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Weekend at Bandel

Whenever I hear the phrase long drive it immediately reminds me of my 2014 North Sikkim trip. That was one hell of a long drive. We left Gangtok at 12 noon and reached Lachen at 10 pm. That too while being stuck in a Sumo like a pack of cattle. The return journey was no less painful and after reaching Gangtok, I felt like kissing the M G Marg all the way up to my hotel room. It really felt like I was home after an ordeal. So yeah, I am not a big fan of long road trips. Not even if Tom Hiddleston was sitting behind the wheel.

However, short day trips are not so bad as they give me a false sense of travelling. Last week we went to see Bandel church. It was a part of our mission to cover all the historically important churches in and around Calcutta. What is life without a mission? Basilica of the Holy Rosary or the Bandel church was founded in 1599 by the Portuguese traders during the reign of Akbar. Bandel was a major trading port back in those days. After gaining Akbar's permission (Akbar was an exceptionally liberal human being, thanks to his Hindu connection) the Portuguese people built this Roman Catholic church and began converting the local people. It was destroyed in 1632 and rebuilt in 1660.

After visiting Saint John's Church, I had high expectations from Basilica of the Holy Rosary and upon arriving all my preconceived notions were shattered into minuscule pieces. All I could see before my eyes was a building covered in sandstone coloured ceramic tiles emanating something that was definitely not a pre-colonial Mughal vibe. The church lost its originality after a much recently done renovation. The surrounding area is congested and too much commercialised. The moment we entered the courtyard some lady started shouting at us offering candles. We told her we were not pilgrims, but she kept on shouting anyway. The adjacent field is very poorly maintained and from the looks of it, it seemed to be a popular spot for taking afternoon siesta. Photography is restricted in the prayer hall.

There is another place to see in Bandel that belongs to a certain another community. I did not want to visit that place but my friend insisted we should go. Apparently there was nothing to see but nevertheless a guy was sitting at the gate charging entry fee. We went inside. The caretaker fellow was a rude one, misbehaving with everyone for no reason. Although the place was empty besides 5-6 people including us. There was also a clock tower open to the visitors. But male and female had to visit separately. Honestly, I would rather die before complying to such ridiculous, shit rules. So we gave it a miss and we have no regret. We did not know another drama was waiting for us outside. We had parked the car in a small field opposite the building. When we went to get in the car a guy (he was one of the goons who lived in there) came and asked 50 bucks as parking fee. We were furious. We barely parked it for 10 minutes. My friend advised him to call the cops but the asshole kept on insisting that it was the rule there. I told my friend why I did not want to go there in the first place. Some people are just synonymous with all kinds of sinister deeds. And media claims we are intolerant! Well, I'm not going to pretend what I am not. I don't suffer from Acute Rahul Gandhi Syndrome. Nor am I a Communist.We threw 20 bucks at them in the end and left. I did not bother to read about that place, nor did I bother to take photographs there. Who knows, maybe girls are restricted to use a camera also. I should be grateful that they let me breathe the 'holy air' in there.


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