Kolkata: An Indian Muslim wedding reception

The last wedding reception I attended was a Hindu one (see here) in May last year. After which, I’ve missed out on all of my cousins’ and friends’ weddings which took place in Singapore. For some reason, a lot of people got married in 2017. My Instagram feed updated me with tons of wedding photos, and I got envious ’cause each bride were glowing with gorgeousness! I told Azri that I wanted to get married again but obviously, he ignored my insistent “Can we marry again??? Please…” Heh.

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The heavily-dressed bride sat on the pelamin while the groom, in navy suit, mingled with friends.

Anyway, last week, we went to a wedding reception of Nasir and Tabssum. We aren’t particularly close to the bride and groom, but I’m grateful to be invited. I had a very different experience from the previous reception we attended.

What shocked me most was the number of attendees. It was massive – It could easily have been more than 2000 people there! Imtiaz, who was with us throughout the night, shared that it’s normal to have such large crowd for a Muslim wedding in Kolkata. If I’m not wrong, his had about 5000 guests. And I thought Malay weddings are huge…

Left: Azri and me on the way to meeting Imtiaz (whom I forgot to snap a photo with!);
Right: Ayesha and me at the wedding reception

Everyone was dressed in a mix of clothes – saree, salwar suits or long dresses for the ladies; suits, smart casual shirts and jeans or something traditional for the men. I had put on my baju kurung moden – a modernised traditional Malay costume. I suppose the locals could not figure what I was wearing as many stared. I can’t help but wonder how their reaction would have been if Azri had his baju kurung on too.

These only covered 1/2 of the reception…

The outdoor space of the reception was brightly lit with snowflake and fairy lights, seemingly apt since it was a cool winter night, while the indoor decor reminded me of Malay weddings bawah block. The drastic difference between the environment of this Muslim wedding and the ones we have in Singapore is that there wasn’t any loud music. It was great – no one had to raise their voices to speak to one another! It was so good that I had about three hours of wonderful conversations there 😀 And oh, the most interesting tidbit I learned is that there is no dancing at Indian Muslim weddings here, as they associate it more as a Hindu custom.

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My favourite station served freshly fried jalebi and warm doodh milk 😛

The best thing about the wedding reception was that there were many live food stations! Because of the crowd, I didn’t manage to take many photos. But I must say that we ate at least eight different types of street food and drinks, before having biryani as the main course. My tummy was filled to the brim by the end of the night, but even so, I just had to eat a couple more jalebi before leaving. #pbgttm, I know.

(Side question: Is there any shop selling jalebi at Little India Singapore??)

Going back to the topic of traditional clothes, I finally received the salwar suit made from the fabric Ayesha bought for me:

Left: Kepale besar sia; Right: Hehe 😉

On the first try, I could not get my head through the neck hole. I was like, “Noooo… How did the tailor take the wrong measurement? I don’t want this to go to waste…” But I figured the tailor could fix it by adding a zip, and that’s exactly what she did and viola, a sweet suit for me 🙂

Goodbye 2017

This year is hands down the second most challenging year in my life. But that doesn’t mean that things were always on the low. The most enriching thing that happened is being able to travel around the world, and these are my favourite moments in each city:

04 February 2017 – Sutera Mall, Johor, Malaysia

After three times playing various escape rooms with different friends, I finally broke free from one with the best team I’ve ever had! At this trip, Zah and Yasir also introduced us to Hokkaido Baked Cheese Tart and it has stuck to become Azri’s favourite dessert 😛

07 March 2017 – Flinders Rock Pool, Melbourne, Australia

I remember shrieking with pure joy when we swam in the rock pool!

On a side note, I really miss hanging out with my fun and merepek friends: Azean, Ery, Mira and Wilis…

19 April 2017 – Bruny Island, Tasmania, Australia

5 or 6 years ago, I watched a documentary on Antarctica’s animals at Singapore Science Centre with Azri. Ever since then, I’ve been telling him that I wanted to see seals at their natural habitat. Early this year, he made that dream come true! (Too bad GoPro doesn’t have the zoom in function, else the video would show close up images of the cuties.)

29 June 2017 – Marina Bay Sands, Singapore, Singapore

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Nak staycation when we are back in Singapore?” “Okay. Katne?” “MBS?” “Okay!” It was fantastic to finally have a taste of the famous infinity pool and later, indulge at Spago by Wolfgang Puck!

