Waterfalls in Silver Falls State Park
Destinations, Guides, Photo Essay

Field Notes: Silver Falls State Park, Oregon

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When Jessie says Silver Falls State Park is one of her favourite places on the planet, I believe her. It’s almost April and the countryside is embroidered with flowers in a multitude of shapes and colours. We are standing behind the majestic South Falls— my first experience of standing behind a dancing veil of smokey water— silently, spraying cooling our faces. The rocks are damp with velvety pockets of atrociously green moss. Shards of sunlight sparkle like diamantes on the pool below the cascade. I do not jump in ecstasy. Instead, I stand close to Jessie, perhaps for assurance from a fellow human being, and stare in awe at the abundance that envelopes our insignificant selves.

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Pork Phing from Kunga restaurant in Darjeeling
Destinations, Food, Guides

A Nostalgist’s Guide to Eating in Darjeeling

The only true downside of eating everything under the sun is that sometimes even renowned institutions can leave you in a state of tepid dissatisfaction. Heavy blows, if you have not only spent countless nights pondering on what to eat in Darjeeling but also obsessing on menus to figure out what to order and then fantasised about the flavour profiles of individual dishes. My first foray into taking a bite out off the high street of Darjeeling cuisine turned out to be one such misadventure. Debanjan, my co-traveller on this trip who puts up with my questionable dining choices was pretty pleased with Ara by Bellevue when we walked in on a quiet Sunday afternoon. Chic with upholstery that can be described as urban hip, Ara is the newest gastropub to open its doors to the people of Darjeeling.

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Chops being made at Kalika
Food, Guides

How to Navigate a Telebhaja’r Dokan

Of course, this world and its people will impart a lot of education to you. But have you ever, on an evening stroll, wondered what to do about that sondhyebela’r khide? Have you ever felt that pressure of impressing your Bangali premika with a thesaurus like knowledge of chop, cutlet, and peyanjis? Has the Herculean responsibility of arranging the finger food for a murimakha and adda session ever been bestowed upon you and you have no clue what to do? But no more worries! You, dear seeker, have come to the right place. Read on to find out how you can be a chop expert too and be ready for the next renaissance, the industrial revolution that is chop shilpo!

Note: Much has been spoken about the singara, the Bengali cousin of the samosa, and though we love it immensely, we are giving it a break from this article.

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Seattle Skyline
Destinations, Guides

How-to City: 36 hrs in Seattle

Seattle embodies everything that the Pacific Northwest is famous for. From pristine outdoors to excellent museums, a lively arts scene and delicious seafood, Seattle has something for everyone. There’s always something new happening in Emerald City. Recently, it was ranked the 4th most hipster city in the world! However, make sure you carry your raincoat for Seattle is notorious for year-round drizzly weather.

Olympic Sculpture Park | 7:30 AM

Start your morning in Seattle at the Olympic Sculpture Park, an open-air park with monumental sculptures. If you prefer starting your day with a run, head over to Myrtle Edwards Park across the street. Nothing feels more rejuvenating than a morning run along the waterfront! Both offer stunning views of the Olympic Mountains, the Puget Sound, and the Seattle Skyline with the iconic Space Needle piercing the purplish skies.

Pike Place Market | 8:45 AM

Join the Market Walk with Seattle Free Walking Tour (and tip your guide generously) or let the aroma of freshly cut flowers, smoked salmons, baked goodies, raw seafood, spices, or coffee lead you around. There are enough samples to count for breakfast and if you are still hungry, walk into any of these places for a sumptuous breakfast!

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Dishes from Meghalaya
Destinations, Guides

How-to City: 24 hrs in Shillong, Meghalaya

Shillong, once the capital of the erstwhile Assam Province and now the capital of the northeastern state of Meghalaya, has transformed from a quaint colonial retreat to another bustling city in the expanding urban map of modern India. The rolling hills around Shillong have earned it the sobriquet of Scotland of the East but Shillong is more than its magnificent waterfalls, its stunning lakes, or the cherry trees that wash it in blush pink in spring. Every November, Shillong hosts the annual Autumn Festival: a three-day extravaganza for rock, metal, goth, and punk enthusiasts with performances by local, national, and international bands. It’s a treat in every season but if you want to avoid the crowds, avoid the summer holidays, Durga Puja and Christmas breaks when tourists, mostly from Bengal and Assam, arrive in droves.

