Leisure


“Work is not always required. There is such a thing as sacred idleness.”

Family, Food & Drink, Leisure

Dim sum, Hummus & Falafel


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It was 30 March, Jaya’s stitches on her right wrist were removed. Things were looking okay. Her abdomen stitches would be removed next day. It was getting into evening, Jaya was in no mood to return to the hotel so early. I was a bit hesitant whether she would be able to roam around as she was recovering from her major operation two weeks ago.

A woman is always a woman. She wanted to go to a mall! We decided to go to the Quest Mall near Park Circus, Kolkata. It’s a bright, new mall. I also like walking around here. We were feeling a bit hungry as we left after having breakfast in the morning.

But Jaya wanted to have tea first. So, we went into a Chinese restaurant — Yuatcha and had nice hot tea with dim sums.

Dim sum is a style of Cantonese food. It is inextricably linked with yum cha, or the act of drinking tea – so much so that even now the two phrases are used interchangeably. The unique culinary tradition began thousands of years ago. Those who travelled along the ancient Silk Road through China would often need a place to rest before continuing on their journey. In response to the increasing amount of people passing through, tea houses opened up along the roadside of southern China. It was later discovered that tea aids digestion, so tea-house owners began offering bite-sized snacks as an accompaniment, and thus yum cha was born.

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It started raining outside. It was, in fact, raining heavily. We couldn’t go out. We then walked into the food court for some snacks as we were waiting for the rainfall to stop. We found a Lebanese food stall. We ordered for hummus and falafel.

Hummus is a Levantine food dip or spread made from cooked, mashed chickpeas blended with tahini (a paste from grounded, hulled sesame seeds), olive oil, lemon juice, salt and garlic.

Having #falafel and #hummus with @jagrataroychoudhury

A photo posted by I.RoyChoudhury (@iroychoudhury) on

Falafel is a deep-fried ball or patty made from ground chickpeas, fava beans, or both. Falafel is a common dish eaten throughout the Arab world. The fritters are now found around the world and as a form of street food, too.

We walked out of the gate and found the rain is over. We took the cab and returned to our hotel.

Art, Family, Food & Drink, Leisure

Kolkata Book Fair


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indexI was returning from Gangtok on a two-week holiday from my institute after our third-year examination on February 1. My mom was in Kolkata to attend her friend’s daughter’s marriage followed by her routine medical checkups and consultations. So, I joined her in Kolkata. After her checkups and consultations at Apollo Gleneagles Hospital, on February 2, we decided to go for the Kolkata Book Fair (কলকাতা বই মেলা) in the afternoon. One of my friends Manali also joined us there. The fair is being held at “Milan Mela” near Science City on E.M. Bypass. Two years ago, while returning from Kumbh Mela we couldn’t visit the book fair as that was the last day and I didn’t want to miss the chance this time.

International Kolkata Book Fair is a late winter fair in Kolkata. It is a unique book fair in the sense of not being a trade fair – the book fair is primarily for the general public rather than whole-sale distributors. It celebrates international literature and reflects India’s much-loved reading tradition. The Kolkata Book Fair, recognised by International Publishers Association, Geneva, is also the largest Book Fair of the world in terms of visitors.

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It’s reported that the last year’s edition of International Kolkata Book Fair was visited by around 2 million book-lovers over 12 days and books worth Rs 200 million ($3.25 million) were sold. It is the world’s third largest annual conglomeration of books after the Frankfurt Book Fair and the London Book Fair.

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The focal theme this year was Great Britain. The fair was divided into five big pavilions. Each of the pavilions contained different publication houses from India and abroad. The pavilions were very large and had mammoth collection of books from almost all subjects and interests one can imagine. I could not visit all of them but I visited two of the pavilions. One of them was containing British publishers like Oxford University Press, Cambridge University Press, etc. The Oxford stall was no less than a usual Oxford bookstore having books ranging from kids fiction categories to business books. They even had comics of great Japanese series like bleach and one piece (my favorite).  There were stalls especially for research books  covering every field from biomechanics to elementary physics and astrophysics.

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In the other one, there were stalls for local publishers like Ananda Publishers, Dey’s Publishing, etc. These stalls had basically all the Bengali books and novels ranging from Rabindranath Tagore and Satyajit Ray to current writers. There were separate stalls outside the pavilions. Other than that there were small stalls of different bookstores outside of the pavilions. This book fair could feed needs of every reader. it’s truly a paradise of book-lovers.

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The delicious attraction of this book fair was the food court — the gastronomic section where variety of snacks, sweets & confectionaries and other food items were available. There were outlets of Dominos, Kathleen, Laziz, Roll’nRoll, Alibaba etc. Some famous restaurants of Kolkata had also opened their stalls there.