05 July 2017 – Parkland Green, Singapore, Singapore

There is another moment worth noting in Singapore. It was the last worry-free hang out session I had in my homeland, and it also symbolises hope for 2018.

Fad and I were drinking our iced hibiscus tea and hot latte. Amongst many other things, he shared with me on what happened since his unemployment. I resonated some of his feelings then, and I believe I will face even similar things soon. Considering that he has kept himself afloat reasonably well for eight months, I am very sure we can too.

It’s a shame that we didn’t manage to meet again afterwards. The call from another Fad, asking me to head to the hospital five days later, was a point in time that offset a mega-series of changes. Things will definitely slow down in 2018, and I feel hopeful about sharing moments with people like Fad again in the near future.

11 October 2017 – Shinjuku, Tokyo, Japan

Azri had showed me various YouTube videos on people having omakase prior to our Japan trip, and so we just had to try it out. The experience at Sushi Tokyo Ten was akin to luscious music to the tongue, as we tried sea urchin, anglerfish liver, octopus, shishamo fish and more for the first time ever!

12 December 2017 – Eco Park, Kolkata, India

Standing before the many unauthentic wonders of the world and breathing in relatively cleaner air than usual at the green park was absolutely calming. My inner child couldn’t ask for a better afternoon 😀

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Photo taken on 29 April 2017 at Singapore Changi Airport, just before Azri and I departed for Kolkata.

With that, I bid farewell to the year. Bring on the new year!

Kolkata: ‘Tis the season of giving

Last week definitely comes in second, after my birthday, in terms of the amount of gifts received! The ones who bought me the special things and I don’t attach religious beliefs to Christmas – none of us are Christians – but I suppose the act of giving is infectious and I’m very lucky to be showered with such kindness from them.

Monday

In mid-November, I was complaining to Ayesha about the set of saree that I had bought online. While the fabric of the saree came in perfect condition (beautiful midnight chiffon adorned with white geometric prints), the blouse, which was part of the set, was never delivered. I had requested for the online store to follow-up with the correct order, however it was fruitless. Hence, I sent back the item and thankfully, got a refund instead.

Ladies-Patiala-Salwar-SuitAyesha then shared with me that she only wears saree once a year when her company celebrates Durga Puja (see here), and because of that, she has a pile of fabrics at home that she doesn’t have any use for anymore. She then proceeded to educate me that the Indian-Punjabi Muslims’ ethnic wear here is salwar suits (see left photo). This includes a pair of baggy pants, which is tied around the waist with a drawstring, called salwar, a knee length dress called kameez and a thin scarf called dupatta. She showed me photos of her in the suits and insisted that I get myself one before leaving Kolkata. I agreed, and told her that we would go shopping soon.

Little did I know that she sneakily went shopping first without me and bought me a set of fabric two weeks later! I was so surprised when I received the wrapped gift and I couldn’t stop going “Aww…” when I opened the package! Just look at how pretty it is:

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Then, on Monday, she brought me to her trusted tailor for measurements and such. And now, I am waiting eagerly for the outfit to be sewn 😀 It should be ready by the 28th!

Thursday

Pistachios + Firni + Jalebi + Baklava 😛

For some unavoidable reasons, Azri has to work longer hours for a while now. But despite being tired from the job, he still has me in heart and mind, and on Thursday night, he surprised me with a bottle of pistachios! Him buying me my favourite roasted nuts made me feel all warm and mushy inside <3 He also purchased other sweets for us, and we snacked on them all night (or should I say morning?) while watching Cuckoo on Netflix. #pbgttm, hah!

Saturday

When I last met Deepayan and Aru at a birthday party in end-November, Deepayan asked if I watch soccer. I replied that since there is only one TV at home, I’ve had no choice but to watch EPL and La Liga with Azri on game’s nights. That said, I do appreciate the art of soccer (especially after learning from Alex Hunter on FIFA’s The Journey) and liked watching some of the matches. He laughed, and then told me that he had already made plans with Azri on bringing us to an Indian Super League match at Salt Lake Stadium. This stadium has a capacity of up to 85,000 people and had held this year’s FIFA U-17 World Cup, so I looked forward to soak into the soccer atmosphere.

Atletico de Kolkata (ATK) vs Delhi Dynamos FC

Come 7.00pm on Saturday, the four of us found ourselves seated amongst the Atletico de Kolkata fans. Most of them donned the team’s jersey and some even had headbands and face-paint to show loyalty and support. Before the game started, the teenage fans were full of energy, jumping around and taking selfies non-stop and so I assumed the energy level would be high throughout the game.

