Travel Diary: In search of Tulips and Bollywood (Silsila) in Holland

Every year thousands of tourists from the Indian subcontinent flock to Keukenhof gardens, Netherlands in search of their perfect ‘Silsila’ memory. In case you are still wondering what is ‘Silsila’ – it is a Hindi film starring Amitabh Bachchan, Jaya Bachchan and Rekha which released way back in 1981. While the film itself did not do so well at the Box Office, it became popular due to the almost ‘casting coup’ in form of the alleged real life love triangle doing a role play on screen. Apart from that, the musical compositions by Shiv-Hari have now attained almost a ‘cult’ status.

The song “Dekha ek khwaab to yeh silsiley huye” is a favourite among Bollywood buffs like me and it has transcended the boundary of generations. The lyrics and the music makes the song an instantly hummable one, but it is the picturisation that takes the cake!

We come from a county where we, and our neighbours, do take our films seriously, very seriously! As a result many like me flock to those tulip fields of Holland imagining ourselves to be the “white salwar” clad Rekha and our men to be the tall, dark and angry (but irresistibly so!) Amitabh Bachchan.

You may not like all Yash Chopra movies and the song and dance routine, but you have to agree that he was a genius! The way he imagines the picturisation of his songs, especially the romantic ones, I doubt anybody from the new breed can create such ethereal magic. ‘Silsila’ happened and thus began our fascination with Netherlands and the tulips.

I have had the privilege of visiting the Keukenhof gardens and the flower fields back in 2014 and again this year in 2017. This year, I went back to that area thrice during the peak tulip season and discovered many previous gems. As a routine, I do a lot of research and reading before visiting a place and it was then that I discovered that Keukenhof was merely a Spring garden. Undoubtedly, it is world’s most beautiful Spring garden where a wide array of Tulips of different hues are at display, but it is not the ‘only’ right place to go if you wish to bedazzled by the beauty of the never ending tulip fields, just the way it was shown in that song from ‘Silsila’.

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Nature’s canvas!

When to visit: The tulips and the vast flower fields may be the most recognisable icon of the Netherlands, but the actual ‘blooming season’ is very short and last from mid to end March to first or second week of May, every year. The Keukenhof gardens also remain open ‘only’ during those times of the year. The full bloom reaches around mid to end of April and it is, arguably, the best time to visit the fields and the garden. ‘Mesmerising’ will be an understatement for the view that you get to look at. If you are coming to Holland to revel in the glory of Tulips and ‘Silsila’, you have to  here around that time. At any other time of the year, you will get to look at the tulips only on picture postcards.

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Inside the Keukenhof Gardens

I have seen/heard from many of my friends visiting Keukenhof gardens being disappointed that they did not find the fields and so I decided to write this one travlogue. If I am of any help to you, pray for me that I might just tick another place on the map from my bucket list 🙂

How to reach Keukenhof: Keukenhof can be reached easily from any part of Netherlands. If you are in Amsterdam or any nearby town, you will find ‘combination tickets‘ for ‘skip the line’ entry and bus rides from.particular points like Schiphol Airport or Amsterdam central being sold everywhere. You may buy them over the counter or online from here. If you are visiting from any other part of Europe and there are numerous day trip/bus trips available.

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Can you ever get enough of this sight?


Reaching the fields (Short stay): If you are pressed for time and you have planned a day trip then you may try walking to the fields nearby the Keukenhof gardens. The fields lie at a distance of around 1-2 kilometres from the main gate of the Keukenhof gardens and you have to walk till there. If you have a car, you may drive down. Be careful as it is a narrow road and bicycles and cars jostle for space. Some of the fields are strictly private and you should not try to enter them without permission. My tip will be that you start early, reach Keukenhof but do not enter the garden first. Walk till the fields before it gets crowded and enter the gardens, later in the afternoon. Do not miss the gardens even if you are enamoured by the beauty of the fields. Trust me, you will love the gardens too!

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The ‘very’ Dutch postcard!
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Uncommon hues!
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More postcards!

