The best part of last year was definitely my trip to see my parents in India. It was a long time coming and we went with absolutely no plans of our own as my parents looked after everything - our feeding, watering, sleeping, literally everything. And we surprised ourselves with how much we fell in love with Kolkata, the capital of West Bengal, a city I never quite appreciated until this trip. Mumbai and Delhi are often touted as the most fun/buzzy cities where everything happens, people will always make time for Goa, Kerala and Rajasthan when it comes to their itineraries to visit India but I actually now firmly believe Kolkata, or as I have grown up knowing - Calcutta, is a legit exciting destination, especially if you love FOOD.
Street Food - Jhal Muri Stall
There's a unique, frenetic, yet slow pace to this city. Frenetic because there are just SO MANY people, cars, busses, trucks, cows, dogs, birds going in all directions in a regular pandemonium but at the same time everything seems to mooooveee soooooo slooowwwlllyyyyy. Traffic is slow, people are slow, cows are slow. Bengalis don't seem to rush in this city, and it makes a welcome change in pace from the hurried energy of London.
There's also a particular pass-time that Bengalis are masters at called "lyadh". It's so particular that there isn't a literal translation of it in English - it means to be busy doing nothing. It's used as a noun, an adjective, verb, in any and every context. And once the husband and I got into the groove of the city, we were also masters of lyadh.
So in between eating lyadh (Bengalis eat everything...even laziness), we did make a small overnight trip to the Sundarban Tiger Sanctuary for my birthday. We didn't see any tigers (apparently they've all migrated to Bangladesh) but we did have plenty of fresh air, which is much appreciated after the smog of the city, and saw loads of cute monkeys, a sleepy crocodile eating lyadh no doubt, and tons of deer local to the habitat.
We visited temples, saw the iconic Victoria Memorial and the infamous canoodlers, walked around the idol manufacturing district Kumartuli, strolled along posh Park Avenue and had anxiety attacks in the hecticness of New Market, all the while eating anything in sight...because ALL THE FOOD IS SOOOO GOOD!
The street food was unbelievable. Momos, these delicious Nepalese dumplings with glutinous wrappers and filled with a variety of spicy stuff, Kati Rolls, samosas, ghugni (spiced chickpeas), bhel puri, phuchka (puffed crisps filled with potatoes and a bit of tamarind sauce), dosas, fish fry, parathas, all washed down with masala teas.
All that was on top of the daily Bengali Food Festival happening at home where my mom prepared elaborate spreads of all my favourite dishes. I ate like I never ate before, thinking I was never going to eat again. I savoured every bite.
Typical home-cooked Bengali spread
We also squeezed in my friend's wedding and a trip to the seaside but really it was mostly eating and lyadh, and watching an incredible Bollywood music video on repeat with the epic line "Bollywood Hollywood very very Jolly Good". I truly had an amazing time shutting down, refluffing my brain and brawn and came back with so much energy and inspiration despite a little bit of tummy tingling out there (but of course, you didn't actually think we got away unscathed from all that binge-ing did you?! Hah).
So here's the culmination of my trip to the mother's land - our all new singin' n dancin' Bollywood cake. I made these chocolate coated cookie shot glasses filled with masala tea ganache, chocolate samosas with pistachios, and henna tattoos on macarons and fondant paisleys. Layers of cardamom sponge and frosted in my favourite sari colour combination - pink and green. With some gold dusting of course, it's Bollywood after all.
If you are ever visiting Kolkata, make sure you go with an open heart and willingness to do nothing - you'll be surprised with how much you'll love it.
Lots of love,