But boy, was I wrong. Only a little more than 22k people attended the game and once the referee whistled the start, fans from the older generation started shouting at the young ones to sit down. Kinda a buzzkill, really. We ended up behaving proper and only got a little rowdy when there were fouls and almost-goals. And only when the only goal was scored by Kolkata’s Robbie Keane (yes, the Irish professional player) did everybody jumped in joy and the mood lifted for a little while.

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The GOAL! moment at 78 minutes

Overall, the game itself was underwhelming too. Watching the match reminded me a lot S.League’s matches – there were too many shake-my-head moments. I got frustrated and cursed with my super pak cik vocabulary, including “referee kayu sia”, “bilang die takmo wayang ah” and more. Azri shared my frustration and wondered how Manager Teddy Sheringham and Keane must have felt to transit from playing on an international level to this.

But hey, at least the team we were supporting won! So, that’s all that matters. And more importantly, the four of us had a really good time over supper! Food from Azad didn’t disappoint at all, and the conversation was full of laughs. We ended the night on a really high note 😀

Sunday

I didn’t get the chance to gloat as Azri hijacked my win by distracting me, so I shall rejoice in glory here instead:

Left: What one of my cities look like; Right: WINNER IS ME!

Hohoho, I finally conquered Civ 6 after losing many games! Azri tried distracting me during the game too, but I was very sure of my win and I must say that it was a satisfying gift for myself on a cold Sunday evening. Now, onward to beating Azri and his boys back in Singapore. Hehe!

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Azri and I went to Tokyo, Japan from the 10th to 17th of October and a decision that I’ve made on that trip had sucked me into a mental whirlpool up till yesterday, when I finally snapped out of it.

It’s almost hilarious to note that I’ve made some important life changing choices for Azri and myself at clubs. I remember the incident with Faizal which occurred at Attica (Clarke Quay, Singapore) on our sixth relationship anniversary, and I wonder what would have happened if I had said “Yes” instead of “No”. I can imagine a whole different series of events emerging throughout that whole year. But that said, I wouldn’t change a thing as a lot of different thrilling things occurred, including having an experience we didn’t think we would ever engage in (or even possible!) during the holiday for our first marriage anniversary.

I digress.

I was sitting at a table at Harlem (Shibuya, Tokyo) and waiting for Azri to come back from the washroom. I enjoy people-watching at clubs. At this hip-hop club, it was especially satisfying to watch men trying to chat women up and succeeding in getting a dance partner. Harlem had a young crowd, and there were more men than women. Everyone had tasteful fashion sense and the men were very respectful. So, the women had a lot of good choices as to whom they wanted to talk to and dance with. Also, there is this special thing about the clubs in Tokyo in which, there is a section segregated for women only. Hence, if they wanted to be away from men the entire night, there was a place for them.

While Harlem was a great club, I prefer the club we were at the day before, Club Camelot (Shibuya, Tokyo). RnB and hip-hop music were playing on two floors respectively, and the crowd aged between mid-20s to possibly early-40s. I guess because of the higher level of maturity, nobody gave two shits about anybody else, and people were dancing alone and flashing out their stylish moves even before the majority of the people reached. (Azri and I reached early for a cheaper entry fee. People started flooding in about two hours later.) It was refreshing, and again, I noticed that men were respectful to women. None were like the piranhas (or more affectionately known as buaya back home) I had observed back in Singapore or Melbourne. Maybe I didn’t observe enough, but if I did, I think that it gave women the opportunity to have a lot more fun at clubs.

I digress again.

So, Azri came back to the washroom and I looked at him and said, “Okay, you can send it.” I had been deliberating about it for 3 months and it wasn’t an easy choice. Even as the words rolled off my tongue, I had to reassure myself that it was the right thing to do. Azri’s grin and gratitude then confirmed it was indeed the right thing to do.

But the right thing in the long run had a bad effect on me in the short run. I panicked, I worried, I grew upset. There was a part of me which longed to hold tightly onto what it is right now, and I chided myself for agreeing. And there was another part of me which doubted my skills and my use for the real world, and I crippled myself for nights. According to the internet, I was probably experiencing denial and depression. But who knows.

