How living in Kolkata as a Bangladeshi made me more culturally aware

In August of 1947, the Bengali nation found itself divided into two countries. But geopolitical borders can only separate people, not their cultures and souls. West Bengal and Bangladesh are two bodies with one soul, with their hearts beating within the people who contain a bit of both entities. The culture differences might be overwhelming to some, but to many, the similarities is where the harmony is strengthened. The capital of West Bengal, Kolkata is specifically loved by many Bangladeshis because of still containing the residue of original Bengali traditions and inspirations gracefully enough, while becoming a modern cosmopolitan city.

A tale of two cities

Kolkata is not just a city to many, it is also an emotion for being the heart of emergence of the historic personalities, events and art that have shaped the dimensions of our collective culture. It will forever remain precious since it has still preserved it all with simplicity, sincerity and joy.

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Read more: In Kolkata, the city of joy

Dhaka is different. It might not be as aesthetically pleasing but it has had the fortune of being the home of Nawabs. This 400-year-old city still preserves the faint scent of its lost glory days in the narrow alleys of Old Dhaka. Being someone who appreciates food and fraternity, my love for Dhaka is eternal since you will find it in loads here. The versatility of cuisines and food habits here beats some of Kolkata’s for me. Old Dhaka is undeniably the heart of likeable chaos and urban heritage. This is how it steals my breath, even after being overwhelmingly crowdy.

Read more: 6 places in Dhaka that remind us of our glorious past.

A tale of two teachers

I have been blessed with the fortune of having a residence in Kolkata, unlike many. Being a wanderer in nature, Kolkata as a city has always actively taken part in shaping my emotions, feelings, values and cultures. The city has a particular aesthetic that no other city could beat for me till now. This is a city for the people with a hearty appetite and curious eyes. Kolkata gave me so much more than a place to stay. It gave me comfort, peace, diversity and joy. So much, that I became addicted to its roads flooding with sodium lights, yellow ambassadors with loud Bollywood songs from the 80s, earthen tea cups that have their own flavour and so much more!  The air of this city has a distinct smell, the smell that will excite anybody who is familiar with the diversity it offers.

How life in Dhaka University changes you

Dhaka pampers you with unpredictability and availability. It gave me a home to grow up in and understand myself better. Nothing in Dhaka is too far but it consumes time like no other. Even then, it will still give you hope. From the delicacies to the nightlife, everything here is a trade. The trade of time, energy and sometimes, life.

Kolkata or Dhaka, why not both?

While Kolkata wows me with art and ethereal beauty, Dhaka prepares me for the worst. It is like Yin and Yang, balancing each other in harmony. Kolkata was originally inspired by the British. Their credit? They built it. Kolkata’s credit? It preserved and carried it, even today, like it’s their own. The historic buildings, churches, temples, mosques, offices.. everything gives you the feeling of being in the right place, no matter how many times you’ve visited the place already. The best thing about Kolkata carrying its cultures so devotedly even today is the candidness behind everything in this city. Nothing feels forced, nothing feels odd. Even the shady alleys will offer something to your thoughts.

6 places in Dhaka that remind us of our glorious past

Being a frequent visitor of Kolkata since the age of 4, I realized there’s more of Kolkata in me than Dhaka, as I am now labelled an adult by society.

The cultural similarity we share has been sowed within me by Kolkata and was nourished here in Dhaka. Every time I visit Kolkata, I learn something new, even if it isn’t directly associated with anything cultural.

A tale of two art forms

Dhaka has its own way of expressing itself. It will express its ‘sorrows’ through the sweat stains of a tired Rikshawala on a humid day, ‘happiness’ through the smile on the face of a mother when her child returns home, ‘fear’ with the speeding buses and trucks on busy streets, ‘anger’ with every innocent life lost, ‘hope’ with every warning a girl receives from random strangers when her orna is tangled to the wheels of a rickshaw and ‘joy’ with every cricket match Bangladesh team manages to win. We have our own graceful way of doing things here.

Rad more: 5 unique experiences in Dhaka that most tourists never see

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Kolkata is a living art. From Howrah to New Market, the extended roads with shadowy alleys, sodium lights and oversized billboards, the faint smell of incense coming from a distance and the classic yellow ambassadors lining up one after another in traffic, everything will please your eyes. Kolkata isn’t entirely modern but it doesn’t want to be it either. It is almost like a modern cosmopolitan woman draped in a saree, unpretentiously appreciating the combination. This effortlessly beautiful city has always been therapeutic for me, whenever I felt dilemmatic, whenever I needed a breath of fresh air. The discipline of this city despite the chaotic charisma as it may seem to many, is praiseworthy as well.

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Being in a love-hate relationship with Dhaka has enabled me to appreciate the best of both cities.

