Before we come to the historic Chandannagar (chandannagore), let’s dwell a little on Kolkata. Nothing represents the idea of India better than this city – crowded, religious, passionate, overwhelming, dirty, cheap and good food, strong women and stupid politics. No wonder, it’s the only other city that has been the nation’s capital.
Somehow, I have avoided the city for exactly the same reasons I avoid religious places. An Odia has no business being in that city unless you are an aspiring plumber. But Sid travels a lot more to the city and is in love with it. Especially, the rural Bengal. He says it is green, well irrigated and is magical. The infamous Bengal famine happened elsewhere. Lately, the Great Bong Land has little to claim, so let’s not take away whatever little is left. There was a time when the city had more intellectuals than hilsas, but that was a long time ago.
To compensate for the pain that Bengali boast was to our national consciousness, we now have a Narendra Modi. He claims to have built Gujarat in six days, one day faster than God took with the universe. He is more organized and entrepreneurial. Narmada flows from his hair and he must be having a blue throat too, with all the poison he promises to save the country from.
Anyway, let’s put all this East-West wars behind us and head to Chandannagar. An hour’s drive away from Kolkata, it is an erstwhile French colony with far too many lingering characteristics. It’s surprising the ease with which we have forgotten the French rule, our national conscience is almost indifferent to them as our old colonisers. If anything, everybody loves the French colonies as some cultural highpoints.
Chandannagar is a beautiful place. There are quaint streets, some old buildings, a terracotta temple and a mosque with a disputed history. The best part is the strand along the river Ganga, walk in the shade of trees and watch the boats sail by. It’s the perfect getaway when you want to put some distance between yourself and Kolkata.