Visiting Kolkata – Part 3

Part 3 in Kolkata –  our second  day in Kolkata, previous day we had gone around to Kalighat, Mother Teresa home, Belur Mutt, Esplanade & Netaji Bhavan. Today the plan is to visit other places including Victoria Memorial Hall,  Indian Museum, Botanical Gardens and experience more of Kolkata.

Victoria Memorial Hall

Victoria Memorial Hall, Kolkata
Victoria Memorial Hall, Kolkata
Edwards VII Statue in Victoria Hall (South)
Edwards VII Statue in Victoria Hall (South)
coat of arms of the British monarch in Victoria Hall (South) gates
Coat of arms of the British monarch in Victoria Hall (South) gate

Victoria Memorial Hall which was completed on 1921 in memory of Queen Victoria was built entirely on voluntary (?)  donations. Its a majestic looking building made of same (origin) white marbles as Taj Mahal, told our guide. When we visited  restoration work was happening on the front entrance which was blocked by scaffolding,  the back entrance is being used to allow visitors in and that’s what we did to. I couldn’t note any difference between the front and back facade!. Inside the building there is a museum of collections of British era weapons and paintings. In the centre right below the huge dome are oil paintings depicting various events in the event of Queen Victoria including her coronation celebration, its amazing to see a world that was 100 years ago. Continue reading

Visiting Kolkata – Part 2

After a good breakfast we were on our way to see Kolkata. We were accompanied by Taj Bengal’s ace Tourist Guide Mr.Suvendu, who was certified by Government of India Tourism department. Being a native of Bengal, Mr.Suvendu knew Kolkata’s nook and corner to great detail.  Our first stop of the day was Mother House – Missionaries of Charity head office and final resting place of Mother Teresa. The unassuming grey colour building is off a by lane of Acharya Jagadish Chandra Bose Road. You are greeted in the entrance by a sign that says Mother Teresa, M.C. is IN and turning right you see a life size statue of the noble soul who dedicated her entire life for the cause of the poor and sick. We handed over a bag of clothes that a friend of ours in Chennai had asked us to deliver along with our small donation to the organization.

Missionaries of Charity - Mother Teresa
Missionaries of Charity – Mother Teresa
Mother M.Teresa
Mother M.Teresa

The house has Mother’s final resting place, when we went we could see few East Asians and  Americans around who were offering their prayers. Having studied all my school in a catholic school I followed suit with kneeling down and what I knew of crossing yourself and offering prayer. The legacy of Mother and the serenity of the place is unmistakable. Next to the this  room is a  small museum in Ground Floor which houses few memorabilia, photos and story of Mother Teresa. Opposite to that is a staircase leading to a  simple room used all the years by Mother and preserved in the state she left it in 1997. No Photographs were allowed in these places.

Mother M.Teresa (1910-1997)
M.Teresa (1910-1997)

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Visiting Kolkata – Part 1

Around Independence Day (15th August)  is  a good time to look back into Indian history and learn about the past of my country which I didn’t know earlier. Though East India Company and then British colonization of India started in Chennai, it was Calcutta (now Kolkata) where British Empire established their capital and ruled the Indian subcontinent for over 130 years. For me it was one of the metros in India that I haven’t had a chance to visit so far. I always wanted to visit Calcutta and see first hand the legacy of British Empire that is still present there.

For the long weekend last week Friday-Sunday (15,16,17 August 2014) I decided to visit Kolkata and to do sight seeing their with wife & son. I booked the flight tickets and hotel booking 2 weeks back. It was not like I narrowed down in Kolkata right away, I couldn’t find rooms in any of the other tourist destinations – be it costal resorts in South India, Goa, Andaman or Agra (I haven’t seen Taj Mahal so far), so it had to be the next in my bucket list.

We flew from Chennai to Kolkata by Spice Jet on 14th August that leaves Chennai on 8:25PM and reaches Kolkata at 10:45PM, we couldn’t leave earlier as my son had his school on Thursday. The flight departed late and we landed in Kolkata’s Netaji Subash Chandra Bose Airport at 11:45PM. Having left from Chennai’s “new” Airport which is known for its poor maintenance,  the first thing that I struck me in Kolkata was how big the Airport was and how well maintained it was. This was not the Calcutta I expected to land, which was known for its communist rule for many decades and its anti-capitalist sentiments.

Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose Airport, Kolkata- Conveyor Belts
Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose Airport, Kolkata- Conveyor Belts
Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose Airport, Kolkata- Arrival curb-side
Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose Airport, Kolkata- Arrival curb-side

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Trek near Oberoi Wildflower Hall,Kurfi (Shimla)

Bird nest we got in Shimla

Trek near Oberoi Wildflower Hall,Kurfi (Shimla)
Trek near Oberoi Wildflower Hall,Kurfi (Shimla)

Last week while Holidaying at Oberoi Wildflower Hall,Kurfi (near Shimla) myself and son went for a nature trek into the nearby reserve forest. The resort is next to Shimla Reserve Forest Sanctuary which has woods of pine and cedar. As per our guide, the tall trees in the sanctuary were planted by the Britishers (who were ruling Indian subcontinent during Indian summers from Shimla) to serve as rain catchment areas. The short trek took us through Shimla Ridgeline at one point. It is interesting to note that the rain water falling on the ridgeline and flowing on west side it can (theoretically) drain into Arabian Sea and water which flows on east side can drain into Bay of Bengal.

Pine cones near Shimla Reserve Forest Sanctuary
Pine cones near Shimla Reserve Forest Sanctuary

My son collected lot of pine cones that had fallen on ground here. He was thrilled. Topping it, when we checked out the resort manager gifted my son a bird nest that they had found inside their property few days back. It fell on me to carefully pack, bring it home and get a plastic see through box for storing it.

Bird-Nest-Shimla

Visit to Railway Museum Chennai

For many years now I have been wanting to visit this Railway Museum inside the ICF (Integral Coach Factory) Perambur in Chennai. This small museum recently celebrated its 12th anniversary too and I managed to go to it today only.

What’s the occasion you might be asking?

As parents many of us complaint that our kids are watching TV or with Tablet Devices all the time, not spending time outside or have total lack of interest on history or science. Mostly we complain and not do anything about it. I decided I will make a change with me. Today and Tomorrow I took leave from work and decided to take my son around the city. Day 1 the stop was Railway Museum. As a child I always enjoyed train sets and whenever I travel abroad I don’t miss a chance to travel in trains there – as they are always better maintained than India. I still have fond memories of my first visit abroad in 1998 and it was to world famous York Railway Museum in UK – the largest railway museum in the world.

The Regional Railway Museum near Villivakkam in New Avadi Road, Chennai is small. The museum is open six days a week except Mondays, from 10AM to 6PM. Entrance ticket is Rs.10 per person and Rs.100 for Video camera (they consider DSLR to be video camera based on size), I didn’t complain as I was happy to spend time with my son showing a Rail museum in our own city.

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The campus houses several old discarded coaches in the open garden, models of engines and spare parts on display in the inside building. There is a small toy train ride for kids fun, which costs Rs.20 per head, what the heck I went for it too.

 

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Apart from coaches and engines there was in display old ledgers and other artefacts used by railway in olden days. Interesting.

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We spent nearly two hours in the museum including the toy train ride, killing our time by even watching the video show. Generally you can cover the whole museum in less than a hour and that won’t be rushing. Just like any other place in Chennai during summer carry plenty of water bottles with you.