Thankfully, there was and still is a part of me which is rational and excited for the new adventures ahead. And I’m fortunate to have Azri constantly reminding me that things will work out well, and to have our family and Zahirah and Yasir and Malina and Azy to be super enthusiastic with what’s to come.

This part of me managed to put down the other two parts largely because of Jonghyun’s death. No, I’m not a K-pop fan, and I’ve not heard any of SHINee’s music. But I read his suicide note and the content made sense to me. I don’t condone suicide, but his words spoke to me and I realized that a lot of people have, at one point of their lives, felt what I was feeling and it made me feel less lonely and loserish.

While I know anxiety will always be hanging over my head until Azri and I get stable again, I now have accepted for real that my decision at Harlem was just like the one I made at Attica – the right thing to do for now and for future.

Kolkata: Durga Puja (Part 2)

So, the celebration for Durga Puja lasted for a number of days, and the eighth day was considered the most auspicious. Because of that, Azri joined his colleagues in wearing Indian’s traditional clothes to work on that particular Thursday 🙂

Left: Heehee 🙂 I made him take a photo like on first day of Raya; Right: Azri with the ladies

He wore another kurta on Friday too. When he showed me a bunch of photos he took with his co-workers, I went “Awww, their saris look so good, especially the red one!!!” I told him that I want to wear the beautiful garment to an event one day, and he shared that we are invited to a wedding next year. But hah, I’m secretly hoping (okay, not so secret anymore) that there will be something this year…

So anyway, on the same Thursday night, I heard music coming from my condominium’s clubhouse. I live on the 24th storey, so you can imagine how loud the music was playing. I was a little grumpy about it at first ‘cause it was memekak like orang kahwin bawah blok. But once I got over the distraction, I went on with my everyday routine.

On Friday night, music started thumping again. This time, I was like, “F*ck it, if you can’t beat them, join them.” I changed into my kurta and checked out what was happening downstairs.

My expectations: Loud music = Singing and coordinated vigorous dancing, like the ones in Bollywood films.

Reality: Senior citizens choir. Look –

They didn’t look very cheerful but at least the song was upbeat. Hahaha!

The crowd in which I was seated with were mostly elderlies and I was absolutely underdressed! The ladies were in their more elegant kurtas/saris, had gold jewelry around their wrists and necks, and hanging from their ears, and some even had flowers in their hair. And obviously, their faces were beautified with make-up. Me? My hair was half wet ‘cause I just showered, my face was bare, my kurta was plain and the only jewelry I had on were my wedding ring and engagement earrings.

I contemplated if I should stay longer since I was not dressed for the occasion and ‘cause I didn’t understand what was happening as 98% of the performance was in Hindi.

People with OCD would not be able to watch this dance

In the end, I stayed on for another 1.5 hours. The senior citizens sang for half hour, followed by some slow and uncoordinated dance rituals. Alas, when a man started singing macam faham, I gave up and went up to my apartment.

On the way back, I saw younger people hanging around the carpark area. They were donning casual modern clothes and bored faces. I didn’t blame them – I’d probably wear the same expression, especially if my parents dragged me down.

At 11pm, I heard the bass dropping and I paced around my apartment, wondering if I should give the event a second chance. Crowd started cheering loudly too, urging me to go down. This time round, I changed into a casual top and put on minimal make-up.

Start of the real partay!

A beat-boxing and breakdancing performance greeted me and the crowd was more hyped up. And soon, a deejay was spinning the local’s pop music! Plastic chairs were cleared and the space changed into a dance floor! Obviously, I couldn’t sing along but dancing along was easy 😛

Wish Azri and my party friends were here to form our own circle ’cause I was too shy to selit

Soon, the deejay switched music to what I assume to be traditional dancing music. From what I understood, it was supposed to be a couple’s dance but I saw groups forming too, and they were synchronize-dancing with sticks in their hands. It was a pretty sight!

After an hour or so, my back started to ache (#blametheperiod) and I decided to go home. And then at 12.50AM, I regretted going home early ‘cause the deejay started playing English pop music. Heh. But hey, overall it was an awesome experience! Something that only living in Kolkata could give me 😀

Kolkata: Durga Puja (Part 1)

“Bby, can you have your off day on Wednesday? I wanna go pandal hopping,” I asked Azri the week before. But he couldn’t ‘cause it was peak period so he had to work all weekdays. I wasn’t upset but meh, it sucked a little to not participate in the locals’ huge celebration. If Jolene and Biren or Josephine and Raj were in town, I would have asked them but both couples were away so double meh, nobody to go with and I didn’t want to roam around alone amongst the crowd.