Don Bosco Square, Laitumkhrah | 3:00 PM

Arrive in Shillong from Guwahati and make your way to Don Bosco Square, Shillong’s equivalent of Calcutta’s Park Street where the young and trendy seem to be tirelessly meting out lessons in fashion and styling. Both an academic and cultural hub, this is where young love blossoms under the watchful eyes of the statue of Don Bosco, educator and apparently a romantic instigator. Settle for lunch at Jadoh, a renowned cafe serving authentic Khasi cuisine. Smoky meat curries are their best sellers but the menu has vegetarian options too. Spend some time people watching and if you are still not full, indulge in a plate of Puri Sabzi (INR 30 / $0.50) from a street food vendor and wash it down with milky chai (INR 10 / $0.15)!

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Fowl Cutlet
Food, Guides

Our Favourite Chicken Dishes in Calcutta

When you live in cold, wet Oregon some thousands of miles away from your boyf, you regularly experience what I called “foodpangs” or busts of painful craving for a dish you have enjoyed with someone you love. This list started off as a random conversation with Aninda on a night my taste-buds were aching for some Calcutta-style Chili Chicken. I ended up making a dish that my father often makes and talking to Aninda about chicken dishes we had enjoyed on our weekend eating sprees since December 2014 when we started dating. It was an interesting list-making that drew very different reactions from both of us; while Aninda was oohh-ing and aaah-ing and planning the next trip to the eateries, I was sinking deeper into a chasm of helpless hunger and making loud slurping sounds in the air. It was weird, alright, but my roommates were out that night and I ultimately ended up making some extra-spiced Chana Masala. So here you go, in no particular order:

1. Chicken Shapta at The Blue Poppy, Middleton St.

Blue poppy shines when you join them in embracing their fiery ambitions. It is somewhat ironic that a dish tracing its roots to the snowy landscapes of Tibet can be this lip-smackingly hot. Thin slices of chicken fried till golden are generously paired with shredded chilli peppers and onions, and presented in a light sauce that is the perfect balance of sour, sweet, and umami. No turmeric means the dish has a rather pale colour but what it lacks in looks, it makes up in taste by unfurling fireworks as you place a spoonful in your mouth. Pair it with their burnt garlic fried rice. Fair warning though, not for the fainthearted!

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Dhunuchi Naach on Astami
Destinations, Guides

When to Visit West Bengal

With its head high up in clouds perched on Himalayan peaks and its toes in the tropical waters of the Bay of Bengal, West Bengal is unlike any Indian state. Numerous rivers crisscross the flat plains that are redolent with paddy, then golden wheat and corn. Acres of bright yellow mustard. Every summer, we rode the Darjeeling Mail from Calcutta up the spine of the state to the township of Siliguri to seek relief in the murmuring rain of the foothills. My grandparents lived in a town named Haldibari. Once a rickety train with green cars and open windows chugged from Chilahati across the border in Bangladesh to Haldibari. During the annual Huzur Sahib’er Mela hundreds rode the train. Further down, in Malda where my father’s grandparents settled post partition are memories of Bengal’s Islamic past. There’s so much unexplored treasure in the Bangali’s backyard, places we are yet to visit and cultures we are yet to taste. The countryside is peppered with ruins of erstwhile rajbaris, marvellous temples, and folklore. Bankura, Aninda’s maternal home, and the famous temples of Bishnupur boast of the region’s architectural brilliance. Throughout centuries, Bauls, or minstrels, have been traveling from village to village in Bengal’s heartlands thrumming their ektaras and singing folksongs. Further west, in Purulia one can see geological features of the Chota Nagpur Plateau and partake of tribal celebrations. The land fans into an estuary in the south, into a wilderness of crocodile infested mangrove and transforms into a dynamic landscape governed by tides. The Sundarbans is as beautiful as it is treacherous. Rivers swallow islands and entire villages vanish overnight but it is also from these tiger-infested forests that you can see a lunar rainbow. Rural Bengal’s culture, especially along the porous border with Bangladesh, is shaped as much as by its native populace as it is by immigrants. When my ancestors arrived from riot torn East Pakistan to Malda, they were sheltered by a Muslim family, distant relatives of the family of Ghani Khan Choudhary. The border ran right through their courtyard! Bengali culture is a celebration, an amalgam of Hindu and Muslim cultures, a culture that Bengalis are proud of. Even our biggest religious festival, Durga Puja, is more a carnival than a set of strict laws governed by religious ideas.

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