Chapter 2….Memories of Park Street in Salt lake ( A restaurant review)

Shakespeare crept up into my mind immediately as soon as I entered Chapter 2. The setting resembled a micro-auditorium or a theatre, with a stage at one end of the room and tables arranged in random fashion at the front portion of this stage. It was Saturday night and quite late in the evening when we decided to hit “Chapter 2” to grab some bite. Inside a band of 5, musicians and singer combined, were belting out English numbers. It took some time for the eyes to get accustomed to the glare of light that kept swinging to the beat of the music and hitting us right on our pupils. Having settled down, I picked up the menu card and was immediately transported back into history!

Chapter 2 promises to give back to Calcuttans a sliver of what Park Street had once stood for in the forties and right through the sixties. For someone like me, who has not been witness to the heydays of Park Street it will probably be difficult for me to make a comparision and vouch for the level to which Chapter 2 reaches in comparison to the golden era of Park Street! However for those who love their music and want to satiate their souls with music this is probably one of the place that they would love. The band playing on this particular day was belting out English numbers, something for which I really have not much of an understanding. However, judging from the few diners who shook their torsos and beat a tune on the table, I realised that people were definitely enjoying the overall experience of music that Chapter 2 was serving along with the blend of food and drink. For the ones seriously inclined to listening their particular favourite, there are request slips on each table that can be used to make a request for one’s favourite song.

Sipping my old monk I glanced through the menu card and was enriched by the bits of knowledge about the heritage that Park Street had once stood for. It made me wonder as to what Calcutta has really lost by way of a rocking party place. Park Street today is only a shadow of its former self and I couldn’t but silently applaud the efforts that Chapter 2 has made in trying to rekindle the heritage that once was.

Food at Chapter 2 is, as is usually found in such places, more of continental variety and we were happy to order a Seafood Chowder and some English fish fingers to go with the soup. The Chowder however, was slightly disappointing because it lacked the distinct aroma and flavours typical to the sea foods. The consistency too, I thought, was a little thicker than normal. It was only later that I realized that the menu had clearly spelt out that the contents of the chowder would be limited to prawns and crab ; the absence of musky seafood flavour was therefore easily explained. It was too late however to do anything other than to blame the swinging stage lights for having  come in the way of my vision from reading out the detailed contents of the dishes that appeared as disclaimers on any advertisement. The English fish fingers however were quite English, crisp on the outside with the chef ensuring thy the crispiness did not get overdone and the flakiness of the bhetki took control of the taste palates inside the mouth as soon as one bit into the stuff. With the gastronomic juices now flowing like a gurgling stream, I decided to order a Ham steak. What was offered to us, complete with sauteed veggies and dollop of mashed potato was quite delicious. The pieces of ham were succulent and filled me up to my gills making me happy as a lark!

So what is my advice to would be diners who wish to make a beeline for Chapter 2? Is it the only watering hole in Calcutta that dishes music as an add on feature to the food/drinks? Trincas on Park Street still carries on the tradition that was once the hallmark of Park Street and what Chapter 2 promises to bring back. Then there is my favourite, Kalash at HHI, which has a lady rendering ghazals that promise to sooth many a soul tired with the drudgery of daily routine work life. So Chapter 2 is not unique in any way. Besides, I have never had an ear for English rock and so found the place a little too loud for my taste. The space is small and music hangs heavy in the air inside the room making conversation a little difficult task to achieve. If you are the sort, like me, who wish to dine in peace and quiet with conversation with your fellow diners being the main aim, then Chapter 2 is certainly not the place you should be heading to.

As regards the food, I would like to go back once more to try out their juicy pork spare ribs and pork chops. Other than that I don’t think there’s much to attract someone like me to this place. Even the so called “sea food” here is all about Beckti and is as insipid in variety as a moat!

