Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Kolkata- A Kaleidoscope of Memories by Promita

Kolkata is the city of my cherished childhood days. My Kolkata memories have always been a special part of who I am today…colorful snippets of thought sewn together by loving bonds to create a rich tapestry of unforgettable memories.
For us Bongs, far away from home, Kolkata beckons to us with the nostalgia of days gone by. When I share my childhood stories with my son, it’s a mesmerizing world of enticing sights, sounds and tastes to him…and a mystical sensory journey down memory lane to me.
I tell my son about the sultry summer days, weeks of no-school and no-homework. Lazy long afternoons spent reading in the latticed verandahs - the sun casting lacy shadows on the bright red floors, the antique grandfather clock chiming away the hours. Sneaking up to the terrace to taste deliciously sour mango pickles, playing in the tiny, dingy room tucked away in the corner of roof - the cool musty smell of ages past surrounding me, I'd sit there waiting to be discovered while we play hide and seek.

I share with my son, vivid descriptions of the monsoon rains, flooded streets - wading through knee-deep water…These sound so strange to him that he can only stare at me wide-eyed, trying hard to visualize what I described. I also remember the hot cups of tea with spicy pakoras - a staple during rainy evenings and of course, steaming plates of delicious khichuri for lunch.
Durga Puja is yet another unforgettable memory from my days growing up. Autumn would creep in, with blue skies seemingly washed clear by the rains, the sound of pujor dhaak and the smell of dhoop dhuno in the cool air…the whole city decked in lights and color, fervent prayers to the goddess for all things unattainable - a sense of peace & contentment, a wonderful time for us all.

Rum Balls from Nahoum's
Then came the chilly, clear winters, special memories of Christmas, decorations, walks down Park Street, fruit cake from “Nahoum's”, invariable visits to the zoo, family picnics on the grass, goodies to share – and the fresh citrusy smell of oranges, as we peeled them, juices trickling down our fingers!

The year would wind up with schools reopening but we had Saraswati Puja to look forward to. The spring season was heralded by vibrant hues of red, yellow and orange to match the offering of marigolds to the goddess, a time for budding romance in the neighborhood – some lovelorn “Paara r dada” pursuing his elusive ladylove, all the girls dressed in their first yellow sarees participating in the neighborhood cultural programs.
Just as these evoke my Kolkata memories, for my husband, Kolkata is all about good food. The city has always tempted the discerning Bengali palate with its array of delicacies. My husband’s fondest memories are of delicious mishti from “Bhim Nag”, elaborate meals during family celebrations and hot “kochuri – tarkari” on Sunday mornings with orange, syrupy “jeelipies”. He can talk dreamily about these for hours.
Jilipi or Jalebi
This is why my cousins who have had to relocate to other Indian cities roam the streets like lost souls in their quest to discover “authentic Bengali cuisine” outside Kolkata and when they find some quaint Bong eatery tucked away in a corner of Mumbai, there is a triumphant post on their Facebook page announcing their success!
This culture and ethos of the city can be felt by us Bongs alone. The spirit and pace of the city, the incessant traffic and noise, the adda sessions with beloved friends – are all integral parts of Kolkata. So to end my sojourn, I just want to say wherever I am, I love you Kolkata – my Kolkata of painted green shutters, yellow cabs, azure autumn skies and gray monsoon rains. This is the Kolkata of my dreams!

Promita Bhattacharya currently calls Charlotte, North Carolina home. She has a 10 year old son and a newborn daughter. Promita was born and brought up in Kolkata, studied in Presidency and then shifted base to the US with her husband.  

PS: All images from google images. Click on the pictures to navigate to the websites.


  1. a very fascinating piece by a calcutta(sorry I will always remember it this way!)lover

    My memories start from 1949 when my father, a railway officer, used 2 visit

    My real memories are in the years when we lived in lodon street in a paltial flatopp la martiniere

    memories of usha iyer at trincas/eating chola bhathura at friends home opp lighthose/kathi kababs at elite cinema

    Oh that was another kolkata!
    Ihave an aticle written by an american who visited firpos in 1954

    let me know if interested
    I coud go on and on!
    no I am not a bong but have lived all over the world

    Shuttle between bangalore/vienna va/medford Ma

  2. Sorry for replying so late. Do send me the article on I loved reading your comment and would love to read your article.