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Mind-boggling varieties of dishes — very difficult to choose

They were serving delicious, mouth-watering dishes like fish fry, chicken rolls, prawn chilli to biryani and even different flavored patishapta (Indian style crepes stuffed with sweet fillings).

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Mom and Manali looking liliputs :-)

There was even a tall guy standing on sticks, wearing a menu card of one of the food stalls in the food court, inviting people to the stall.

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WP_20150202_018The other attraction of this fair that I found out interesting was different forms of artwork which I saw there. It was amazing to find artists actually working there on the spot and painting bottles, clothes and many different things that we generally dispose off after use.

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This actually proved a good point in reusing the refuse. The idea is very inspiring and I was excited to see them doing that on the spot. This is good for our nature and sustainability.

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An artist busy in creating a masterpiece

I love reading books and was very thrilled to be there. We visited many pavilions but couldn’t visit all of them due to paucity of time. We bought a Kindle for my dad — it is for his birthday gift. I bought several books. I wanted to buy more books but couldn’t buy more as we had to go to our home in Ranchi next day. I missed my dad very much as he is fond of books and he loves reading books. The time was too short although we were there for more than 4 hours. Any number of hours — even a full day is too short for this book fair. I felt bad that I could only visit two halls.

A good book has often been called a man’s best friend, or as Groucho Marx puts it, “Outside of a dog, a book is man’s best friend. Inside of a dog it’s too dark to read.”

Atri Bhattacharya has rightly said: “The Kolkata Book Fair (KBF) is a phenomenon. Large. Crowded. Noisy. Intellectual. (Oh, very intellectual!) Musical. Gastronomic. Artistic. Controversial. Chaotic. Resilient. In its own way, it encapsulates the character of its city and its most visible tribe: The literary Bengali.”

Family, Food & Drink, Leisure

Dining at Alfresco, Kolkata


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On 16 October 2014, I came to Kolkata with my parents for my mom’s health check up at Quadra Medical Services, Hazra Road.

My dad booked at Great Eastern Hotel in Dalhousie for our stay tonight. It’s the oldest five-star hotels in all over Asia and its establishment dates back to 1840s during the East India Company rule in Kolkata. The hotel has been in top charts since then. The location of the hotel is very good as it’s in the heart of the main business district of Kolkata. All the big and reputed companies have their establishment around.

The hotel is quite huge with three separate restaurants. One of them is on the lobby named Alfresco, which is a multi-cuisine restaurant accompanied with a café. The hotel is now managed by Lalit group.

We walked in there for our dinner. Well it is a very beautiful restaurant. As the name literally suggests ‘outdoor’, all the arrangements are like sitting in the outdoor porch or a tent with circular glass cane table and cane chairs complemented with sweet chirping of birds making you feel sitting at a garden in the open. The ambiance made us feel good. My mom was tired of the journey started feeling refreshed there.

We had a hard time discussing the menu since there were a lot new dishes on the menu card. Finally we settled for ‘mushroom cappuccino’ soup for my dad and me and my mom had ordered for hot and sour soup as she doesn’t like mushrooms. As the name mushroom cappuccino soup it was served in a cappuccino cup, yah truly in a cappuccino cup with cookie shaped baked breads! The innovative cappuccino was a rich, earthy soup made with mushrooms and served exactly like cappuccino. The froth and color was very much similar to the cappuccino that we generally have at the café. The presentation was awesome. The innovation was really appreciable.

Having dinner at Alfresco

A photo posted by I.RoyChoudhury (@iroychoudhury) on

Along with that they served some breads and green salad. Also we ordered for chicken Caesar salad which was equally delicious.

But for us, the star dish for the dinner was the traditional Bengali dish: ‘posto murgi’, which we ordered in the main course. The concept of posto (poppy seeds) murgi (chicken) is truly awesome. The idea of posto with some non-vegetarian item is really novel and a peculiarity of Bengali cuisine.

Posto murgi — chicken cooked in poppy seed curry

A photo posted by I.RoyChoudhury (@iroychoudhury) on

The taste of the “posto murgi” — chicken in poppy-seed paste — was even more delicious than I had expected. Along with that we had preserved breast chicken which was chef’s special. It was a chicken steak along with steamed omelets. We had fresh lime soda (sweetened) before leaving the restaurant. The food was so great that I would say that this place should be visited once again for enjoying the foods here.

I’m loving it!!!

