Poila Baishakh - Celebration of the Bengali New Year

From Madras to Kathmandu there are more than 2,500 kilometers. I choose the route that passes through Calcutta. I'm still in tropical India. Palm trees escort my trip. Palms and rice fields that mirror. It would be delicious if it were not because I cannot distract myself for a moment.

All the coast of the East is broken by the mouth of great rivers that open enormous sandy estuaries. On this fluvial sand of very wide beaches the cows walk towards the water. Fortunately, there are built long bridges. Otherwise, this trip would be completely impossible.

Another 250 kilometers to Calcutta. I am tired, and hungry. I dream of a beer and a good plate of hot food. But nothing is around me except a raging traffic that in the dark is crazy, delirious, and impossible. But these guys survive, so I do too. My eyes are squeezed. My brain is sharpened. I only think of driving, of dodging, of sensing reactions and threats. After a couple of harrowing hours in which I am in a trance, the sign of 100 kilometers appears. The last hundred. The longest. With the thickest traffic and the most impatient people. But there we go, towards the famous city of joy.

Calcutta, renamed as Kolkata, is huge, divided by the Hugli River. I cross the Howrah bridge. I locate a cheap hotel and go to dinner at a restaurant where they serve beer. I return to the hotel somewhat intoxicated with the beer. The hotel receptionist informs me that the next day is the Bengali New Year.

At dawn I discover that my street is a perfect portrait of Calcutta. Within two hundred meters I have everything that this city can offer. There are beautiful colonial buildings, shops, restaurants, a fruit market, pastry shops, temples and traffic. It is chaos. I do not need to move from here. I can see the entire city just by walking out the door of the hotel. In addition, near I have the citizens park and the Victoria Memorial. The festive day began with people in a park enjoying a concert of songs by Rabindranath Tagore, an event that began with the piece to welcome Poila Boishakh.

Men wore the traditional red and white kurta, while women wore the typical saris and flowers in their hair. The maidan nearby is a magnificent green belt within this polluted chaos. The white palace is reflected in the waters of the pond and the impression is of virtual decoration of as perfect as it turns out.

1 comment:

Kala said...

Another wonderfully informative post Kalyan.

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