When it comes to fun activities, immersive experiences and interesting places to explore, Kolkata probably won’t be able to match the splendour of many of her Indian siblings, let alone the distant cousins thriving overseas. Once a village and traditionally, a laid-back municipal that have gradually, often sluggishly, transformed into a metropolitan, Kolkata has recognized the ‘West’ and the festivities-traditions associated with ‘Western culture’ only since the time Britishers set up the erstwhile capital of their East India Company here. Since then, the population of Kolkata, especially the younger segment of it, has become quite ‘westernized’, much to the chagrin of the elderly. And this ‘westernization’, of not just youngsters but also this city, is most evident in the very last week of the year.
The city that still holds Bengali music and literature very close to its heart, is passionate about politics and football (soccer) and is straight-up possessive about its culinary finesse, manages to take a chill pill at this time of the year, decking up in twinkling lights and jingling bells to celebrate the Christmas and New Year spirit. While bundling up like it’s snowing and going for picnics are still strong favorites, preceding movie and zoo-outings, Kolkatans also pour the streets in masses to see the holiday decorations that go up everywhere. Even a decade ago, going to watch a circus show was a popular activity, but overwhelming protests against animal cruelty and underwhelming enthusiasm of smartphone-addict toddlers have successfully pushed it off Bengalee’s winter bucket-list.
Fortunately, government and administrative bodies have realized that lack of short entertainment shows can only serve to frustrate fun-deprived Bengalees even more, which, in-turn, can lead to an overcrowded, and potentially unsafe, Park Street and push some hardworking members of the Kolkata Traffic Police to the verge of insanity. Hence, some long overdue attention has gone into arranging for entertainment shows that will hopefully amaze children and at least, interest their parents.
This was the thought with which I went to watch the Chinese Panda Lights Festival Taking place at Kolkata’s ultimate (and probably, only till date) amusement park – Nicco Park. But I was pleasantly surprised at the quality and scale of the light show. Suffice it to say, not only does the show provide a grand venue for some mandatory low-light photoshoot but is absolutely magical in its own merit.
Organized by Magical Panda Lights – a world renowned Chinese company, in collaboration with Nicco Parks & Resorts Limited, this is the first ever lantern festival of its kind held in the ‘City of Joy’. A team of thirty skilled artisans from Zigong Sichuan, the center of the lantern-making industry in China, have put up residency for two months at Nicco Park to construct fifteen elaborate lantern displays. A giant screen at the venue tell the story of how each of the displays came along. Thrilling performances from acrobats and gymnasts, along with adorable costumed park mascots, grooving to peppy Bollywood numbers, make this endeavour an endearing one.
Here are some glimpses:
Yes, I have seen grander shows and yes, they have awed me. But the Chinese Panda Lights Festival at Nicco Park left a warm, fuzzy feeling in my heart, much like the one you get from your Mom’s cooking, after having been wowed by signature dishes by Michelin-star chefs. It’s undoubtedly beautiful, even cute. So, if you are a true, blue Kolkatan, give it a shot. If you happen to have a kid or two at home, take him/her/them too. They will love it, making you love it more.
Check out a snippet of the show, here: