In & around Kolkata, previously known as Calcutta.

Arts & Culture

Book Markets of Baghdad and Kolkata



Name the book you’re looking for and it’s said that you will find it in one of the tens of bookstores lining this fa­mous cultural avenue in the heart of Baghdad. For many Iraqis, this street — named after Abu al-Tayyib Al-Mu­tanabbi, a 10th century poet from the Abbasid Caliphate period, who was regarded as one of the greatest poets in the Arabic language — of­fers a glimpse of hope that Iraq is still home to the Arab intellect.

This ancient street is referred to as the heart and soul of the Baghdad literary and intellectual community as it has been a refuge for writers of all faiths since at least the 10th century. The national library is about a mile away from Mutanabbi Street. Professor Muhsin al-Musawi of Columbia University says that when the Abbaasid Caliphate took over Baghdad in the 8th century, the district surrounding Mutanabbi Street was already full of scribes’ markets and booksellers’ stalls and shops. There is an old Arab saying:

Cairo writes, Beirut publishes, Baghdad reads.


Poets, writ­ers, intellectuals, painters and musicians converge on Mutanabbi Street’s smoke-filled traditional cof­fee shops to display their assets. Street is full of books and behind this counters is shops — with stationery, books, stuffs for office, dried fruits and also cafes.

Mutanabbi Street has always been a hotbed of dissent. Under the long leadership of Saddam Hussein, anti-government cells published and sold illegal copies of their tracts here under fake names. After Hussein’s fall more than a decade ago, dissidents gathered in Mutanabbi Street as successive administrations rose and fell.



College Street is an eminent center of Kolkata’s literary crowd. Its name derives from the presence of many colleges and educational institutions, including Presidency University (established in 1817), University of Calcutta (established in 1857), Medical College & Hospital (established in 1857), Sanskrit College (established in 1824).


The College Street is most famous for its small and big bookstores, which gives it the nickname বই পাড়া (Boi Para) or “Neighbourhood of Books”. The street is also dotted with countless very small book kiosks which sell new and old books. An article in the journal Smithsonian described College Street as:

…a half-mile of bookshops and bookstalls spilling over onto the pavement, carrying first editions, pamphlets, paperbacks in every Indian language, with more than a fair smattering of books in and out of print from France, Germany, Russia and England.

According to Wikipedia, it is the largest second-hand book market in the world and largest book market in India and collectively boasts of a collection of almost any title ever sold at Kolkata.

Kolkata Boi Para

In 2007, College Street featured among the famous landmarks of India which have made it to Time Magazine’s “Best of Asia” list. The magazine has mentioned:

Thriving beside the rusted tram tracks of College Street in north Kolkata is the boi para, or “neighborhood of books,” offering the largest mass of secondhand volumes in Asia. Generations of Kolkata’s famous writers and revolutionaries have come of age amid its chaos.


The Indian Coffee House, popularly known as Coffee House, on the College Street is a favourite hang-out places among the students, youth, scholars, editors, artists and writers. It has been the rendezvous place of many illustrious and notable personalities like Rabindranath Tagore, Subhas Chandra Bose, Satyajit Ray, Manna Dey, Amartya Sen, Mrinal Sen, Shashi Kapoor, Aparna Sen, and the list goes on. Many talented geniuses have penned down pieces of lyrics, poems, story scripts or exchanged brimming ideas related to the world of art and culture in this cafeteria.


In 1883, the first session of the Indian National Conference was held at the prestigious Albert Hall of College Street that led to the founding of the Indian National Congress in Bombay in 1885. College Street has been the hub of Political meetings since 1930’s and is witness to many historical political congregations led by iconic Indian leaders like Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose. College Street has also witnessed the beginning of the Naxalite Movement in West Bengal.

Although far apart, Mutanabbi Street and College Street have striking similarities!

Food & Drink, Travel & Leisure

Dim sum, Hummus & Falafel


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.



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 Indrajit Roy Choudhury (@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.

