Kolkata Kaleidoscope

From Personal Achives

In the modern day of urbanization, most of the modern cities in India love to call themselves cosmopolitan and not just mere cities thriving around the periphery of an Indian state. Tell someone who lives in Mumbai that he lives in a Maharastrian city; he will immediately correct you as being a cosmopolitan. The same goes with people living in other parts of the country.

 Not the case with Calcutta. The city is essentially Bengali and leaves no stones unturned to preserve the Bengali culture. Surprisingly, people living in Bengal are proud about the fact that Calcutta hasn’t lost its old world charm. If you delve deep into it, you’ll find that the city’s weaknesses and strengths that echo a unique Bengali character.

From Personal Achives

The city has its own drawbacks, from the sudden bouts of passion through cheerful pandemonium to fiery reaction to a smallest provocation.  However, these flaws are strengths in disguise.  Calcutta incarnates the Bangalee love in the name of culture, the triumph of intellectualism over avarice, the warmth among people, disdain with which hypocrisy and insincerity are treated and the supremacy of emotion over all other aspects.

This gives ‘the city of joy’ uniqueness and it is not meant for everyone. You want your city green and clean; go to Delhi. You want your city to be impersonal and rich, stick to Mumbai. You want your city to be hi-tech – Bangalore is the answer. But you want a city which has soul – come to Kolkata.

Calcutta grows on you.  It’s just not the lush Maidan, the grandeur of Victoria Memorial, the hustle-bustle of Burrabazar or the brilliance of second Hoogly Bridge. It is more than the usual bricks and mortars; it’s about the ‘people’. And no one can replicate the essence of the city’s dwellers.

From Personal Achives
Calcutta is about subtle emotions, art, culture, passion and ideas. Here, people don’t talk about stock market, but about the latest political gossip reported on a newspaper. They talk about Robi Thakur and Mamata Banerjee with the same exuberance. Each evening,  a true-blood Bengali will want fish on his table, his children will be encouraged to take up a new form of art, he will appreciate good book – something that still bind every Bangalee with his culture. For him, religion and culture will be in inextricably bound together.

From Personal Achives
Talking about religion, tell anyone about Pujo in Kolkata and they’ll scoff. Puja is religious they’ll say. Contrary to the belief, the world-famous Durga puja is just not about chanting hymns or worshipping the Goddess. It’s about the varied emotions of the city – like a grand carnival. It has little to do with meaningless ritual or sinister political activity. The essence of Puja is that all the passions of Bengal converge: emotion, culture, the love of life, the warmth of being together, the joy of celebration, the pride inartistic expression and yes, the cult of the goddess. There’s no place you’ll find where children cry on Dashimi as Maa Durga bids farewell to the lesser mortals. Where else would the whole city gooseflesh when the dhakis first begin to beat their drums? Which other Indian festival - in any part of the country - is so much about food and pandal hopping?

To understand Calcutta, you need to understand the very essence of Bangla.  It’s not easy, but as time goes by you start falling in love with the city. And after a while, you’ll realise that the city has stolen your soul. Wherever you go, you’ll carry a bit of the ‘city of joy’ with you. Such is the essence of Calcutta – a feeling that never fades away!

The Joy of Flying

Incredible. Amazing. Exhilarating. Uplifting. Intoxicative. Electric. Soul stirring.  Exalting. Inspiring... or quite simply Out of the world. Running out of adjectives to describe my first experience of paragliding.

It was such a wonderful experience that I’m hooked for life and I intend going back to do the beginners course. The joy of free flight really is hard to describe. It is something I always wanted to do and I finally did it.

From Personal Achives
As we started running on our tracks, I felt myself being lifted into the air and drifting further and further from land. In a matter of seconds, we were flying high above the valley. From my vantage point, I feasted on endless corn fields, green plains and clusters of dark green forests, all sprawled over undulating valleys and hills. I shouted in excitement as I looked down and saw tiny figures of people looking straight up towards me. I could hear people cheering me up. I looked straight ahead and could see the farthest parts of Deolo, all beautiful.

I was flying high above the slopes of Kalimpong on a paraglide with Rishi – my instructor. He told this would give the best view of Deolo, and indeed, they were right. We took off into the sky and glided over acres upon acres of pine forests and running streams. Once in the sky, I drank in views of nature which stands high on a cliff overlooking the lake. Fringed by beautiful stoned paths and emerald mountains, the magical setting resembled scenes from a fairy tale. I pinched myself, to see if I was dreaming.

From Personal Achives
As I floated there, in the sky, with the birds, and with everything hundreds of feet below me, the sense of peace and joy I felt was invigorating. I’ve always looked up towards the sky and seen birds flying and imagined what it would be like for them. I actually for the first time in my life, while I was paragliding, looked down and saw the birds flying, below me! That sight is etched in my memory forever.

The scenery was breath-taking with the hills and valleys surrounding the entire area and the pristine blue of the sky…  I was speechless.  I wasn’t scared anymore! I was completely enamoured with the moment and the once in a lifetime experience I was participating in. A smile did not leave my face!

As my feet landed safely on the ground, I felt full of gratitude and was on a total adrenaline HIGH.  I was thrilled that I had set out to do something that truly scared me and it ended up being the single most exhilarating experience of my entire life.  There was pure JOY in conquering that FEAR!
Pic: Random

There are many experiences in life that make you feel that you are truly alive. This is definitely one of them.

P.S.: The flying machines will take off from Deolo, 5km from Kalimpong, and descend into various spots nearby. The football ground of Dr Graham’s Homes, barely a kilometre away, and Relli, some 10km away, are some of the landing points. The gliders will touch down at Pudung, close to Relli, too.