Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Chandannagar,West Bengal

The French in the 17th Century established their colonies in five towns in India.One of them was Chandannagar in West Bengal. Curiously Chandannagar is the only colony which is not near the sea coast.Perhaps having a large river flowing by compensated the lack of a sea coast.
The Chandannagar Strand

It is a small town an hour 23km north of Kolkata. River Hooghly flows past quietly through the town.I am a huge fan of historical tourism and I have never been to a former French colony in India so I decided to check it out.Added to it was the call of a Indo French Museum.So last Sunday off I went to kolkata and from there took the 12 o'clock Bandel local to Chandannagar. I reached around 1 o'clock.Usually I take a walk around a new place.But not that day.The sun was fiercely shining overhead and I was already sweating bucketfuls from the train ride.So I flagged down a share auto and went to the one place which is famous in Chandannagar. The strand.The ride was through small narrow streets through the town.I was surprised to see a 'more' supermarket in one of the streets. There were some old buildings which looked like they belonged to the pre independence era but there was nothing spectacular.
The Indo French Cultural Centre

After a ride of a few minutes I reached the strand.My first priority was the Museum which I mentioned earlier.I walked along the strand with the river to my left and a row of old and beautiful buildings to my right.There was a college for girls,a police station,a government building, a church and finally I reached the museum.It was formerly the residence of one of the most famous governor general of French India, Joseph Fran├žois Dupleix,It was converted into an Institute cum Museum and was called the Institute de Chandannagar or Indo French Cultural Centre. I had come with a lot of expectations but the museum did not live up to it.The layout is haphazard and the items are neither properly labelled nor arranged in any proper order.There are different sections including one on paintings,one has the bed of the governor general,one has books and newspapers and one has weapons and arms.Like most of the museums in India it lacked enthusiasm.The lack of interest showed in the way the museum was maintained.

Of all the exhibits a few things were interesting like the newspapers from the 18th century.There was a french newspaper which had one front page advertisement in English about the a discount being offered for tickets on a ship returning to England.There were interesting books but nothing which stood out.I wrapped up my visit with some disappointment.
By the way their website looks like it is from the 18th Century -Click here.

Next I strolled around the strand for quite some time,I tried visiting the patalbari but was told that it is not open to visitors.The strand is almost a kilometer long with a set of the most beautiful buildings of Chandannagar here.Opposite the river Hooghly flows serenely.Here and there a fisherman's boat glides over the smooth flowing river.Lots of opportunities here for a photography enthusiast.I casually strolled here and there,took some pics,had a heavily scented biryani in one of the restaurants nearby and for sometime sat down on one of the numerous benches provided there.
A church on the strand

At around 4pm I decided it was time to go and I returned to the railway station.I walked half the distance and was lucky to stumble upon a beautiful building.For the next half I took an auto.I took another local train to kolkata.

The strand
A kid jumps into the Hooghly River

A beautiful building in the town of Chandannagar

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Ib,Orissa.The shortest Railway Station name in India.

Ib is a tiny village near Jharsuguda in the state of Orissa. Its claim to fame is its railway station.It has the shortest railway station name in India along with Od in Gujarat.

Last Sunday I went to Ib to have a look at the station.Yes you read that right,I went to a remote railway station just because it had the shortest name in India.

I took the Bilaspur-Jharsuguda Passenger from raigarh at 10:30 am.The weather was overcast and cloudy.Perfect for a train journey.As the compartment was full I stood near the door.The cool air with the fragrance of the forest trees was flowing over my face numbing my cheeks.After sometime a slight stinging feeling developed on my face and I withdrew inside a little.  
Remote Indian railway stations are very beautiful and are the perfect getaways for people who love nature.Simply sitting on the benches of the deserted platforms offers so much peace.I passed through the several small stations before I reached Ib.

I got down at the lonely platform. Barring me I saw only a couple get down here.
This moment reminded me of Sherlock Holmes who,in many a case, goes to the charming English countryside in trains.This felt similar.
I looked around and just right ahead several metres away was the foot over bridge.I clambered up the stairs and took in the sight.To the left of where I was standing there was a row of British like brick cottages with comfortable space between them on uneven terrain.There was a small gentle hill on which ran a small footpath.It looked quaint in the cloudy atmosphere.
To the right of me was a small river flowing nearby the station.There was a shabby pump house on the banks.I waited here taking in the sight and planning my next move.
The train which was still on the platform gave a shrill horn waking me from my reverie.It slowly lumbered away disappearing over the horizon leaving me alone on the bridge.The silence was wonderful.I stood there in the silence enjoying it.

I then went towards those little cottages which I mentioned earlier and looked around.I saw a man in a railways uniform.I approached him and asked him,just to make sure,about the next train to raigarh. After that I asked him if there was any place to eat or buy snack around there.He pointed to a small shack clustered in a row of houses nearby.It didn't look promising but having no other choice I made my way over there.There was a middle aged woman making tea there.I inquired if she had any 'nashta' (snacks) while simultaneously scanning the place.I knew the answer before she replied with a no.But She had some biscuits and Haldiram packets which I bought.Now armed with some food I thought of going to the rail bridge over the river just at the beginning of the station.I went there,found a spot for myself and sat down.The view was wonderful.In front me were two bridges over the river Ib. I sat at one end of one of the bridges.down below a few people were bathing.At some distance away a couple of youngsters dressed only in their undergarments were practicing dance moves.One of them was hyper excited and kept jumping around.There voices fell and dropped in the all pervading silence.The weather was just perfect with gentle breeze blowing and the sun hiding under a cover of clouds.I have this habit of calling up friends whenever i am in these kind of peaceful settings.Most of them were sleeping as it was a Sunday afternoon.A few connected and I had lengthy talks.I also took may pics here of the bridge and the few trains that came and went.

Soon the time for my return train was approaching and I strolled back to the station.The station buidling itself was vey small with a even smaller ticketing and waiting area section.I went inside and saw a couple of people sitting there.I asked one of them if the issuance of tickets has started, he replied with a no and told me the process.First the bell would be rung and then issuance of the tickets would start.This was rural india with its still old procedures.I waited patiently and half an hour before the scheduled arrival of the train the bell was rung and ticket counter was open.I took my ticket,thanked the guy who helped me and waited for the train on one of the benches.Soon the train arrived,I boarded  and again stood near the door enjoying the wind blowing over my face.Back in raigarh people complain about not having enough options for picnics or sight seeing nearby.My advise to them-Just pack your stuff and maybe a book or two and go to a nearby rural railway station.And Ib is the best of the lot on the raigarh Jharsuguda line.