Ode to poetry

I need a poem,
filled with rhyme,
inciting love lorn sighs,
or drawing tears from the eyes.
romantic and dream filled.
of seeing hope in the heart being instilled.
of valour of common folks on streets.
of tales of struggle to exist.
under the blazing sun.
in form of the Krishnachura blossoms.
on soccer field in fluidity of motion.
in defiance and hailing liberation.
In salute to man’s poverty alleviation.
the scent of the working multitude,
picked up
and scattered by the evening breeze.
in the flailing footsteps of the child.
bent with load
on his back and in his mind.
in the excited hyperactivity
Of mongrels by the roadside
love sparkling in their limped eyes.
in the fragrance
let loose by the shower drenched earth.
in the pain that wells up
When someone very dear departs.
in the twitter of the birds,
bidding adieu to the sun going down!
In the hurried footsteps of the multitude
from work, homeward bound!
Poetry is life,
Poetry is in the mind!
Poetry is breaking shackles
that tend to bind!
Poetry is Ram!
Poetry is Rahim!
Poetry is all about
a romantic paradigm!


From my window on an airplane…

The colours of spring-
Bands of saffron and yellow,
Bounded by red-
Spread in single stroke
All along the horizon.
The hideous darkness,
Spreading it’s cloak and
Smothering the sun in its vice grip,
Squeezed every ounce of colour
From the sun.
The colours have drained out
In a constant stream and
Spread all along the length of the horizon.
in all its glorious shades of colour
Squeezed out of the sun,
Lay before my eyes
Spread across the length of the horizon!

Recipe… Tangy green tomatoes

Aaahh… Winter! It’s that time of the year when the foodie in me stirs up and begins salivating at the array of veggies available at the market-place. The avid non vegetarian me slinks into hibernation, there to stay till the leaves on the trees begin to receive a coat of fresh green paint.
The other day I was almost on the verge of breaking into a jig to see green unripe tomatoes at the marketplace. Brought back a few memories of childhood winters in Ranchi when Maa used to make a mish-mash chutney using the raw green tomatoes that had the tanginess of the tomatoes as well as the spiciness of mustard and spread like a warm coat inside to keep the Ranchi chill at bay.
So I bought half a kilo of the tomatoes and decided to experiment with the same checking out a few recipes on the net. While my aim is to ultimately make what Maa used to make, I decided to first try a recipe that took my fancy on the internet. So here it is, though, I have made my own alterations and changed the measurements to suit my taste buds.
Raw green tomatoes : 4, diced into small pieces.
Ginger : a small piece. I chose one not bigger in size and than top phalanx of my little finger.
Garlic : 3-4 pods, diced into little bits.
Green chilli : I love things spiced up and hence put 3 big ones, slit through the middle.
Onion : 1 small one, chopped fine so that it gets fried properly.
White mustard seeds : 1 teaspoon, barely full
Coriander seeds : I simply love their flavour and so never compromise on the quantity of coriander seeds.
Coriander leaves : a fistful, de-stemmed and kept ready for use at later stage.

Having raised the temperature of white oil ( 2-3 tablespoons of any variety would suffice) to smoking levels, I hurriedly threw the coriander seeds, white mustard and green chillies into the oil. As they crackled and the pungency of the chillies had been slightly neutralized by the hot oil, I added the chopped onions, ginger and garlic and picked up the metal flat spoon, which I have always had a fancy for ever since my childhood because of a very slight resemblance of it to that of the Durga’s trishul, albeit the jointed end.

Running the flat spoon briskly through all those ingredients bubbling in the hot oil, I tried to ensure that they do not stick to the bottom of the pan and get a chance to be fried evenly. When the onion had turned a lustrous shade of white, I added the salt before throwing in all the chopped green tomatoes into the deep bottom pan.
A few vigorous shake to all the ingredients in the pan ensured that the ingredients got mixed up thoroughly and the hot oil managed to reach all the ingredients in the pan fairly evenly. Within a few minutes, the green colour of the tomato had begun to wane and the juices from the tomato had begun to make its presence felt. It was time to add some water, cover the pan and let everything cook in the steam.
While the ingredients were subjected to the sauna in the pan, I plugged in the mixer and threw the fistful of coriander leaves into the mixer jar. Along with that I added a liberal dosage of liquid jaggery into the mixer jar. Jaggery is supposed to be healthier than sugar and so doesn’t make the heart heavy with guilt as you tuck into the food. Thereafter the cooked Mish mash goes into the mixer and we are ready for the final round.
A minute or two of pounding and stirring inside the mixer produced a chutney that was, quite eatable!
The chutney can be eaten as a side accompaniment with cutlets and fries but I have found it to go wonderfully well as a sauce for pasta! The quintessential Bengali in me, however, found the best pairing – as an accompaniment to hot koraishutir kochuri!