When you have an extra day to spare: In case, you have some extra time to spare and you wish to discover the ‘real’ and not so crowded/touristy flower fields where I feel the song was actually shot, you may visit or hike or cycle through the world famous ‘Bollenstreek‘ or ‘Bloemenroute‘ (flower route) of Holland. The route encompasses several towns and villages on the way where tulips are grown on a commercial basis. The tulips and the fragrant hyacinths grown here yield huge money. During the peak flower season, this area is like nature’s canvas with a plethora red, yellow, pink and lavender sprinkled all over.

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The vast fields with lovely colours!
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Cannot stop staring!
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Crayons and colours. From a distance!

I walked/hiked through the Bollenstreek, taking some help of the Dutch public transport (mostly buses), from Noordwijkherout a small town which is easily reachable from Amsterdam. We moved towards Sassenheim and onward to Lisse. Actually, Keukenhof gardens fall right in the middle of the Bollenstreek. If you can ride a bicycle (which I cannot), it will be easier for you as the places are nearby and all you need is to gather a map and start. Google maps are quite handy and if you are renting a bicycle from any of the NS stations or from bicycle vendors, you will be probably provided a map of the area. If nothing else, follow the street signs and once you are just outside the centre of these quaint, little and very pretty Dutch towns the flower fields will guide you.

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On our way from Sassenheim to Lisse. One gets to see a plethora of colours on the way.
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More unknown hues.

What to carry: If you are hiking through Bollenstreek, you may find some dunes on the way, though I did not find many. Take along some easy to carry snacks as this will be a day long adventure and since these are non touristy areas, you may not find a eatery nearby. Carry enough water to keep yourself hydrated especially if it is a sunny day. Do not forget the sunglasses. Pray that it is a sunny day, since the flowers look best when the sun is smiling upon them. Also, do not forget to carry a handy jacket as the weather in Netherlands can be quite unpredictable. It may be sunny at 1 in the afternoon and raining at 3.

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A field full of fragrant hyacinths.

P.S. I had previously written an article in Bengali about my visit to Keukenhof in 2014 for ‘O-Kolkata’. This was before I had discovered the unexplored beauty of the Bollenstreek or Bloemenroute of Holland.

P.P.S. All the photographs used here are clicked by me and mostly unedited. Unauthorised use of photographs is strictly prohibited. Please take due permission if you wish to use them or otherwise legal actions will be taken.

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Tarpan Vidhi Part-3 / তর্পণ বিধি পর্ব – ৩

This is the third and last part of the digitally restored notes from my maternal grandfather in law – Mr Dilip Kumar De’s (Dadu’s) diary about the “Tarpan Vidhi”. I had made a promise to myself and the few dedicated readers of my blog (on my blog’s Facebook page – The Big Bong Theory) that I will not let such a treasure that I had access to, by virtue of being Dadu’s eldest granddaughter in law.

This is actually my tribute to the man who epitomised brilliance, meticulous thinking and the charm of the now extinct, good old “Bangali Bhadralok”. Read till the end to know more about the remarkable man. As Devi Paksha approaches, I hope this is helpful for one and all. Shubho Mahlaya and a very Happy Durga Puja to all of you :).

Read the first part here and the second part here.

Typing down such difficult Bangla/Sanskrit on Avro Keyboard has been a tough job, but I will be happy if his work finds a global window and helps people. The digitalisation is not 100% perfect or correct. Apologies for any unintended errors. The remaining parts will be published soon.

তর্পণ বিধি পর্ব -৩

৯/ ভীষ্ম তর্পণ

ভীষ্ম তর্পণ নিত্য করিতে হয়না, কেবল ভীষ্মাষ্টমীর দিন কর্তব্য। পিতৃ তর্পণের পূর্বে ভীষ্ম তর্পণ করিতে হয়। পিতৃ তর্পণের মতনই একই দিকে, একই আসনে, পিতৃতীর্থে (কিন্তু বাম হাত দ্বারা ডান হাতের পেশী ধরিয়া) এক অঞ্জলি জল দিতে হইবে। মন্ত্র-

Continue reading “Tarpan Vidhi Part-3 / তর্পণ বিধি পর্ব – ৩”

Tarpan Vidhi Part-2 / তর্পণ বিধি পর্ব – ২

As promised on my blog’s Facebook page – The Big Bong Theory, this is the second part of the three parts of the digitally restored notes from my maternal grandfather in law – Mr Dilip Kumar De’s (Dadu’s) diary about the “Tarpan Vidhi”.