Dhaka will always capture a bigger part of my heart and a broader part of my understandings of culture. The city may not be as artistic and aesthetically pleasing, but it will make you appreciate the little things in your life. Dhaka lets you set priorities and act on it everyday. Dhaka will disappoint you, but some days it won’t and you’ll fall in love with it. The heart of Dhaka is not what it contains but the people who make this city liveable. Culturally, Dhaka has given me the concepts of assertiveness, relationships and the importance of being there for each other. Dhaka will destroy you first and then build you up better. Compared to Kolkata, Dhaka gives you hopes with conditions. Dhaka gives you freedom with restrictions. But Kolkata?

Divided by a border, united by culture

Kolkata lets you live, in all the ways you want to. As Dhaka keeps me grounded, Kolkata gives me the wings to fly. The combination of two didn’t only help me appreciate the beauty of the Bengal, but also it gave me a strong sense of security and cultural awareness.

If these words didn’t make enough sense to you as someone who’s yet to breathe the air of Kolkata, why don’t you pack your bags and board the next flight to make sense out of it? And if by any chance, you’re reading this from Kolkata, it’s never too late to visit this cousin city at least once.

Everything you need to know about Indian visa

India, the country we love and support except for when it comes to cricket matches. Visiting India might not seem like a big deal because it’s a country that we visit so often, but for people who are planning to get their visa for visiting India for the first time and can’t find where to look or whom to go to, this article is for them. 

Read more: In Kolkata, the city of joy

Visa types

The first and foremost thing you need to do is find out what type of visa you need.  You could apply for 

  • A tourist visa
  • A business visa 
  • A short-term single-entry visa 
  • A long term multiple entry visa
  • Transit single entry visa
  • Transit double entry visa 
  • Medical visa
  • Student visa 
  • Research visa 

Now, here is the most important thing you need to remember while deciding which visa to get, unlike other countries which might be a bit more lenient, Indian airports or railway stations will reject your entry if you try to enter the country with a type of a visa that does not match your purpose.

Read more: 5 visa-free countries for Bangladeshis

This is the most recent law passed by the Indian government. So, if you are going to a conference, get a conference visa and not a tourist or business visa.  However, in this particular article, we will focus on what you will need to do to get a tourist visa for India being a Bangladeshi citizen. 

Visa validity

A tourist visa is applicable for either 3 months, 6 months or 12 months. you can choose whichever option you prefer along with either single entry or multiple entries.

In Kolkata, the city of joy
Streets of Kolkata

However, it is always better to apply for 6 months if you are aiming for a 3 months visa and to apply for a 12 months visa if you are aiming for a 6 months visa. This is because you sometimes may get a visa that is less than the time frame for which you applied. 

Required documents

  • NID/Birth certificate,
  • Bank statement/Dollar endorsement (Endorsement should not be older than 1 month at the time of submission)/Active international credit card / Travelcard (Issued by Indian Visa Application Centre or IVAC. Read on to find out)
  • Profession proof i.e. Photocopy of trade license if the employer is NOC, student ID card or salary receipt and trading
  • Last passport copies and all old passports. the passport must be signed and have 6 months validity beyond stay in India. It should also have at least two blank passport pages available for Indian visa stamps. 
  • One recent (not less than 3 months old) passport-size colour photograph depicting full face; Applicants would be required to scan and upload their photograph in the designated space provided in the online application form.
  • Photocopy of a utility bill (electricity bill, gas bill, phone bill)

Read more: 10 cities to visit under budget

Applying for a visa

You can go to the website http://www.ivacbd.com/existing/online_visa.php . This is the official website for the Indian visa application centre. You can download the form from this website. The documents you will be required are already mentioned above.

Darjeeling: An experience of a lifetime 36
Magnificent Darjeeling

Now, you can appoint an agent to do this for you if you don’t want to go through the tedious process. However, given the Indian visa form is very extensive, the chances of a mistake being made by the agent are very high. So, it is better to do it by yourself. Once you are done with filling the form, you have to make the payment. 

Visa fees and how to pay them

According to the most recent (5th August 2018) visa processing law in India, the visa processing fees is 800 bdt. You can pay this fee by yourself through Bkash, Rocket, DBBL Nexus, credit card, etc.

The number to which the money is to be transferred can be found on the IVAC website and this payment getaway link. This information will only be available to you after you fill the form.

Once you have made the payment, you will have exactly 3 days to submit the form at a visa application centre. If you do not submit the form within 3 days, the payment will be considered inapplicable for the form. 

Submitting the application

All Indian visa applications from Dhaka are now accepted only at the IVAC centre in Jamuna Future Park. When you submit the form, you will receive a receipt including your Name, Passport Number, Web file number and Date of delivery. You can use the Web file number to track your application status by logging into the IVAC website. 

It usually takes about a week to get an Indian visa. When your visa is done, you will get a text message and you can collect your passport using the receipt. 

As per the new rule, walk-in applications are also accepted at IVAC without prior application.