A winter morning

The sun flows down,
Running its way through
the gaps and crevices
in the curtain of mist that
hangs down from heaven!
The curled up, stiff world,
awaits eagerly-
To unwind,
To uncoil,
To bathe in the warmth,
To spring back!
The flowing sun finds its way,
Creeping over the garbage vat,
skirting round its corners
and swamping the pile of garbage.
The lady lay there,
Seeking some vestige of warmth from the crooks and crevices in her own bony body.
Her tattered clothes make a desperate attempt,
To cover her fragile frame in bits and pieces.
The sun creeps further and
Spreads a coat-
A soft caress,
A blanket of warmth,
Over her curled up frame!

Benaras-Through our eyes

Benaras is a city that reminded me of Rip Van Winkle; who went off to sleep and then woke up to utter chaos around him! The city keeps blinking its eyes, trying to figure out what has caused such an huge spurt of life around it; life that has multiplied exponentially to fill every inch of available space! There is life that spills out from the narrow by lanes, like the spewing of lava from an angry volcano. There is life that moves on the streets in random chaotic brownian type movement of liquid molecules. These lives keep bumping, colliding, pushing, jostling, dribbling around, trying to gather an escape velocity that they hope, might propel them, in their desired direction. Even the holy river has not been spared; there are scores, floating around in boats, like deadwood.
Benaras is a city that seem to be bursting at the seams; an old city which has now probably been stretched to its limits and gasps to keep itself intact. It seems woefully incapable of handling the pressure of the growing ambitions of it’s residents.
So is it worth making a trip to Benaras from the viewpoint of a tourist? The city was established along the banks of River Ganga and grew up to be a holy city for the Hindus. Even today it attracts thousands who throng to offer prayers to lord Shiva and other Hindu deities. This apart, the sights of the narrow, cobbled pathways and the ancient architecture dotting the bank of the river do have, in my opinion, the capability to hold the “non-religious” tourist’s attention. The sights and sounds of Benaras are definitely capable of providing a lasting impression on the minds of those who wish to have an experience that is not bordering on the religious. While we were short of time and did not have the opportunity to watch the evening Arti at the Dashaswamedh ghat, a lazy float on the Ganges while taking in the sights of the ghats is an experience that is sure to be considered worthwhile by most who undertake this. The river, though still polluted to a large extent, gives an excellent view of the ghats, it’s colours and architecture appearing like a collage on a painter’s giant canvas! Each ghat has its own distinctive identity that presents itself as a feast to the eyes while sailing down from one end to the other. The Dashashwamedh ghat, the busiest of all, comes across as the most colourful; the colourful wooden umbrellas and the throngs of pilgrims appearing like dollops of colour haphazardly splashed on a white canvas. Each ghat has its own distinctive flavour and portrays the identity of its developer. While Dashashwamedh ghat is a cacophony of colours, the Dhobi ghaat is a symphony; coloured clothes laid out to dry on the bank in organized pattern. Another contrast is the grey colour that the soot from the leaping flames of the burning pyre leaves on everything at the Manikarnika ghat.
Getting a grip on the mode of transport in Benaras requires some skill and some prior information on same would probably help a wannabe tourist greatly.
Benaras has auto rickshaws which seem to believe in the theory of standardization; a standard fare of Rs 200 is demanded irrespective of how near or how far you wish to go. If you do not agree to their point of view, then you would be better off trying to book an Ola. Ola services in Benaras offers a choice of auto rickshaws as well as their standard range of cars. The service does tend to disappoint though, like they probably do in all towns and cities that they operate in, by making themselves scarce during peak hours. If you decide to do away with all these and walk, then that has its own set of challenges! Such is the density of vehicles on the road that a pedestrian always runs the risk of being pushed off the road or being run over. The density of traffic at some places is so dense that the speed is a little better than a snail.
Picking our way through the winding narrow cobbled lanes enroute to the Vishwanath temple reminded me of my place of birth-Jamalpur and also of faraway Edinburgh. The cobbled pathways are fenced on both sides by shops that we failed to investigate because we were pushed forward by a crowd that seemed to swell as one neared the temple. Secondly we were ourselves in a rush because we had just heard that the temple closed for an hour and half around 11 am, primarily to clean the temple of the large amount of flowers and leaves that the devotees offer. Our visit to the temple of Kashi Vishwanath was fraught with confusion and tinged with a sense of disappointment due to the fact that despite such efforts and money spent, all that we could manage was a fleeting glimpse of the shrine. Even our pujari cum “queue-manager” did not give us enough time to admire the magnificent gold dome once inside. He also did not consider it his business to provide us with snippets from history of the temple and the anecdote pertaining to how a mosque had been built by Nadir Shah after razing the temple. The temple visit is one of the most forgettable part of our tour because of lack of transparency on many parameters and the tendency of the flower shops and pujaris to fleece the devotees. In the sacred land of the Hindus, we were once again sadly reminded of the barriers that ordinary devotees need to surpass in their quest to reach out to their God!
A visit to Benaras should be considered incomplete without savouring the sweets of Benaras. The milk based sweets are worth gorging on and they can beat the milk based sweets from even Kolkata, by a mile. Noteworthy amongst all that is on offer are the red pedas, a sweet made by thickening the milk to such an extent that the sugar caramelizes and imparts a red colour to the pedas. Our taxi guide advised us to buy these lal pedas from inside the sankat mochan temple. The sweet is offered to Lord Hanuman as prasad although we simply bought half a kilo for our own consumption. The taste is heavenly, like a million sweet filled bubble bursting in succession inside the mouth and then moving down in a stream finding its way into one’s heart.
Benaras is also famous for BHU and a visit to its campus provided a welcome escape from the congestion we felt at the temple and the ghats. The campus is huge and provides ample space for those weary from the strains of sightseeing to stretch their legs and catch some breath without fear of being jostled. The air inside is also clean and one can therefore feel an instant upliftment of one’s spirits. The architecture of the institute buildings and the hostel a delight for students of architecture. I took a special liking to the temple of Lord Vishwanath inside the campus primarily because of the pristine holiness it exudes.
Benaras is a holy city, a city that has survived many an onslaught over ages. It groans and gasps under the onslaught of the present day multitude but still survives and bears all with a stoic resignation. Probably it derives its strength from the holy river Ganges that comforts with its caress as it flows gently past the city.

