College Street is the famous book market in north Kolkata, India, every Kolkata-student’s destination. If a book is not available there, probably that book doesn’t exist. In the name College Street, it comes into my mind, my college days. One funny thing I always remember. As a mathematics student I used to need so many papers to practice that in every month I had to go there to buy papers. We, classmates used to go together to College Street to buy papers, where we used to get papers in lesser prices than from any other market. To avoid traffic congestion, government has restricted the traffic into one-way. So, while going to College Street only option is to ride trams, which eventually still ply on both-way. While going to College Street, we used to wait for few minutes to get a tram to come, before started walking towards College Street. When we used to reach College Street, we could see the tram from distant. In my college-days I never got a tram to go to College Street. Every time I had to walk.
Anyway, on reaching the place only books come into vision, nothing else. Both sides of the street are full of books. Many bigwigs of the Bengali publication industry are situated here. Numerous small book-stalls, one after another, who sell both new and old books, dot the footpaths of both sides of the street. There is no space to move. Walking through the footpaths is really a cumbersome task. Every now and then jostling with others to move and that is the charm of College Street. All friendly shopkeepers call everybody to buy books. Every shopkeeper tells that he can give the best possible discount on any book. Yet you have to find out among them who can give you the best possible discount. In my student life some time I didn’t have much money to buy new book in the time of dire need, then I usually opted to buy old ones. Still my graduation from college I studied many old books. The street is not only famous for books, but also famous for the educational institutions like Calcutta University, Presidency College, Hindu School, and many more. Those hundred years old institutions are still continuing their legacy. My hubby himself is an ex-student of Hindu School.
Anyway, reminiscing part is over. We went to College Street to buy some books for my hubby dear. We knew that, those books we could get in much cheaper price there than in the USA. So, before leaving Kolkata for the US we went there. My hubby spent there from his childhood to first year of his college life. He always fondly remembers those ‘good old days’. Apart from buying books he wanted just stroll around his old locality. I also wanted to go around the place, as many fond memories had started floating in my mind. So, after lunch we started from home. We decided to travel by bus instead of cab, because we wanted to feel our college days again. Now we don’t want to board any over-crowded bus, rather we are scared to board. However, in those days we used to board the buses without caring about the crowd. The only thing we used to keep in our mind that, we had to reach college before time. Anyway, as the bus started entering College Street from Sealdah I looked through the bus-window. I found my good old College Street with same look and same charm as I last saw it fourteen years ago. All the shops were same as they were before. It really felt elated, because at least one place in Kolkata which didn’t change at all. After browsing some of the book-stalls my hubby got his desired books in reasonable price. After that I asked whether he would like go back. He looked at me with a face full of questions and disbelief. He asked me that, how I could utter such a question? Visiting the place after a long, long time it was not an easy task for him to go back home just after buying books. He told that, he wanted to walk along sideways. We started walking along the pavement. Meanwhile he started telling all his childhood stories. He told me from where they used to buy sweets, from where they used buy kachoris etc. as a great foodie since childhood he knows all the restaurants and eateries in North Kolkata. He told me which eatery was famous for which dish. When he was a child, his whole family used to eat out on regular basis at all the restaurants there. One of the features of Kolkata, specially North Kolkata, and all the restaurants are luster-less. All of them were some-what dingy. May be any outsider will feel uneasy to enter there. However, the food can make anybody drooling. I was not much familiar with those eateries, though I tasted some of those places here earlier.
The age old restaurants like ‘Dilkhusha’, ‘Basanta Cabin’, are still there, and they are serving same food with same quality which they used to serve years ago. Apart from those is the most famous Coffee house, it is the place of hangout for the students and the intellectuals.
|Kachori n Jalebi|
|Tea in terracotta pot|
He took me to a small and somewhat dingy eatery near Thanthania Kalibari, where he used to have ‘Kachori” in his childhood. I was little skeptical, but when I tasted the kachori , I couldn’t help myself licking my fingers again and again. Without a cup of tea after kachori, the eating couldn’t be completed. So we started walking. After 2-3 shops we stopped by to have a cup of tea. The tea just filled my heart. The most important thing was that, the price was lower than the rest of Kolkata. Then we walked towards the Pasteur Laboratory. We walked past the Mitra mansion. Then he wanted to by patties from Koplia’s. Without knowing the actual position of the shop, nobody could find out it. It was a smaller than anybody’s imagination. Actually the shop was famous for sherbet. He insisted me to taste that, but my stomach was full after eating kachori. It was started getting dark and we decided to go back. We took the tram from College street to wellington, from there we took cab to go back home. This chaotic, unorganized, yet charming place always makes me nostalgic.