Wednesday came and at 8PM, I got a text from Azri asking me to get ready by 2AM. That took me by surprised but hehe, I was excited! YAY, WE WERE GOING PANDAL HOPPING!

So, a little background: Durga Puja is an annual Hindu celebration in which the devotees worship the warrior goddess named Durga. The festival rejoices her victory against the buffalo demon, Mahishasura, and in essence, the triumph of Good over Evil. The festivities take place over a total of 10 days in India, and it is most popular in Kolkata where more than thousands of pandal (gigantic structure of the goddess) are set up every year.

Rai fetched me at two and soon, Azri and I were at our first pandal. I was awed at the details of the large art piece:

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My favourite pandal of the night.

Here, Durga is the one in the middle with ten arms. She’s equipped with weapons which are given by various male Hindu gods and rides a lion. She is seen to have already defeated Mahishasura. And she is accompanied by her children, four other Hindu deities: Ganesha, God of Good Beginnings; Lakshmi, Goddess of Wealth and Prosperity; Saraswati, Goddess of Knowledge and Music; and Kartikeya (God of War). Also, at the top right, you can see a framed image of Lord Shiva, her husband.

(I would love to share the rich history of Durga and the symbolisms and what not, but that would mean that there is a possibility that the post will become a paper, so I won’t. If you’re a sucker of symbolisms like me, you can do a quick google search and lotsa information will surface!)

The second pandal we saw was less colourful. Instead, it looked luxurious with the gold decorations:

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Okay, I don’t think real gold was used here. But as extravagant as it sounds, there is one pandal adorned with 22kg of pure gold somewhere in North Kolkata!

The third pandal had some psychedelic vibe. And because it was situated near a carnival, it was crowded:

Here, we saw the drastic difference between the older and younger generations – the former came to pray, while the latter came for selfies.

We checked out the carnival for a bit and tried ice cream made out of a manual roller machine and paan:

Top left: Walk to pasar malam, feat the back of Rai; Middle left: Paan seller; Top right: Ice cream seller; Bottom left: Azri with shaved ice cream; Bottom right: Me with paan.

The ice cream was yummy, but the paan… The paan was too much for me! Paan is a traditional Indian mouth freshener made of betel leaf and spices. A few bites into the mini dish, tastes that my taste buds had never tasted before burst out and I had to spit it out. Undeniably, it was refreshing, but I just couldn’t contain the strong spice flavours. It was a good experience nonetheless, and I had minty breath throughout the night 😛

The forth pandal we hopped to had a special building erected to shelter the idols:

Just look at the details and you can’t help but give the artisans A++ for the work they’ve put in for both interior and exterior…

The next one we visited had a funky feel to it. The deities were not as elaborated as the rest, but the décor of the place was definitely a lot more intricate:

An argument between a security guard and a father broke out here, and my kepo husband and driver (and other visitors) watched and stared. I had to nudge them twice before we moved out. Heh.

The last pandal we saw was huge and was housed in a big building. Apparently, this was one of the more atas structures:

It was already nearing 4AM and my goodness, the crowd there was so alive! For the obvious reason, I couldn’t take a nice frontal shot of Durga and the rest.

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After the sixth pandal, Azri and my legs were feeling tired from all the walking and we decided to call it a night. On the way home in the car, we took in the decorative lights hung almost everywhere. And I thanked my husband again for organizing the pandal hopping trip 🙂

 

What do you wish for on your birthday?

You think you’ve moved on but you watch Please Like Me Season 4 Episode 5 and you start sniffling and every single word from the characters sounded almost exactly like what had been said before by your family and friends and you end up crying.

That happened just a few hours ago.

I’ve spent the past three weeks back in Singapore. (Hence my lack of update. Shouldn’t be an excuse, but it is. Hah.) Most of the time, I was socially active. But there were times when I felt like I had eternity to myself, like lunch and supper on September 13.

It felt absolutely weird yet very right to feel lonely during those two specific meal times. For lunch, I had café latte and wonderful waffles from Wimbly Lu. And for supper, I had fries and a couple of strong and stellar sodas. (If only I can get full with this little amount of food everyday!) I tried to fill my alone time reading Vulgar Things, but my mind kept drifting away on life. And death.

