Friday, January 25, 2008

The Winter Picnic

Winter is the season for parties, family get togethers and picnics and so we even joined the hordes who set out of Kolkata to the outskirts in search of some open spaces, good times and of course good food. Lorries and buses full of screaming or singing adults and children are quite a common sight. The caterers follow with food to feed a small army for the rest of the day.

One boiled egg, two slices of buttered bread and one banana is breakfast which is usually distributed to all in whatever mode of transport the revelers travel in. Inspired by this age old custom, even we packed neat boxes with the above. Lunch was purchased and packed in individual packets the previous night which comprised of luchi, alu'r dom, nolen gurer mishti, macher chop, one plastic spoon and one napkin (English translations would be pointless!).

We set off to a place near Diamond Harbor - Radisson Fort was conveniently located there in case we feel the need for amenities and ambience. The Tata sumo was equipped with a good stereo system and the FM radio churned out non stop hits in the midst of meaningless chatter. It was a good time to catch up on the last few years and we chatted almost endlessly. After breakfast, oranges were brought out to curb thirst and hunger pangs brought on by constant chatter.

Radisson Fort wore a somewhat deserted look when we disembarked and stretched our cramped legs. We crossed the drawbridge over the moat, the interiors were pleasant but the best was the terrace overlooking the Ganga where the water glistened and sparkled with sunlight and tiny boats bobbed up and down. Some large fishing trawlers ambled by now and then. The gardens within the resort were next to the river with a paved path along the river. There was a barbed wire fence separating the resort with the parallel lane outside.

My son was carrying his cricket bat, we were generally strolling around, a boy of about 10 years was walking with his cycle just outside the fence and he happened to see the bat. He kept asking my son to give him the bat, of course my son would do no such thing, and finally when he got this dialogue went over 15 minutes, my son said "You give me your cycle and I will give you my bat". The boy looked rather dejected at the impossibility of the situation and walked of with drooping shoulders. Perhaps if the fence had not been there, both the boys could have played cricket for a while and had a good time. Some fences are just to high to climb I guess...

We had some rather costly coffee, a small price to pay for using the premises for a few hours and then set off again by the vehicle right to edge of the Ganges. We arranged ourselves around a tree which had a cemented area around it and felt the cool winter breeze. Lunch packets were brought out and devoured with gusto while observing a fisherman arranging nets a little into the river to trap unsuspecting fish. Used napkins, spoons and general garbage were collected into a bad for proper disposal. The driver was scolded severely for throwing a plastic tea cup into the river.

After walking around for a while and dipping our feet into the river, we were on our way back to Kolkata. Since we had time to spare, we went to another popular spot - Victoria Memorial. Unfortunately, the grounds are no longer free for all and there is a queue to get in so we give up the idea. Instead we settle for steaming hot cups of tea from the maidan opposite to Victoria Memorial. We also manage to find a horse driven carriage with strong sturdy horses that would be able to bear the weight of 7 healthy people. The ride down Red Road was scary with all kinds of vehicles zooming past while the 2 horses trotted but it was great fun as well. The horses and their driver got money above the negotiated rate as everybody was generally very happy.

The maidan has its own share of ponies which my son rode and was highly thrilled to shoot balloons of all colors with a rifle. Soon it was time to head back home. The picnic is over!