Miscellaneous & Offbeat

Jaya Is going for total hysterectomy


Jaya was suffering from pelvic endometriosis since last few years. Endometriosis happens when the tissue that normally lines the uterus grows outside of the uterus on the ovaries where it doesn’t belong. Currently causes for endometriosis are unknown.

There is no cure for endometriosis, but it can be treated in a variety of ways, including pain medication, hormonal treatments, and surgery. If endometriosis is left untreated, it becomes worse in about 4 in 10 cases. It gets better without treatment in about 3 in 10 cases. For the rest it stays about the same. Complications sometimes occur in women with severe untreated endometriosis.

During last consultation with her gynecologist on June 20, 2014 Dr. Indrani Lodh advised Jaya that she needs surgery — total hysterectomy otherwise her condition may become worse. Total Hysterectomy is the surgical removal of the uterus including removal of cervix, ovaries, fallopian tubes. The doctor suggested for laparoscopic hysterectomy with bilateral salpingo-oophorectomy. A hysterectomy is a major operation.

As explained by the doctor, laparoscopic hysterectomy is done using a laparoscope, which is a tube with a lighted camera, and surgical tools inserted through several small cuts made in the belly. The surgeon performs the hysterectomy from outside the body, viewing the operation on a video screen.

She further explained that using a minimally invasive procedure (MIP) approach to remove the uterus offers a number of benefits when compared to the more traditional open surgery used for an abdominal hysterectomy. In general, an MIP allows for faster recovery, shorter hospital stays, less pain and scarring, and a lower chance of infection than does an abdominal hysterectomy. We decided for laparoscopic hysterectomy.

We earlier planned the surgery to be got done in winter but we had to postpone it because of marriage of Jaya’s cousin. The surgery is scheduled tomorrow at Apollo Gleneagles Hospital in Kolkata. There will be another minor operation on her right wrist for carpal tunnel syndrome — right-sided carpal tunnel release after a couple of days. The carpal tunnel release will be done by neurosurgeon Dr. BK Singhania.

Apollo Hospital
Apollo Gleneagles Hospital, Kolkata

Babai is with her. For more than 2 months, I have been consistently pursuing and following up for renewal of my “Iqama” (Residency Permit), without which I cannot travel out and return. But the delay is caused, unfortunately. I am forced to defer my travel. The process for extension of Iqama is just completed today. I will be reaching there after her main surgery.😦

Babai and I love Jaya very much and we are praying that the operation is a success and that she has a full and healthy recovery.

Arts & Culture, Food & Drink, Travel & Leisure

Kolkata Book Fair


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.

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.

Entry Gate


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.

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.

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. 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).

Food stalls
OMG! See the varieties …


Mom and Manali




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.

The 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। 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.



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.  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.

History & Heritage

Howrah Bridge


If anyone mentions Kolkata, the first place that comes to the mind is Howrah Bridge. Howrah Bridge is one of the most celebrated landmarks of Kolkata. Situated on River Hooghly, it serves as the lifeline of the city. The bridge plays the role of the gateway to Kolkata, as it connects the city to the Howrah Station, the most important railway station of Kolkata.


During our childhood, Howrah bridge used to be a matter of wonder, and expectation. When we used to visit Kolkata from Delhi by train, the sight of Howrah bridge from distance after crossing Liluah indicated the end of the over 24-hour train journey. It still carries a mystic memory and a bit of nostalgia.

The bridge does not have nuts and bolts, but was formed by riveting the whole structure. The bridge weathers the storms of the Bay of Bengal region, carrying a daily traffic of approximately 100,000 vehicles and possibly more than 150,000 pedestrians, easily making it among the busiest cantilever bridges across the globe.

Howrah bridge is a cantilever bridge with a suspended span over the Hooghly River in West Bengal, India. The length of the bridge is 705 meter and width is 71 ft with two footpaths of 15 ft on either side. The third-longest cantilever bridge at the time of its construction, the Howrah Bridge is the sixth-longest bridge of its type in the world. The construction of bridge was started on 1936 and ended in 1942. It was opened for the public transport on February 3, 1943. The first vehicle to use the bridge was a solitary tram.


