Holidaying is taking leave, dissociating oneself from the usual routine work and associating with some other people for some time, cutting off all links from the habitual practices but usually it is not idling at home. One goes out on a tour or for an adventure to the countryside, to a seashore or hill station or at least to one’s friends or relatives living elsewhere; an entertainment of any sort. Remaining away from the daily routine and engaging in other types of movement or contemplation with others or even a solitary meditation in a serene atmosphere gives a kind of break from the erstwhile routine which usually was monotonous for most. So a break is essential to rejuvenate mentally and vitally, to recuperate health, to gain new energy to come back to routine and reengage oneself afresh. In India like in many other countries arrangements and facilities for such movement and stay are many like holiday homes, leave fare concession, owning of home for a month or hiring it in rotation so people may move without much hassle. But all do not have such opportunities. Be it as it is, wherever one is, whatever one is doing, a service or business or profession of whatever nature, it is healthy always to take a break from the daily routine.
In my long service life I always took such breaks and never thought of availing the alternate offer to encash the unexpired leave or to curtail expenses on that score. I moved round places throughout India, even sometimes I moved round neighboring foreign countries with or without my family. I always had an eye open to see and experience newer things in life, learn a bit more, gather some more knowledge about things or places or men so to feel really happy with something more than I had before embarking on the journey. Even when I repeated a visit to the same place I tried to notice the changes in the surroundings, in men, in nature. And that something added value to my life.
Though my service life is over for quite some years, I maintain my good old habit of keeping aloof from the routine some times; may be by participating in a seminar or visiting a place for literary discourse and taking the opportunity of visiting the nearby wildlife area or a seashore or hillside, as are available in the vicinity.
Last I visited Kolkata, a city with checkered history of about 325 years. It was the capital of British India up to 1911. When in that year the divided Bengal was forced by continuous and determined struggle to be reunited, its fate changed. The British shifted the capital of India from Calcutta to Delhi which too had a history of being the capital during the Mughal dynasty. The Delhi Durbar was held with the coronation of the then imperial masters of this country in1912. So it is hundred years now that Calcutta or today’s Kolkata is the capital of Bengal or Paschim Banga (West Bengal, a province of India) only, to be precise. My childhood and youth were spent there. Then I gradually moved to different parts of the country with postings in service and eventually I have settled in Pondicherry.
When visiting Kolkata this time I was a bit more nostalgic about it, my birth place, the city of my tender age which keeps many of my memories or rather I keep my own memories associated with it. This city is having one of the largest populations in the world. The world population has crossed seven billion and Kolkata is teeming with more than 12 million out of it. The city maintains its zeal for art and culture; international film festival and drama festivals are the regular features besides painting and other exhibitions, music sessions in halls scattered throughout the city. But I was dismayed to see large numbers of youth, even aged, may be part time employee or unemployed, playing cards engaging the footpaths, finding roadside tea stalls always full with people gossiping, observing that after the office hours people gather round stalls or sits in corners of the footpaths to play carom or card or simply gossip, sipping tea and snacks. It is known that Bengalis are fond of Adda, a type of gossip or debate on any subject which may be literary or political, serious or light but often drift to agitated disputes and then forgotten the next day as they meet. This nature or habit of the Bengalis has been compared to French people overcrowding the roadside restaurants. May be as they say but I did not like this overflowing Adda everywhere. Yes I enjoyed Kolkata this time more with the older people than with the ultra moderns though I found the youth always vivacious but not creative or productive, always ready to serve their political Dadas or bosses against some sort remunerations, crowding the roads.
The most enjoyable was the sweetmeats of which I am ever a lover though for age now I restrict partaking too much of those things. Nevertheless, I enjoyed gulping the ever famous Bengali Rossogolla, Notun Guder Sandesh (a sweetmeat prepared with jaggery of date palm juices which is a gift of winter season) and Pantua besides very many other varieties of sweets sometimes. In fact sweet shops abound in the Kolkata streets. Any guest is first treated with sweets made with Chhana (made of milk separated from whey; it is solid when all the water content is taken out by heavy pressure. Akin to cheese but not exactly the same). Full of protein and at the same time sweet, very favorite of Bengalis. Now the shops and sale have spread to the other parts of India and in some cities beyond the country. Besides sweets Bengalis are fond of fishes of various kinds caught from sea and rivers but mostly from ponds. Pond culture is extensive there. Bengalis are the largest consumer of fish in India. My wife was with me so she prepared different dishes of fish curry and other dishes with fish. She served Luchis (made of wheat puffed with clarified butter or ghee in a pan heated by fire) too sometimes with rice. This time we fulfilled our eating luxury as of old, satisfying our taste bud to the full.