Family, Heritage, Leisure, Travel

Ugrasen ki Baoli


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My dad has come to Delhi for attestation of some documents by Iraqi embassy. So, mom and I also accompanied him to Delhi from Ranchi.

I went with my dad. Mom was resting at the hotel. After depositing the document at Ministry of External Affairs for their attestation before it’s attested by the Iraqi embassy, Dad & I went for a walk from Patiala House towards Connaught Place. We then walked into the historic Ugrasen ki Baoli.

Ancient Indians used to build water temples as well as earliest forms of step wells and reservoirs.

Ugrasen ki Baoli (a.k.a. Agrasen ki Baoli) is one of such step wells in Delhi.

It is designated a protected monument by the Archeological Survey of India (ASI). It’s a 60-meter long and 15-meter wide historical step well on Hailey Road near Connaught Place in New Delhi.

Baoli or baori is a Hindi word (from Sanskrit vapi, vapika). Water temples and temple step wells were built in ancient India and the earliest forms of step well and reservoir were also built in India in places like Dholavira as far back as the Indus Valley Civilisation.

Although there are no known historical records to prove who built Agrasen ki Baoli, it is believed that it was originally built by the legendary king Agrasen during the Mahabharat epic era and rebuilt in the 14th century by the Agrawal community which traces its origin to Maharaja Agrasen.

From the core of the well. It’s now closed to avoid accidents. It had water before. My dad also saw water in this Baoli.

The Baoli is a unique blend of architecture with an impressive design known to have existed centuries ago. The red stone walls of the Baoli, dressed with a series of arched structure are grim and desolate, but still beautiful.

The Baoli is made up of a series of superimposed arches supported on piers or columns. It consists of 103 steps made of red stones.

The Baoli had water till recent times, but now it has dried up and one can see the bed of the reservoir.

Bed of the reservoir

It is a cool and silent place in the heart of the capital. The silence deepens as one moves to the bottom of the stairs, and the gradual increase in the gurgling sound of pigeons, and squeaky chatter of bats echoing off the stone walls makes this place creepy.

Agrasen ki baoli

A photo posted by I.RoyChoudhury (@iroychoudhury) on

The mystic architecture is definitely worth a visit.

Family, Food & Drink, Heritage, Leisure, Travel

India Gate at Night


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India Gate is the pride of Delhi. An imposing structure, the gate was built in memory to the of the 90,000 Indian soldiers who laid down their lives during World War I.

The India Gate is a war memorial located astride the Rajpath. 13,300 servicemen names, including some soldiers and officers from the UK, are inscribed on the gate.

The India Gate, even though a war memorial, evokes the architectural style of the triumphal arch.

India Gate at night

A photo posted by I.RoyChoudhury (@iroychoudhury) on

In 1971, following the Bangladesh Liberation war, a small simple structure, consisting of a black marble plinth, with reversed rifle, capped by war helmet, bounded by four eternal flames, was built beneath the soaring Memorial Archway. This structure, called Amar Jawan Jyoti, or the Flame of the Immortal Soldier, since 1971 has served as India’s Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.

During the night, India gate is dazzled by floodlit and the fountains nearby are lit up with colored lights. People throng the lawns around the India Gate in the night.We went there yesterday to enjoy the splendor of India Gate. There are many vendors selling tea, ice creams, chanachur, toys etc.

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We spent sometime there and returned after having dinner at Pindi Restaurant in Pandara Road, New Delhi. We had lovely chicken dishes and then returned to our hotel.

Dinner with @judhajitr and @jagrataroychoudhury at Pindi in Pandara Road, New Delhi

A photo posted by I.RoyChoudhury (@iroychoudhury) on

Food & Drink, Friends, Leisure

Dinner with Indian Ambassador


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Yesterday, while talking over phone Mr. Dharam Veer Singh, HOC, Indian Embassy invited us for dinner. Mr. Singh is a nice, friendly person and I agreed immediately. He again called me in the afternoon to confirm our presence in the evening at the residence. It’s so nice of him. He also informed me that he’s now getting posted at Atlanta in Georgia (USA).

We reached the residence of the ambassador at 7:00 p.m. We had nice chat with Ambassador Ajay Kumar, Mr. Singh and Mr. Ashok Rawat, Consular over scotch whiskey followed a heavy dinner.

There was kaju barfi in dessert! They said that they got the barfi just today. It was fresh indeed. Kaju Barfi is an Indian subcontinent dessert. Kaju literally means Cashew nuts and Barfi is a type of Indian sweet.

We didn’t realize that it was almost 11:00 p.m. We wished them Good night and walked back to our residence.

We hope to see Mr. Singh again before he leaves for Atlanta. I wish him all the best in his new assignment.