I gave up on the book entirely and started thinking a lot about the relations I have with strangers, friends, family. I evaluated each one of them and I decided that maybe strangers should stay strangers. And then I delved into reflecting how her death affects my life, and if my death would affect others’ lives. I know it was morbid to think about my own death on the day I celebrate another year in the world, but I couldn’t help it. I figured that there were a lot of possible consequences and hoped that nobody would mourn too long. Probably one day, or one hour is enough.

Anyway, fast forward a week later and strangers didn’t really stay as strangers. (One did though, and I hope I will never cross paths with him.) Instead, they offered to become options. And it also dawned on me that her death impacted me more than I thought it had.

I don’t feel like watching the final episode of the final season of Please Like Me ‘cause I’m scared it will be painful again, but I should. We should.

Kolkata: New Market aka Hogg Market

When Azri and I walked through New Market, also known as Hogg Market, for the Street Food Walk, we thought, “Hey, it’s not so bad to walk here in the evening… Let’s try going here again!” The air was cool (WINTER IS COMING! Unlike GoT, we welcome the lower temperature.) and it seemed safe to walk when the sun’s out. You can refer to first photo of the previous post to get a glimpse of what I mean.

We checked out to this once Whites-only market* on one afternoon of our first month here and the experience was not good. Sun was scorching and we were not used to the messiness yet. Plus, we hadn’t had lunch, so we ended up being grumpy.

(*FYI: During the colonial times, British people were too snobbish and racist to go to the markets with Indians, so they build this grand one, which official name was Sir Stuart Hogg Market. They couldn’t get any more English than that. But the nickname New Market was more popular, and it stuck on.)

So with a new found hope that New Market could offer us more positive memories, we made our way there last Sunday. And…

Say hello to the oldest shopping market located in the heart of Kolkata

“OMG, WHYYY SO CROWDED?!?!?!” was my first question. Almost immediately, it hit us that we went there on a weeknight two weeks ago, and not on a weekend. Hah. The crowd was unbelievable. I don’t think I’ve ever found myself walking around with as many people before. The most I could think of is at Singapore’s Bazaar Geylang during Ramadan, and that wasn’t even half of the population here!

It was common to being pushed around and to push others around at the market (Generally, women push women and men push men.) but you’ve got to give it to them – Like their crazy traffic, in which honks go off non-stop, the locals don’t rage on. And I’m sure the movement of people here would look seamless from a bird’s eye view.

New Market has indoor and outdoor shopping areas. Azri and I went to the former one first to look at the garments. Sellers, mostly young men, were incessantly touting. They followed us around and kept grabbing Azri’s arm. For people like us who are used to personal space, it was annoying. I couldn’t look at anything without someone interrupting! Also, ventilation was bad and we were sweating profusely. So, we headed out in less than half hour.

Left: Co-existence of both the traditional and the modern;
Right: I was so excited with my buy, I had to try it on as soon as we got home 🙂

Outside was a more refreshing experience! Breeze was very shiok and shop vendors were equally chilled. We managed to stop, and take photos, and look through the items displayed. It was very enjoyable and enriching to soak in the exchanges amongst locals over buying/selling both traditional and modern things…

We happily collected a few stuffs from different shops. My favourite is the kurta (in photo) which cost me 200 rupees, about S$4.40! It’s so lepak and sweet 😀 I got myself two other casual kurta and two pairs of leggings, all for 150 rupees each (Hee!) while Azri purchased himself a more formal looking kurta at a higher price. Unlike women, men do not wear traditional clothes on a daily basis, so theirs cost a little more. We also bought our families dressy Indian’s clothes which can be worn during festivities. I’d say money well spent!

Delicious deep fried pakora 😛

And of course, amidst all the walk, Azri wanted to munch on something and we had these tasteful pakora for 20 rupees. They were like crispy and crunchy vada/vadai, bursting with rich flavours! Really yummy…

Left: Our sweaty and oily happy faces; Right: Remember there was once I wrote (this post) that if a zombie apocalypse started here, I would not survive? This crowd confirms my theory.

Overall, we are glad that we gave New Market a second chance. But of course, we would go there on a weekday evening the next time round. While the crowd was still bearable, I would prefer not to have other people’s sweat constantly rubbing against my skin. Can’t wait to shop there again!

Kolkata: Local Dhaba and Street Food

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India celebrated its Independence Day last Tuesday. We didn’t join in any of the celebrations ’cause Azri was working. But we did sign up for a Street Food Walk a couple of days later just to feel a little more like a local.

