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Offbeat

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Huge Durga Puja Pandal of Santosh Mitra Square, 2007. Photo courtesy: Asim Gupta

Since there is not even a fortnight left for this year’s Durgapuja, my avid readers may think this blog post is about the Durga Puja of Santosh Mitra Square. Especially with the photograph of Durga Puja Pandal (alias pavilion) as the cover photograph of the post, such a thought is not unjustified.

However, this post is not about the Santosh Mitra Square’s Durgapuja. The photograph is just a tease. This post is about the gentleman in whose memorial this park was renamed from St. James Square. In fact, I came to know about him only in recent times after I discovered a plaque inside a narrow lane at Bowbazar. I was not sure about its connection to the Santosh Mitra Square, so I asked my heritage loving friends and experts about the origin of the name.

Surprisingly no one seemed to have a clue. One of my heritage experts came out with a weird explanation saying this park was named after veteran Bengali actor Santosh Dutta. He added that ‘Santosh Mitra is Santosh Dutta’s old name. He changed his name after becoming a famous actor. Just like Uttam Kumar”.  I hope he was pulling my leg.  However, we live in the era when many proud Bengalis think Bagha Jatin & Jatin Das are one and the same person. So anything is possible. I must mention here on giving keyword “Santosh Mitra Square” or “Santosh Mitra” in Google you will only get information about the Durga Puja.

As I mentioned earlier, I had no clue about who was Santosh Mitra until I landed one day inside a narrow lane at Bowbazar. I was looking for the house of an Indian revolutionary (about whom a separate blog post will come soon) when I landed accidentally inside the non-descriptive Haldhar Bardhan Lane.  It was evening and I almost missed the waist-high plaque at the entrance.  The light inside the lane was quite low.  I bent down to read the content.

The character of Prosenjit in the film "Praktan" was role modeled to a considerable extent on Ritwick Ghosh of "Calcutta Walks"
The character of Prosenjit in the film “Praktan” was role modeled to a considerable extent on Ritwick Ghosh of “Calcutta Walks”

There was widespread talk in different communities of Kolkata before and after the release of the movie “Praktan”. The superstar of contemporary Bengali cinema, Prosenjit was again acting in a movie with another celebrated heroine of Bengali cinema – Rituparna Sengupta. They were last seen together in a movie 14 years ago. Being a huge successful pair on the silver screen, fans were thrilled with the prospect of viewing the star pair together again. The duo of Nandita Roy and Shiboprosad Mukherjee fulfilled the wish of the fans.

This post is not about the film. This is about the real-life character on whom Prosenjit’s  role in the film was based to a considerable extent.

A Travel Destination is boosted by its Social Media Presence
A Travel Destination is boosted by its Social Media Presence


I have always maintained this opinion that whenever you are looking for a travel destination which has all amenities that your heart desire, be careful that you are actually running from one crowd to another. The more facility a place provides, chances are you will get more crowds there.

However, the latest craze in the tourism sector in India is visiting off-beat destinations rather than the popular one. There were always a few takers preferring unknown hamlets, but in recent times, the numbers have increased. What more interesting is apart from backpackers and couples, tourists with all family members are opting for such places. There was a time when information of lesser known travel destinations used to spread mainly through word of mouth. Families rarely opted to such destinations because they had no clear idea about the amenities available at  these places. After all, word of mouth from one or two travelers could not paint a clear cut picture of these destinations.

In recent times, the same old school of the word of mouth is playing a big role in promoting offbeat destinations in India. Today word of mouth literally does not mean only “words” only. It means lots of other things. That is where social media is playing a big role.

Familiar Scenario during Rains at Kolkata
Familiar Scenario during Rains at Kolkata

The Late nineties saw some serious changes in the present Capital of West Bengal.  To start with its name changed from Calcutta to Kolkata. Cell phones came into existence and the distant future of paging devices looked bleak. Maintaining a cell phone was very costly, there were charges for incoming too. People talking in mobile in public were stared upon by the masses with jealousy and awe.

The idea of having personal computers for residential use was considered as a luxury. The only internet connection was available from Videsh Sanchar Nigam Limited. There was only one scheme which will look crazy in today’s scenario – 500 hours @ Rs 10,000 per year. It was to be a one-time payment. Incidentally, our family was among the first lot of subscribers opting for this crazy scheme in 1997 after my brother brought home a personal computer from Singapore when he came from home to take a break from his first overseas job.

With the arrival of the internet, I got introduced to email. Although I was working with computers in my office, there was no facility of email there. A software named Trumpet Winsock developed by the unsung developer Peter Tattam was used to get connected to the internet. First it was the Shell account with a black creepy screen where the white typed letters appeared in a halting fashion.  Vsnl provided us with an email id. We later dumped it and upgraded to Hotmail with its graphic interface.

I did not use Hotmail for long. Initially, the account had a lot of security loophole. After having my email hacked for several times, I switched over to Yahoo.

The Changing Faces of Byomkesh down the years
The Changing Faces of Byomkesh down the years. Photos sourced from Youtube.

In films and serials of Byomkesh, many remarkable historical and heritage locations have been shown. Many people have asked me about these places. It has been always my interest to identify these locations and write about them.  This blog post “Byomkesh was Here” is mainly about those places and their history. It covers Five of such locations

There has been a sudden interest in the Indian film industry for Byomkesh Bakshi, the fictional sleuth created by Saradindu Bandopadhyay. Byomkesh Bakshi hated to be referred as Detective. Instead, he preferred to be known as “Satyanweshi” (The seeker of the truth). Byomkesh is a very humble man, leads a simple life with his wife Satyabati and his friend / sidekick – writer Ajit Bandopadhyay.

It was not that earlier directors and producers have not shown interest in making films about Byomkesh Bakshi. From 1967 to 2010, four Bengali films, three Bengali serials, and one Hindi serial have been made on Byomkesh. Out of them, Uttam Kumar as the first Byomkesh and Rajit Kapoor as the first “National” Byomkesh had their presence felt.

There is a basic difference between ‘Unseen’ and ‘Undiscovered’. ‘Undiscovered’ places are practically not known to the world. However, ‘Unseen’ places are those which we have heard of but those which do not fall in our primary list of travel destinations. In our typical holiday destinations we expect an excellent lodging facility, decent food, good transportation and of course variety of shopping possibilities. In negotiating these primary needs, we often forget to decide about our holiday destinations with an open mind.

After all why do we go for holidays? Obviously we take holidays to go away from the daily routine and the crowd. Little do we realise that at the time of deciding for a destination with excellent facilities, we are actually going from one crowd to the other.

In this blog I will share my experiences of traveling to some interesting “Unseen” places in India.