Read the first part here and the third part here.

Typing down such difficult Bangla/Sanskrit on Avro Keyboard has been a tough job, but I will be happy if his work finds a global window and helps people. The digitalisation is not 100% perfect or correct. Apologies for any unintended errors. The remaining parts will be published soon. Read till the end to know more about the remarkable man.

তর্পণ বিধি পর্ব -২

৫/ দিব্য পিতৃতর্পণ

দক্ষিণ দিকে ঘুরিয়া বসিতে হইবে। কোষাকুষি ও জলপূর্ণ পাত্র সামনে রাখিতে হইবে। জলপূর্ণ পাত্রে কৃষ্ণতিল ও তুলসী সর্বদা রাখিতে হইবে। জল ফেলিবার জন্য খালি পাত্রটি পাশে রাখিতে হইবে। একটি আলাদা পাত্রে তুলসীপাতা ও আর একটি পাত্রে কৃষ্ণতিল রাখিতে হইবে, যখন জলপূর্ণ পাত্রের তিল ও তুলসী কমিয়া যাইবে, তখন পুনরায় উহাতে মিশাইতে হইবে।

বাম হাঁটু মাটিতে পাতিয়া ও দক্ষিণ হাঁটু তুলিয়া বসিতে হইবে। পিতৃতীর্থ দ্বারা – অর্থাৎ, কোষাটি জলপূর্ণ করিয়া দক্ষিণ হস্তের তর্জনী ও অঙ্গুষ্ঠের মূল প্রদেশ দ্বারা ধারন করিয়া, এক এক অঞ্জলি জল নিম্নলিখিত প্রতিটি মন্ত্রের সঙ্গে খালি পাত্রে ফেলিতে হইবে। লক্ষ্য রাখিতে হইবে, প্রতিবার অঞ্জলি দেওয়ার সময় যেন জলপূর্ণ পাত্র হইতে কিছু তিল ও তুলসীপাতা কোষায় আসে।

Continue reading “Tarpan Vidhi Part-2 / তর্পণ বিধি পর্ব – ২”

Tarpan Vidhi Part-1 / তর্পণ বিধি পর্ব – ১

Recently, I stumbled upon a family heirloom tucked away in glory inside my mother in law’s belongings. My paternal grandfather in law, late Mr. Biman Behari Ray, had once asked my maternal grandfather in law, later Mr Dilip Kumar De (Dadu) to write down the details of “Tarpan Vidhi” – the ritual of offering water to ancestors on the occasion of Mahalaya, the beginning of Devipaksha, according to the Hindu calendar. Dadu had given him a handwritten diary with all the details mentioned with his usual precision. I do not know if such an admirable and erudite piece about our gradually forgotten traditions is available online or not. At least I have not come across one. So this Mahalaya, just as we begin to celebrate the spirit of Durga Puja, I, his eldest granddaughter in law, intend to pay a tribute to  a scholarly man in this very small way.

As promised on my blog’s Facebook page – “The Big Bong Theory“, this is the first of the three parts of the digitally restored notes from Dadu’s diary about the “Tarpan Vidhi”.  Typing down such difficult Bangla/Sanskrit on Avro Keyboard has been a tough job, but I will be happy if his work finds a global window and helps people. The digitalisation is not 100% perfect or correct. Apologies for any unintended errors. The remaining parts will be published soon. Read till the end to know more about the remarkable man.

Read the second part here and the third part here.

