Monday, October 5, 2015

Queen Victoria, Victoria Memorial & Aeroplanes

Queen Victoria was the Empress of India till her death in 1901. Calcutta was the capital of undivided India. It was thought that in memory of the Empress, a monument should be constructed. Plans were made, money collected and construction started. In the meanwhile, the capital was shifted from Calcutta to Delhi, thereby relegating Calcutta to a mere state capital. This had an effect on the construction of the monument. Focus was lost and therefore there were delays. However, in 1921 a mere 94 years ago, the magnificent Victoria Memorial was completed.

Victoria Memorial - In Sepia

This is a beautiful marble building set in the maidans that line the river.

We hopped into our cab and drove to the Victoria Memorial. We had been there a few years ago, gone into the Museum that was I recall, very run down. This time being a national holiday the museum was shut. So for a fee of Rs 10/- each [Rs. 200- for foreigners] we entered the ground surrounding the Victoria Memorial.

We were amazed. These were absolutely beautiful. Green, manicured, clean by international standards, huge and relatively empty. We had to keep pinching ourselves that we were actually in India, in Calcutta, and not in a London or Paris. It was that beautiful. Of course the searing sun and drenching debilitating humidity was a constant reminder that we were in Calcutta. I kid you not; the grounds were absolutely lovely by any standard. Have a look at the photos; you will know what I mean.

Yes, that is a squirrel

While walking around we had rather soothing Sitar music playing. The volume at which it was being played was perfect. The grounds had artfully concealed speakers, sometimes disguised as rock and at other time simply discretely placed all along the hedges. The sound was good; the sound was co-ordinated so you did not have an echo. This was good.

The Victoria Monument itself was and remains very beautiful. As I have written earlier, it is not even 100 years old but all the same it is excellent. A lot of repairs and restoration as in progress, but all in all it is magnificent.

A visit to Victoria Memorial is an absolute must when you visit Calcutta. Go early, it opens at 5 am. I don’t mean go at 5 am but go there by 9 am. It will be cooler and the hordes will not have arrived. This is an international standard monument with international standard grounds. A must see.

The legacy of Queen Victoria the Empress of India lives on with us even today. I am not making this up. Every aircraft that is registered in India gets a registration number. This is painted on the body of the aircraft conspicuously. It may be on the underside of the wings or on the top of the wings, but it is always pained at the rear of the aircraft. Every such registration number has a prefix VT followed by three alphabets. So you will have, for example, VT-IEM or VT-IDC. Do you know what VT stands for? The answer is Victoria’s Territories. Yes folks, Queen Victoria the Empress of India is alive and well.

And do you know what else you can do with this registration number? Well, if you are really interested you can run a search for the number in Google. You will be directed to several sites dedicated to this sort of information. You can get all manner of detail on the aircraft. When it was made, who were the previous owners, where it has flown to i.e. its flight history and much much more. Personally I find this fascinating. I look for the registration number of every aircraft I am flying in and run the search. Mind you, the search works for all aircraft not just VT registrations. When flying international, look for the registration number and run a search. You may then know why your plane is so shabby – it’s 10 years old – or so spankingly new – it’s just been commissioned – and so on and so forth. As I said, harmless, cheap and thoroughly useless information.

So, dear readers, I have given you two bits of critical information. All connected by Queen Victoria the Empress of India.

A place to visit when in Calcutta and how to get answers on every airplane.

What a useful blog.

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