Of course, we were scared about getting food poisoning, but we took all sorts of precautions (e.g. being more disciplined in eating probiotics daily and having diarrhoea pills on standby) and we just put on an #okgo mindset. So, we were excited for the walk! However, the tour didn’t meet our standards. There wasn’t any structure in both food and historical/intellectual contents and we didn’t learn much. Plus, the tour was called Street Food Walk, but we ate at restaurants more than eating by the streets. It was disappointing. Guess the saving grace was trying out new food. And oh, not getting any tummy discomforts at all.

Location 1: Anadi Cabin
Interesting food: Duck Egg Moghlai Parata

I don’t know how exactly to describe duck egg but I know that it goes extremely well in a prata/parata. Someone should sell this in Singapore! Super sinful indulgence 😛

Location 2: Nizam’s Restaurant
Interesting food: Pudina (mint) Sauce

I didn’t like the spices which was on the tandoori chicken (right photo) but tandoori fish (top left photo) was fresh and melted in my mouth, and the pudina sauce and the “Indian mustard” (this is exactly the words used by the tour guide) were great dips.

Location 3: Nahoum’s
Interesting fact: Kolkata’s last Jewish bakery 

I didn’t enjoy the food here. Puffs were too dry and cakes were too light. I’ve tried desserts elsewhere and I’ve came to conclusion that my tastebuds do not know how to appreciate the way the locals appreciate their sweet things.

 Location 4: Maa Kali Stores

Nothing special about the sandwich but watching the sandwich making process made me want that sandwich grill so bad… I’m dreaming of egg mayo grilled sandwich and spicy tuna with cheese ones too….. Ok, I’m drooling.

Location 5: Russel Punjabi Dhaba (Roadside Restaurant)
Interesting food: Chicken Bharta

Raw onions (top right photo) were served with spices and lime juice as a starter. Most of the restaurants here do that, but Azri and I never touched it. But this time round, we tried. Azri has always been a fan of onions, eating them raw with ketupat and satay or in his sandwiches, so he liked it. I prefer my onions chopped and cooked, so it’s not for me.

But the chicken bharta, a Punjabi dish which has pulled chicken soaked in an onion and tomato based gravy, was a stellar. We had it with naan, but all I could imagine was having it with the duck egg parata. I’m drooling again.

Location 5a: Some street
Interesting food: Papri Chat

Crunchy, sweet and sour, and occasionally hot – that’s how I would describe the dish. According to some online sources, papri means wafers, while chat means snacks or fast food.

Location 5b: Some street
Interesting food: Aloo Kabli

Main ingredients for this Indian snack was aloo (potato), chickpeas and beansprouts. For the first time ever, I found beansprouts to look glorious (right middle photo)! Anyway, I was too full for this snack and while I did take a bite of it, I don’t actually remember how it tasted like. Hah.

Location 6: Shibuji
Interesting drink: Masala Soda

I was very skeptical about having spices in my soft drink but oh wow, yums! It was Coke which parties in your mouth! Apparently, it helps with digestion. True or not, it was a good drink to end the tour with.

Like I’ve mentioned, not the best street walk we’ve been on ’cause we didn’t learn anything more than on the superficial level. (And my goodness, it was expensive.) But yes, at least we did learn a little still.

Kolkata: The Oberoi Grand Hotel

Left: Jolene and my Oberoi’s signature blend tea with a side of oatmeal cookies; Right: Fresh lilies <3

Nearly two weeks ago, Jolene and Biren jio-ed Azri and me to have lunch and tea at The Oberoi Grand Hotel’s Threesixtythree°. We had a good time catching up over a lovely spread of buffet. One of the things that we shared with them was us thinking of having a staycation, and they highly recommended the hotel that we were in. Honestly, no matter how much they tried to convince us, we didn’t think much of the hotel…

…Until the staff gave us a tour of the hotel rooms after our meal. Perhaps the staff had extremely impressive marketing skills or the heritage decor was simply too charming, but whatever the reasons were, AZRI AND I WERE SOLD! We booked a room as soon as we got home 🙂

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The reason for our staycation was to celebrate our 8th year anniversary. Shamelessly, we stated that in our booking ’cause I love how hotels put in a little extra effort for our personal celebrations. So, I was expecting cliche things like towels folded in shapes of swans on our bed and maybe a stalk of flower. What I absolutely did not expect was to be blown away by the not-little-at-all-but-omg-wow effort put in by the hotel staff!