তর্পণ বিধি পর্ব – ১

১/ আবাহন

দক্ষিণে মুখ করিয়ে কম্বলাসনে বসিতে হইবে। সামনে কোষাকুষি থাকিবে, তার সামনে একটি খালি পাত্র, এবং ডান দিকে ১টি বা ২টি জলে ভর্তি পাত্র থাকিবে। দুইবার মন্তপাঠ সহ আচমন করিতে হইবে।

আচমন করিবার বিধি

কোষায় জল ও তুলসীপাতা থাকিবে; বাম হস্তে কুষি ধরিয়ে সামান্য জল ডান হাতের তালুতে লইতে হইবে, ও তাহা দ্বারা আচমন করিতে হইবে। আচমন করিয়া জল খালি পাত্রে ফেলিতে হইবে। আচমন করিবার সময় “নমোঃ বিষ্ণু, নমোঃ বিষ্ণু, নমোঃ বিষ্ণু” বলিতে হয়।

Continue reading “Tarpan Vidhi Part-1 / তর্পণ বিধি পর্ব – ১”

মনের কথা

সেদিন কে একজন বলছিল – “কি রে বাংলায় লেখা বন্ধই করে দিলি নাকি?”

আমি বললাম – “জানোই তো আজকাল এস ই ও, ব্লগ হিটসের এর বাজার। এরমাঝে আমার প্যানপ্যানানি বাংলা লেখা কে পড়বে বলোতো?”

“কেন রে বংপেন তো দিব্যি বাংলায় লেখে”

“কি যে বলোনা? কিসের সাথে কিসের তুলনা?”

একথা, সেকথায়, কথা হারায়, আমারও বাংলা লেখা হয়ে ওঠেনা আজ বহুকাল। এরমাঝে আমার নতুন ব্লগঠিকানা হলো, নিজের নামে। নতুন ফেসবুক পেজ হলো ব্লগের, আরো কত কি…

কিন্তু এই যে খেরোর খাতা, মনের ডায়েরি, যেখানে নিজের গল্প করব বলে এই ব্লগবকম শুরু আমার, সেখানেই আর নিজের বলা বোঝার সব থেকে স্বাবলীল ভাষায় আর কিছু লেখাই হয় না আমার।

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যারা আমার ব্লগ পড়েন তারা হয়তো জানেন যে কিছুদিন আগে আমরা একটা নতুন বাড়িতে শিফট করেছি। নিজেদের কেনা প্রথম বাড়ি। বলতে পারেন, মনের রঙ মিশিয়ে সাজানো। আজকাল কেউ বাড়িতে এলেই ঘুরে ঘুরে তাদের ঘর দেখাই – “এইটা কেমন হয়েছে বলো? আর ওইটা”।

Continue reading “মনের কথা”

La Dolce Vita – The magical Amalfi Coast!

Two summers back, I had spent a memorable  time in Italy, Europe. While the rest of Italy remains well charted out in the Indian travel scene (that includes the bus full of people doing Europe darshan), Amalfi and the beautiful coastline of Southern Italy was quite a chance discovery for me.

We were staying in Germany and I used to switch on to German television channels to learn Deutsch. It was a trick that my “lehrerin” (teacher in Deutsch) from language school had suggested. Germans are known for their wanderlust and it is during one of those binge watching of travel shows on television, that I discovered the dreamily romantic and the holiday hot spot for the rich and famous – Amalfi Coast.

Continue reading “La Dolce Vita – The magical Amalfi Coast!”

#HomeKahon – The story of my Indian Home

The story of designing my first home from scratch.

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They always talk about first love, but rarely in our documented history do we prefer talking about our other firsts?

The first job, the first salary, first car, first home….

You may call me severely materialistic, but all these hold a very special place in my heart, just like my first “Aam Panna” I shared with my husband, the first story that got published or the first ‘Phuchka’ that I had in Calcutta after returning from Europe after a year and a half.

Designing and making a ‘home’ out of a ‘house’ is always a challenge, especially if it is your ‘first’ one. You want it to be special and unique. My wishes were no different. I was a never a big ‘home decor’ enthusiast.

In fact, I often scorned at my mother who would scold me or my sister at the very sight of us sluggisly sitting on the sofa and squishing away her cushions. I was always the lethargic kid (“lyadhkhor”) as they call in colloquial Bengali), who loved her sleep.

Continue reading “#HomeKahon – The story of my Indian Home”