Changing Times

The highland lass doesn’t sing anymore.

She spews profanities instead

as she stands by the road.

The Road!

That stands out like a black scar,

as it runs in from the horizon far,

Dissecting the highland and

Devouring the meadows green.

The road is the recipient Of her curse.

For like an enticing Apsara,

It had lured away her man.

The city on the other end of the road

Is her man’s current abode.


Standing bare, naked,
Must have brought a sense of shame.
The days of glory were long gone.
The layer of plaster that once was,
Hung loosely , chipped, in patches,
Having lost the battle with nature’s elements since long.
The bare skeleton of the house stood at the street corner.
Dark, desolate, lonely,
Devoid of life.
No one cared.
No one was left to care!
Except, perhaps, the banyan tree!
The tree had enveloped the house,
It’s roots moving all over,
Creeping over the ledges,
Slithering down the walls,
wedged firm into the cracks and crevices in the wall,
Travelling inside through the broken window frames and hanging loose over the plaster peeled walls,
Like decorations of brown streamers!
The banyan tree had once sprouted in a corner of the terrace.
The house was, then, full of life.
The young sapling had drawn  nourishment and dug roots.
Today, when everyone had gone away,
the banyan tree was there-
like a guardian mother
It’s arms wrapped protectively.
Like an inseparable friend.
Like two lovers
Hugging and clinging on to each other,

Till eternity!

Review… The newest Cake Patties er dokaan in town

Trust Anjan Chatterjee to come up with something creative all the time! The master of flavours has now ventured into cakes, pastries and all things baked. Thus has been born the “Dariole”, and in whose search I spent a fruitful afternoon, the November Calcutta sun puff-ing heat in doses milder than when it is at its “baking” best.

The road to Dariole twisted its way from Loudon street to Moira Street and as it finally snaked into Rawdon, I noticed the brownish chocolate coloured signboard that announced I had reached my destination.