Food & Drink, Leisure

An Afternoon In Mansour Mall


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It’s been long time that we went out in Baghdad. So, we decided today to go to Mansour Mall. It’s the social pearl of Baghdad. We arranged for our visit and went there at around 5:30 p.m. The mall generally remains busy, but today it was empty due to Ramadan.

Indoor shopping malls are a staple in neighbouring Persian Gulf countries but still rare in war-ravaged Iraq. Customers must file past metal detectors and armed guards in camouflage, and get pat-down checks in separate male and female rooms before reaching off-brand fast food purveyors such as Subz, Pizzarro and Krunchy Fried Chicken.

We walked inside the mall at our ease and slowly reached the top floor that houses the food court besides children amusement facilities. It was empty then, with a few people sitting. This floor always remains very crowded. Most of the restaurants/ food joints refuse to serve before the iftar. We found an outlet that was serving. We had barbecued chicken breasts and cola there.

By the time we finished our snacks, the place was full with people and there was hardly any empty table. It was around 7:00 p.m. then. We walked down to the supermarket in the basement of the mall for purchasing some groceries. Then we went to the food court again for dinner. But that time it was overcrowded. We got a pizza packed and returned home to eat it in the comfort of our home while watching television.

Art, Leisure, Religion, Travel

Tathagata Tsal


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The Buddha Park of Ravangla, also known as Tathagata Tsal, is situated near Rabong (Ravangla) in South Sikkim district, Sikkim, India.

Tathagata is Sanskrit and Pali word. It’s used to refer to Lord Buddha. The term is often thought to mean either “one who has thus gone” (tathā-gata) or “one who has thus come” (tathā-āgata). This is interpreted as signifying that the Tathagata is beyond all coming and going – beyond all transitory phenomena.

Lord Buddha is quoted on numerous occasions in the Pali Canon as referring to himself as the Tathagata instead of using the pronouns me, I or myself. This may be meant to emphasize by implication that the teaching is uttered by one who has transcended the human condition, one beyond the otherwise endless cycle of rebirth and death, i.e. beyond suffering.

This place was constructed in 2006-13 and features a 128-foot high statue of the Buddha as its centerpiece.

The site was chosen within the larger religious complex of the Rabong Gompa (Monastery), itself a centuries-old place of pilgrimage. Also nearby is Ralang Monastery, a key monastery in Tibetan Buddhism.

His Holiness the Dalai Lama consecrated the colossal 128 foot hammered copper statue of the Buddha, which he had earlier named Tathagata Tsal, at Ravangla.

The statue of the Buddha marks the occasion of the 2550th birth anniversary of Gautama Buddha.

There’s huge gate with murals depicting Jataka tales – on the previous lives of Gautam Buddha.

Massive statue of Lord Buddha at Rabongla in Sikkim

A photo posted by I.RoyChoudhury (@iroychoudhury) on

The temple closes for public by 5:30 p.m. We just managed to get in as last visitors of the day. The main temple is below the huge statue of Lord Buddha. It has a huge hall and the walls have images of Lord Buddha and on his life.

There’s a museum too but we couldn’t see it as it’s getting closed.

There are a large number of steps to come down to the park and walk up  a large number of steps to get to the temple.

After getting out of the park, we had “jhal muri” and hot tea from street vendors. We returned to Gangtok through beautiful green road.

Art, Leisure, Religion, Travel

Char Dham [Siddhesvara Dham]


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Char Dham or Siddhesvara Dham is a unique pilgrimage tourism venture of the Sikkim Government developed as “ Pilgrim cum Cultural Centre” having a 108 ft statue of Lord Shiva and replicas of four Dhams of the country at one place at Solophok hilltop in Namchi. Namchi is the headquarters of the South Sikkim district. Namchi means Sky (Nam) High (Chi) in Bhutia. Namchi is situated at an altitude of 1,675 m (5,500 feet) above mean sea level.

Char Dham are the names of four pilgrimage sites in India that are widely revered by Hindus. It comprises Badrinath, Dwarka, Puri and Rameswaram. It is considered highly sacred by Hindus to visit Char Dham during one’s lifetime.

DSC02882The four most revered Dhams of the Hindus–Jagannath, Dwarika, Rameshawaram, Badrinath have been replicated in this fantastic complex to benefit the devotees and tourists.

Char Dham is a popular pilgrimage destination of Sikkim, which also has some interesting history connected to it. The principle deity here is Lord Shiva. It is believed that during the Kurukshetra war between the Kauravas and Pandavas, this place was where Arjuna worshipped Lord Shiva. It is also believed that Lord Shiva, pleased with Arjuna, appeared before him as a hunter and blessed him which helped Pandavas in winning the war.