On June 14, 1965, the bridge was renamed Rabindra Setu after the great Bengali poet Rabindranath Tagore. However, it is still popularly known as Howrah Bridge.

While visiting Kolkata, Howrah Bridge tops the list of places to see in the city.

Food & Drink, Travel & Leisure

Mushroom Cappuccino and Murgi Posto


On 16 October 2014, we came to Kolkata for Jaya’s health check up at Quadra Medical Services, Hazra Road.

We checked in at Great Eastern Hotel in Dalhousie area for our stay. 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 Calcutta, now called 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 central 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. Jaya was tired of the journey and she started feeling refreshed there.

We had a hard time discussing the menu since there were a lot of lovely dishes on the menu card. Finally we settled for ‘mushroom cappuccino’ soup for me and Babai, Jaya 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 a café. The presentation was awesome. The innovation was really appreciable.

Having dinner at Alfresco

A photo posted by Indrajit Roy Choudhury (@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 at Alfresco in Hotel Great Eastern, Kolkata.

A photo posted by Indrajit Roy Choudhury (@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 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.

We’re loving it!!!

Food & Drink

Nalen gurer ice cream

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Well, I find it quite justified to dedicate this post on an innovative delicacy – ‘Nalen Gurer Ice Cream’, which we enjoyed today at Oh! Calcutta, Silver Arcade, EM Bypass, Kolkata — a Bengali cuisine restaurant. Jaya and I went to this restaurant for Bengali cuisine before catching our flight to Ranchi. We started with ‘Aam-pora sharbat’ (আম-পোড়া শরবৎ) followed by ‘Mochar Chop’ (মোচার চপ), and ‘Bhaape Ilish’ (ভাপে ইলিশ), etc.

tumblr_n2zkcc9r4b1qatcd2o1_500Towards the end of our lunch when the waiter asked for our choice of dessert, we found that they have ice cream made with ‘Nalen Gur’ (নলেন গুড়) or date palm jaggery on the menu. We could not but say ‘YES’ to it. I devoured the first spoon, mmm.. it was awesome! It’s not like the usual ice cream. It was light brownish in colour. Today’s lunch is one of the greatest meals that I ever had.

Nalen gur is a specialty of Bengal — both Indian state of West Bengal and Bangladesh — and is used extensively to prepare delicacies of winter. Nalen gur is a preparation from the sap of date trees that are collected and heated to obtain the final product that leaves one wonderstruck — the taste is heavenly. It is said that the heating is an art. The date palm sap is made into three types of jaggery: liquid, grainy and the solid chunks of patali gur. The sap is heated in huge woks over wood or coal stoves and it is only an expert who can gauge the different degrees of cooking to achieve the right textures.

It’s really delicious and I am sure all sweet lovers would love it.

Travel & Leisure

A short trip to Kolkata

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We had our initial plans for visiting Barrackpur, Basirhat & Kolkata together with Babai and we would go to our destinations from Kolkata airport. But later, Babai told us that he had to attend his classes from 29th and so he could not stay with us in Barrackpur, Basirhat and Kolkata.

As scheduled before, we reached Kolkata/Barrackpur yesterday. My dada — cousin at Basirhat, his wife (Boudi) and his daughter (Tota) came to Barrackpur to pay Shubho Bijoya pronaam to our Kakima along with his sister-in-law and her daughter. They were waiting for us to reach Barrackpur from airport so as to meet us before they leave. We reached Kolkata airport and then had some coffee with Soumya, who had come to see us at the airport at the Café Coffee Day at the airport. He arranged for a car for us for 4 days of our travel in and around Kolkata. Then, we went to Baguiati for buying some sweets for Babai to carry with him to Gangtok and also for Kakima’s house at Barrackpur.

Buying sweets … you can’t find sweets like Kolkata anywhere on this earth!

After that we straightaway headed towards Barrackpur. It was nice to see everybody there waiting for us. We had some photographs in groups and then Dada and his family left for their house at Basirhat.