Probably afternoon is the cleaning time and so the first thing visible to me , from a distance, was a mop and pail, resting against the glass facade of the shop. Gourmets, like me, are however made of sterner stuff and no amount of mops could deter me from striding in purposefully into the shop.

The review of Dariole, published in a local daily on the occasion of its opening, had advertised about its unique flavours of patties and puffs that, to a hardcore non vegetarian like me, had sounded like manna from heaven. Once inside, it took gluttonous mind and impatient eyes a fraction of a second to search out the stuff of a Bong glutton’s soul – kosha mangsho. The kosha mangsho here had been skillfully concealed inside layers of puffed flour. That however had in no way, I realised post my 1st bite, altered its heavenly flavour and very soon I had gobbled up the whole of it and was ready to order another!

Dariole is a non veg lovers delight! There was prawn patties, chicken Seekh kebab rolls, mint and mutton puffs and a host of other options on their menu. What however made me to consider  bowing my head in reverence to the master of culinary world, was the Potato mustard puff. The delectable taste of the stuffing that is again, quintessentially Bong is, in my opinion, the winning recipe of Dariole. Of course I haven’t tried all their flavours and I would definitely love to go back to try the other savouries on their menu.

I do have some opinion on the decor of the shop. The interior  decor of the shop could have been improved a little, in my opinion. The space inside seems to have not been very well utilized and the place could have done with a bit of colour and smarter looking sets of chairs and tables. Excessive use of the brown colour seems to have made the place appear a little drab.

While waiting for my items to be packed, I Googled to check the meaning of the word Dariole. It’s supposed to be a French term for a mould used for baking cookies and other savouries.

My ratings for Dariole (on a 5 point scale) :

Food on offer      : 4

Value for money : 4

Decor                    : 2

Recipe – Grilled aubergine with a twist


Quite a bit has been said about the health benefits of the fruit from the Mediterranean-olives. Olive oil, extracted by pressing of the fruit, is rich in monounsaturated fats and antioxidants, which is supposed to be good for the heart and overall well being of an individual.
Well being though, be damned! After all, one shouldn’t eat to live. It should be on the contrary, as has been my mantra to happiness for years. So I keep searching, for newer things and objects-to devour! My search, in turn, often stirs the creative instincts inside me. That is when, with a spring in my steps, I approach the refrigerator.
Foraging the refrigerator a few days back, I came across half a piece of brinjal. Brinjal is a vegetable that is often accused to have no benefits ( be-gun or bereft of any benefits, as the Bengalis say). I have often wondered whether that’s the reason for the humble brinjal to be roasted on a fire and turned into a mish – mash spiced with dollops of raw mustard oil, raw onions and green chilly; the preparation often being used as an effective way to keep the chill of the winter nights in villages at bay.
The humble baigan ka bhartaa has breached and invaded all strata of the Indian society. It’s probably an item that gets served under various alibi on dining tables of scores of people, be it the rich or the poor, across India.
The piece of brinjal that I found in the refrigerator made me want to do a fusion, something that wouldn’t come with the pungency of the mustard or the – roasted brinjal with a smattering of virgin olive oil infused with burnt garlic and coriander leaves!
The recipe is actually quite simple and quick to conjure if someone wishes to.
Cut the brinjal into round slices. Take a metal plate or tawa and heat it till it is scalding hot. Place the round slices of brinjal on the hot plate and allow the heat to burn the brinjal slices slowly, taking care to turn them at short intervals to ensure the heat burns the slices equally. Meanwhile chop a few garlic pods finely and place it on the hot metal plate as well. Very soon the garlic would begin to burn and release its characteristic odour. Remove the garlic and add it into the bowl containing 5-6 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil. Finely chop fresh coriander leaves and add same into the olive oil. The garlic dip is done and should be kept aside. Once the outer skin of the brinjal slices begin to get burnt and turn black, it’s time to remove them from the hot plate.
All that remains after that is to smatter and spread the olive oil dip, prepared earlier, on the brinjal and scream…. Bon Appétit!
Note- The brinjal can be used as a topping over toasted bread making it a good healthy breakfast option.
The sweet flavour of virgin olive oil hyphenated by the sudden pungency of the garlic makes the effort of creating this worthwhile.

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