their favourites. You can choose from Afza, Arsalan and Shiraz. Please note - The Kolkata Biryani tastes distinctly different from its Lucknow and Hyderabad counterparts
The beauty of Kolkata is also in its myriad communities - Parsi, Anglo Indian, Chinese, Jewish. Visit Tangra/Chinatown to get a taste of China in India. There is a Chinese Kali Temple maintained by the Chinese community in Calcutta. The history is as interesting as it is perplexing - the prasad is made up of Chowmein
Ferry across the Hooghly river and silently watch the sun go down - I used to look forward to it, as a child.
Jazz a lot of cities offer, but go listen to Baul music at Baitanik in Elgin Road.
Sweet tooth or not, you must try Nolan Gurer Sondesh, Bhapa Doi Sandesh and Lady Kenny (Langcha) from Balaram Mullick. (Sweetest part of India, after all)
Kolkata has a vibrant nightlife - Moulin Rouge, Roxy, Someplace Else and Oly Pub are the popular ones but there are tons of other options too
Shop for Sarees. Choose from Taant, Jamdani, Baluchari, Kantha stitch, Bengal cotton. Simaya at Elgin Road and Gourisarees at Shakespeare Sarani. Although you will find tons of options elsewhere in the city too.
End your Kolkata sojourn with hot chocolate from Mrs Magpie and Lemon Tart/Rumballs from Nahoum's.