Read more: A guide to falling in love with Darjeeling

Necessary contact

Indian Visa Application Centre, Dhaka ( JFP )
Floor – G1, South Court, Jamuna Future Park,
Progoti Sharani, Baridhara, Dhaka-1229, Bangladesh Hot Line: 09612 333 666
E-mail: [email protected]
Website: www.ivacbd.com

Travel solo at least once in your life, it can be enriching

Traveling has always been one of our top choices for choosing what to do in upcoming holiday seasons. However, as our lives get hectic- the fond memories from our childhood of travelling with our family simply become memories that are difficult, or in most cases impossible to relive. In addition, knocking your best friends on Facebook to check their schedule and plan trips result in nothing but utter disappointment, as you find them drowning in deadlines or juggling a hundred things going on in their lives.

So, do you let go of your plans and spend the vacation like a typical weekend with Netflix and pizzas? Of course not.

Solo trips to the rescue! Although solo trips are not a popular choice or a choice for many at all, they are an incredible life-experience. Today, we bring you some reasons to consider travelling solo at least once to have the experience of a lifetime!

Confidence and Responsibility

Solo trips would surely help you gain confidence as an individual. You initiate conversations, get to know people and enjoy little things you normally wouldn’t. Moreover, as a solo traveler, you would also seem more approachable and locals might start the conversation themselves. As you explore and return from the trip, it would also clear your misconception of solo trips being anxiety-inducing, no-good trips. Additionally, solo trips teach you to be more responsible as you take care of your belongings, passport, and other documents and try your best to avoid any danger in the foreign country.

Moreover, solo trips are more peaceful and therapeutic as you escape from your daily life. You can get away from people you know and spend more time with yourself at a quiet cottage. This also means giving yourself the opportunity to step out of your comfort zone. Imagine giving yourself a fake identity to strangers like all those times in the movies; fun, eh?

Make friends along the way

One unique and wonderful aspect of solo trips is that it also gives you the opportunity to meet more locals. When going with your family, friends or your significant other to a trip- it is given that you would go to have all your meals with them or sit next to them in public transportations, movie theatres and amusement park rides. However, travelling solo lets you meet people along the way and do the activities with them, which can be very fun.

A big advantage travelling solo brings is the reduced waiting time. For example, from perceiving theme parks as a noisy, rowdy place filled with screaming kids, crowds and endless walking, you would perceive it as the truly magical place it is meant to be- simply because of the amount of time you save skipping lines and entering as a solo rider. I had a similar experience in Universal Studios Singapore and I cannot describe the sheer happiness as you cross the long queues, get on your ride as a solo-rider and look at all those people waiting in groups.

Step out of your comfort zone

A solo trip like any other trip lets you meet new people and experience new cultures, traditions and food. However, it also lets you do those to a greater extent as you step out of your comfort zone, transform into a more confident, responsible and ‘fun’ individual and surround yourself with people living their life to the fullest to be a part of them.

So go out there, plan a trip for yourself and experience the magic. After all, a solo trip can be exciting, nerve-wracking and rewarding all at the same time; let go of the fear, have one for the first time and you shall find yourself planning the next one soon enough!

4 Bengali traveling myths that are completely wrong

Traveling is something we Bengalis love to do. We might act a bit old school when comes it, but you would rarely find a Bengali who doesn’t fancy traveling. Back in the day, our parents would probably start planning for a tour six months before a vacation starts. Now, in the age of information technology we fancy eating street food in Bangkok one fine morning and we might find ourselves doing it the next weekend. And yet, few old timer traveling myths still remain embedded in our habit.

Here are 4 such traveling myths that are completely wrong.

Myth 1: You need to buy plane tickets months in advance to get the best deals

Wrong. This might have been true ages ago when air traveling was not as frequent as it is now. Back then, airlines would hike up the ticket prices at the last minute because options were so few.

These days, it’s the opposite. With so many budget to high-end options, airlines scramble to fill in half empty seats as the date of departure comes close. Moreover, if you try to book a ticket months ago, you are most likely to see the static prices rather than dynamic ones. The ideal time to book your air ticket would be 4-5 weeks in advance.

Myth 2: Packages know best

While some packages might offer convenience once in a while, in most cases packages will rip you off. And the offers are almost never the best you can get. Comes with the added hassle of doing everything by the package terms and conditions.

If you try and explore by yourself, chances are you’ll cover the trip with half of what the package programs ask of you and get more out of your traveling.

Myth 3: Duty Free is a good bargain

This is a very common myth among those of us who frequent in airports. Duty Free items means that they are not taxed. However, it doesn’t mean anything about retail prices. There’s a higher chance that you’ll find the same goods at a much lower retail price in local market.

Myth 4: It’s a good idea to change your currency at the airport

4 Bengali traveling myths busted 2

Almost never. At airports, the transaction fee is built into the exchange rate percentage. And that means you’ll get a bad rate at airports almost all the time. It’s better to change your currency from your bank before traveling. Or do it in a local money changer once you reach your travel destination.