Three generations of Roy Choudhury ladies

Jaya and I will be going to Basirhat day after tomorrow after the Lakshmi Puja tomorrow. We had some chats. Jaya gave the gifts that we brought for kakima, maasi, Laltu and Joyita. She also took gifts for Charu and Sandhya.

Babai with his dadu


In the morning after breakfast, Jaya, Babai & I left for airport to see Babai off. We asked Laltu several times to come with us with his family. But he did not come as he said that he was not feeling well and wanted to sleep.

We reached airport around an hour before the flight. Baikunth Nath, a friend of Soumya is now working with Spicejet with which Babai is going to Bagdogra. He was there at the airport and arranged his check-in. Babai then came to us and then went for security checking. We decided to wait for the departure of his flight. So, I took Jaya to Top Deck restaurant on the first floor of the airport. We sat there and ordered for a glass of fresh lime soda for each of us.

Waiting at Top Deck restaurant for departure of Babai’s flight

After Babai boarded his fight and his flight took off, we left for meeting our relatives at Kolkata. We went to the house of Mama. From there we went to see my Baro Maasi and then to see my Chhoto Maasi. They three are the only surviving siblings of my mother. They’re very happy to see us. We then returned to Barrackpur feeing the absence of Babai. We’re missing him very much!

Travel & Leisure

Kolkata Esplanade in night

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During this holidays in India for two weeks, we planned for a quick medical check-up and consultations at Apollo Gleneagles Hospital, Kolkata followed by a visit to Basirhat. We reached Kolkata last evening. We checked in at Peerless Inn, Kolkata. It’s location is excellent, at the heart of the city on the Esplanade.

Dharmatala in night – a busy thoroughfare in day and a calm sleeping in night

We returned after midnight to our hotel after having a sumptuous dinner at Rina’s house. Rina is Jaya’s friend. I peeped out of our room window. Kolkata looks very awesome in the night.

Chowringhee after midnight – glowing golden but alone!
নিশির আঁধারে রূপসী কলিকাতা – Beautiful Kolkata in the darkness of night
History & Heritage, Travel & Leisure


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There is no direct flight from Bagdogra to Ranchi. We are having a stopover in Kolkata. We checked in at the Peerless Inn, at Chowringhee.

Chowringhee is a neighbourhood in central Kolkata steeped in history, it is a business district, as well as a shopper’s destination and entertainment-hotel centre. ‘Chowringhee’ is believed to be named after a yogi — Chourangi Giri, who discovered an image of the goddess Kali’s face and founded the original Kalighat temple. Chowringhee is one of the best addresses in Kolkata. It still oozes of the imperial heritage. The building nearby are majestic and imposing and reminds of the British raj. From the hotel window, I can get wonderful view of Esplanade.






Just across is the Metropolitan Building — an iconic landmark in Chowringhee. Formerly known as the Whiteway Laidlaw department store, it was a famous department store in Calcutta during the British Rule in India. This net-baroque emporium — with domes, a clock tower, and arched recessed windows — exemplifies fashionable shopping during the British Raj in British India. The building was built in the year 1905. Post Independence Metropolitan Life Insurance Co. assumed ownership, so people know it more commonly as Metropolitan Building. The building was restored by Life Insurance Corporation of India.

Corner tower of the Metropolitan Building with dome and clock — an important landmark overseeing Chowringhee





The tall Shahid Minar can also be seen from the room window with the Eden Gardens stadium as the backdrop. Shahid Minar was erected in 1828 in memory of Major-general Sir David Ochterlony, commander of the British East India Company, to commemorate both his successful defense of Delhi against the Marathas in 1804 and the victory of the East India Company’s armed forces over the Gurkhas in the Anglo-Nepalese War.

Shahid Minar with Eden Gardens as the backdrop

In August 1969, it was rededicated to the memory of the martyrs of the Indian freedom movement and hence renamed the “Shahid Minar” in memory of the martyrs of the Indian independence movement.