Badrinath temple

The temple complex is divided into 4 parts – the statue of Lord Shiva along with 12 jyothirlingas, four dhams, a Sai Baba Mandir and the Kirateshwar Statue besides the Nandi bull.

For the consecration of the Dham Shri Jagadguru Sankaryacharya Swami Swarupananda Saraswati did the “Pran Prastisha” of the Dham.

There are replicas of the “Dwadash Jyotirlingas” (the twelve jyothirlinga) of Somnath, Mallikarjuna, Mahakaleswar, Omkareshwar, Kedarnath, Bhimashankar, Viswanath, Triambakeshwar, Vaidyanath, Nageswar, Rameshwar and Grishneshwar surrounding the statue of Lord Shiva and the Char Dhams.

There is a grand statue of Kirateshvar Mahadev and a temple of Shirdi Sai Baba too.

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In Hindu mythology, it is believed that Lord Shiva, after losing Sati in Agnikund, had gone into seclusion and became a hunter in the forests of Sikkim. There is also a famous Kirateshwar Mahadev Temple at Legship, in West Sikkim along the banks of River Rangeet.

There are Tulsi plants (Ocimum tenuiflorum) growing over 6 ft!

Tulsi plants

The Dham has stay facility for the devotees at “Yatri Niwas” which can accommodate more than 90 people at a time.

There’s a restaurant serving thali in the afternoon. We had thalis of food before leaving this place for Rabongla. The food was yummy!

The environment here is serene and divine. It’s a nice place and we felt blessed visiting all the temples.

The Siddhesvara Dham has won the National Tourism Awards 2010-11 under the category of “Most Innovative/Unique Tourism Project” by the Ministry of Tourism, Government of India.

Art, Leisure, Religion, Travel

Samdruptse: Wish Fulfilling Hill


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On our way to Char Dham, we went to Samdruptse, near Namchi.  Samdruptse is situated at around 75 km from Gangtok.

Samdruptse literally means ‘wish fulfilling hill’ in the Bhutia language. Painted in shimmering copper, pink and bronze, the awe-inspiring and gigantic 45m-high statue of Guru Padmasambhava, aka Guru Rinpoche, lords over the forested Samdruptse ridge and is visible for miles around. The views are spectacular across and the statue can be seen from across many places in Sikkim and Darjeeling.

Huge statue of #Guru #Rinpoche at #Namchi overlooking parts of #Sikkim, #Kalimpong, #Darjeeling in Eastern India.

A photo posted by I.RoyChoudhury (@iroychoudhury) on

Padmasambhava was born into a Brahmin family of Northwest India. According to tradition, Padmasambhava was incarnated as an eight-year-old child appearing in a lotus blossom floating in Lake Dhanakosha, in the kingdom of Oḍḍiyāna in the present Swat Valley of Pakistan. His special nature was recognized by the childless local king of Oḍḍiyāna and was chosen to take over the kingdom, but he left Oḍḍiyāna for northern parts of India.

It is the highest statue of Guru Padamasambhava in the world. His Holiness the Dalai Lama laid the foundation stone of the statue in October 1997. It was completed in February 2004. Within the complex, there’s a permanent photo exhibition of archival images documenting Sikkim’s cultural, natural and artistic history.

The land of Sikkim, at the border of India and Tibet, was consecrated as a hidden sanctuary for the Buddha’s teachings by the great master Padmasambhava, who blessed it with the vajra wisdom of his body, speech, and mind. He is considered as the second Buddha.

The path leading to the hill-top is lined by coloured flags with Buddhist hymns were being played through sound system placed along side the pathway.

People have been stacking stones to make cairns. Earlier used as messengers, signs and landmarks in unoccupied lands, locals suggest that they are also known to bring good luck for travellers.

Guru Rinpoche is the patron saint of Sikkim. Padmasambhava is said to have transmitted Buddhism to Tibet, Bhutan and neighboring countries in the 8th century CE. In these lands he is better known as Guru Rinpoche (precious Guru). He introduced the people of Tibet to the practice of Tantric Buddhism.

It is also said that the Samdruptse hill is actually a Dormant Volcano.

Myths say that the Buddhist monks have been going on top of the hill and offering prayers to the volcano to keep it calm.

In the hillock at the back of the statue, Buddhists place their prayer flags and built cairns stacking stones to bring good luck to them on the top of ‘wish fulfilling hill’.

We had hot tea at the restaurant in a complex outside the entrace to the temple…
…and then went ahead for Char Dham.