A distant cousin of mine and his new Russian bride wanted to travel across India this year. They were both working on their PhD when they decided to take a break and tour the world.
India featured very prominently in their plans because my cousin was born here and his new wife was enamoured by everything Indian. Their itinerary included a tour on the Palace on wheels across the desert, a visit to the forests in the Coromandel to the Tea estates of Assam complete with a north-eastern trekking and rafting. They also planned to go deep in to the plateau to experience an indigenous life and culture there and also undertake a spiritual journey to Rishikesh in the Himalayan foothills. They wanted to experience the historical grandeur, soak in the exquisite culture, be wrapped in the rural simplicity with a houseboat stay in the Kerala backwaters. They also planned on volunteering at an organic farm in the Eastern Ghats and undertaking a coffee expedition in the Western Ghats. Their India itinerary was tremendous. Somewhere in the midst of plans, they wanted to break their journey in Kolkata.
Having being born in Kolkata, it was important for my cousin that his beloved wife got a good feel of what Kolkata was like: from the famous kiosks and bookstores in College Street, to the glittering night-life of Park Street; from the lazy afternoons at Maidan to the theatrical extravaganza at Nandan .No trip of Kolkata is ever complete without a trip to the National Library and the port.
My cousin asked me about the places they could stay that would fit their student-traveller budget. He also wanted a place close to the airport or the railway station. As I was not particularly well versed with the city myself; having lived her for a short time as a student, I could not furnish him with names of budget hotels in Kolkata immediately. Furthermore, I had just moved out of the city for work elsewhere. I suggested he search online for 3 star hotels in Kolkata that would have the best of hospitality, amiability and conveniences and would suit their budget and needs. I knew this would turn out to be the best option as some of my friends who were students on a shoe-string budget had told me they had found some great deals on cheap hotels in Kolkata when they searched online.
Since his wife also wanted to try out authentic Bengali food and shop extensively for silk sarees and gold jewellery along with the traditional handicrafts, they planned for an extended stay at Kolkata to attend a certain scientific conference at the university as well. My cousin called me last week to let me know that he had checked in to a great hotel that suited their plans, tastes and matched their expectations and thanked me for my suggestion. They also invited me over for a day trip to the Sunderbans if at all I would be in the city during their sojourn. Unfortunately, my work did not permit me to join them but I was glad to be of help.