Wednesday, June 9, 2010

The Ubiquitous Bengali Tourist

Hello friends, I am the ubiquitous Bengali tourist. To borrow the Russel Peters expression, wherever you go, I will get you; well I might not be as promiscuous or well endowed as my North Indian brethren, but when it comes to Wanderlust, I am second to none in India. Just cast your mind back to your last holiday (this generalization only holds true for tourist destinations within India) when you were trying to understand the history of the Mysore Rajas or were appreciating the pristine beauty of Sikkim and suddenly your concentration or the beauty of the moment was disturbed by the shrill cry of “Ogo Suncho” (the Bengali version of Aji Sunte Ho.)

Frankly I am everywhere; I take 2.5 vacations each year, during the summer holidays, during the winter holidays and maybe during Durga Puja holidays every alternate year. In between are thrown in the quick sorties to Digha/Shankarpur during unexpected 3 day weekends when the Left or Didi calls a bandh. These bandhs are extremely strategic and usually fall on a Friday or on a Monday; the cause for these Bandh could range from outrage against US atrocities in Iraq/ Afghanistan/ North Korea to the rising food prices (how a strike contributes to decreasing food inflation or helps hand to mouth daily laborers may appear a slightly untenable logic to non Bengalis, but that is not germane to this post.)

The summer vacation is to a hill station to escape the heat and humidity of Calcutta. In this we are guided by our late revered leader, Jyoti Basu who spent most of his summers in London, attracting non-existent investors to West Bengal. Coming back to the more domestic me, i.e. the ubiquitous Bengali tourist, I generally head to Darjeeling or Shimla in the summer. The visit is preceded by visits to the local laundry to collect the woolen wear, last worn during the 7 days of the Calcutta winter. You will be able to spot me easily at these hill stations by my trademark monkey cap and layers of warm clothing even though the temperature is not a tick below 20 degrees and I am talking Centigrades here. I never go alone on vacations and alone includes my immediate family; I always go in a large group comprising of friends and/or family like siblings/cousins, their families and parents and sometimes even grandparents thrown in for good measure. So when you see a large group at a tourist destination, which also the source of a large cacophony of noises, general nuisance, or an eyesore with bright pink and yellow cardigans and sweaters, you should know I am in town. Be scared, very scared.

In the hill stations I visit, I generally stay away from any physical exertions such as trekking, rafting, paragliding; as the Bengali intelligentsia I know better that such physical trivialities do not maketh me. My earlier generation could spout lines from Tagore apt for almost any situation or place, but Tagore is so passé now. So instead I visit the flower shows in the hill stations like Kalimpong/ Ooty where I take photographs. I encourage my family to mingle with the flowers, i.e. tread the flower bed and sit/stand amongst the flowers as opposed to stand next to them. I do not carry a camera and take the photographs with my mobile phone camera; technologically I am really up there and I have the latest camera phone made by my fellow country men in China. I am also not averse to the idea of clandestinely plucking a flower or two from such gardens for the daughter or the Mrs, necessarily in this order.

Coming back to my other holidays of the year, there is the mandatory pilgrimage to Puri/ Digha and if I am really adventurous, to the westernized beaches of Goa. So out come the Bermudas (pronounced as Bar-muda) and the colorful vests, as I display the full beauty of my athletic body on the beaches of Goa; a thing of beauty may not always be a joy forever. The wife is spared this chore and she continues to preserve her modesty in the saree (Honeymoon Travels anyone) and more recently in the Salwar Kameez. I restrict my children and myself to bathing in waist height sea water; the wife dutifully stands on the beach shouting at us and coercing us to not go so deep into the sea and providing us with towels to dry ourselves after we come back from our latest naval exercises (the pun is intended and thankfully does not go below the belt).

Another trait that distinguishes me is my food habits. While Calcutta is truly a gastronomical delight with cuisines and flavors from all over the world, I am more discerning in my choice of food when I travel; after all you have got to watch what you eat. Savoring the local food maybe an integral part of any traveling, but why bother when everything is available in good old Cal. Wherever I go I search for the staple rice and fish curry (called Maach Bhaat in Bengali, which delightfully rhymes with Marxbad) and it is only a matter of time before I chance upon the local Dada Boudi or the Annapurna Hindu Hotel, be it in Chennai or Goa. At times I am a bit more adventurous but only if Chinese or Biriyani is available, but then again it can never match the Calcutta standards.

Let me end my discourse here; the Sumo car is waiting at the West Bengal tourist lodge where I am staying during my umpteenth summer vacation to North Bengal. There are 14 of us in our group who need to get ready before fitting into that solitary sumo car. I sincerely hope that you also are able to take some time off from your busy capitalistic lives and head to the hills, where (after you have read this post) you will look forward to meet or at least can identify me.


Blogger Abhishek Ghosh said...

Take a bow writer ... great post :)

We all can relate to it so well , recently I been to north Sikkim and in a pristine, serene, soundless Gurudongmar Lake suddenly from my behind came a bong group with shouts : "dekho dekho, erokom jinish kolkatay pabe??"... and it echoed in the till-then-virgin valley. I pledge they should avoid pristine places and limit themselves to puri,north bengal,digha and hardwar.

June 9, 2010 at 11:00 AM  
Blogger Ani said...

Really well written. Keep up the gud work.

June 25, 2010 at 10:26 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

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August 10, 2010 at 12:53 AM  
Blogger Rahul & Raghav said...

Great Blog! I think this is the best till date.

September 28, 2010 at 8:23 AM  
Blogger Rhythmn said...

awesome blog..

December 20, 2010 at 11:34 AM  

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