We were picked from our residence at noon. Once we stepped out of the car, a young hotel staff, D, greeted us by name and surprised us with an upgrade of accommodation. We were delighted with his news! And oh, our hearts brimmed happily even more when D showed us the luxurious suite… We’ve had lived in suites before this, but nowhere else had given out the deep and rich vibe like Oberoi Grand’s.

Our Classic Suite: Beautifully aged furniture fitted complimentarily in a room of the grand colonial building (which was built in the late 19th century.) The suite was soothing and stunning…

Once D had professionally settled administrative matters with us, he called in his colleague who presented us with the chocolate cake above. We were pleasantly surprised again! They really knew how to make our smiles wider…

Side story: We don’t have a weighing scale at our apartment, so when I saw one in the toilet, I immediately stepped on it. “Bby, apparently I’ve lost 2kg. Really ah, got difference in my body?” I asked Azri. “I think the machine purposely reduce the numbers so that you’d eat more at the hotel. You’d think you’ve lost weight so you can order more food and then, they earn more!” jested my husband. “Why can’t you just answer yes or no. Why are you so mean to me?” I sighed. Azri laughed casually. “Why am I with you???” I asked. I paused for a moment. And then I answered my own question, “Oh yah, for things like these…” (By the way, the machine showed that Azri gained 2kg, so I guess it’s not spoilt.)

Left: Us, before the spa treatments; Right: The therapy room

Azri and I knew that we wanted to treat ourselves a spa package when we first stepped into the therapy rooms during the tour. There was something magically romantic about them… Also, I was very keen to have an authentic Indian massage, something that I’ve never tried before.

After deliberating on the many choices, we picked the package called ‘Journey to India’. It was a 3-hour spa ritual consisting of Ayurdevic body massage with hot herbal pouch therapy, Padabhyanga foot massage, Marma facial massage, Indian scalp massage and a warm bath.

Left: Pouches and kasa bowl were tools warmed in hot oil for the massages; Right: Our refreshed selves 🙂

The whole experience was ridiculously relaxing… I used to say Thai massages are my favourite, now I’d say that Indian ones are the best! The warm herbal oil, which was specifically chosen for our body type based on a questionnaire that we filled prior to the treatment, was perfect for the symmetrical and stress-relieving strokes…

It had been some time since the both of us felt really at ease, with no sad or worrying thoughts in mind. And so, we truly appreciated the tender love given to us at the spa by the two therapists, J and KX.

Before we left the spa, another therapist wished us, “Happy Anniversary” and gifted us a box of body polisher. She made me feel more special!

Just when we thought that the hotel had given us the most exceptional service, the staff outdid themselves by surprising us yet again! They had cleaned our suite while we were gone, placed gorgeous roses by my bedside, and drew half a bath, prettified with red petals. Amazing!

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We ordered room service for dinner since we felt too chilled to dress up to go to the restaurant. Plus, Azri wanted to catch Man-U versus West Ham’s soccer match. Because he hadn’t watched a live match in ages, I agreed. But after Man-U scored their second goal, making it obvious that the men in red would win, I gave up on watching TV and soaked myself in the tub, reading ‘Dance, Dance, Dance’…

Breakfast at Threesixtythree° 😛

When we were planning on the staycation, I told Azri that his anniversary present to me would be to wake up for breakfast. It’s been a long time since I had hotel breakfast buffet, let alone breakfast food, and the PBG in me yearned for that.

Of course, Azri woke up early for me (hehe, 0830 instead of our usual 1200!) and I was extremely ecstatic to see the variety of food! It helped that we were seated near the buffet line, and were facing a wall adorned with paintings of people from the colonial times. Azri gifted me with the best anniversary present, hee! 😀

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The Oberoi Grand Hotel serviced us with nothing but royalty treatment, and I thoroughly enjoyed every second of it… The soul enriching experience encourages me to visit other Oberoi hotels, as well as Raffles Singapore since the hotel manager shared with us that our local heritage hotel was as extraordinary. If you were to visit Kolkata, I’d highly recommend you to stay here…

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To the one who’ve spent the past 8 years with me:

Thank you for being [insert whatever explicit] stubborn.

And may we do more wtf things in our 9th year!

#nevergrowingold

<3

(p.s. tagged banana split, you owe me!)