Calcutta (Kalkata) and other Randomness

Thirty Seven and a Half Hours!! That’s how long it took us to get to Calcutta from Dehli! AND! And! Our flight to Thailand has been cancelled, which is the reason we came here. We where in AC3, not sleeper class this time luckily and the people on the train where cool and did not harass us, plus flatulence and nasal cavity clearance was at a minimum. I spent most of the journey reading Shantaram, which has given me some incite into Indian culture, but am not even half way through the book yet. It weighs so much and I need to finish it before I ditch it.

This blog is going to be long and possibly boring, due to the fact we are stuck in Kalkata. I mainly vomit out my thoughts for my own future reference.  No pictures this time sorry.

We where screwed by a Taxi driver when we got here as usual, but I called him a cheat and criminal (as usual) so don’t feel so bad about it; the touts seemed to find it funny when I talked him down. Oh yeah, off topic, but we bumped into Chris who we met in Jasalmer randomly on main street Dehli, before we left, which was cool. One of the guys he was talking to there said we had been seen by everyone strutting our stuff the night before in our suits, on our way to the Imperial; which was super cool ego rubbage.

I forgot to mention some other junk from Dehli to: We went into a weird gem shop and the dude gave us psychic readings! Oooh! Apparently there are only 5 people like me in the world and I have an ocean of endless energy! But I have to buy a pendant to release the energy of my chacra. It was hilarious when he told me that I had an 82 year old in my family; I live by a river; I live by a tree; someone broke my heart and all that kind of crap that can be true for anyone. He told me to give up alcohol to prevent my chacra from being blocked and be happy “this advice I give for free”, which is fair enough, and when I told him I did that for 6 months and it destroyed my social life and made me miserable he shut up. Tom had something bad happen to him when he was 21 apparently and some other generic crap, ooh, ooh he needs an aqua marine gem so he can be strong like me haha, he loved that one. We had a look at his stones and found most to be fake and told him as much. I think he was relieved when we left.

A Sufi mistic stopped me in the street and I did not ignore or push past him as I would usually do, because I was stupid enough to fall for the “nice beard” trick. Tom tried to drag me away, but he was selling something different so I gave him a chance. He said he could tell me my name, mothers name, how many family members I have, my GF’s name (lol) and my profession. I was actually intrigued enough to ask the price which was “2000 rs for his poor customers” and “5000 rs for his rich”. He obviously was not a good mystic because he did not foresee that my price was 100 rupees, so we walked away. I was tempted to let him try, but you can’t take a risk as there is always a scam. I reckon it would go like this: he tries and fails; you tell him the truth; he repeats it, then asks for his fee.

I think Calcutta may be my favourite Indian city. It is very, very cool here. It is like taking Jodpur’s people and placing them in Mumbai or Dehli; so you get a good city with good people, saying that though I think it is a much better city than them. I don’t want to say the L word yet, but I suspect I may have found home in India.

Off topic again, but Mumbai… Colaba was where we where staying… Leopolds was where we ate allot of the time. I hear someone “went Rambo” in Leopolds, but am not sure if it is true yet; it would make sense, as it is a tourist hot spot. All those impressive armed Police that made me feel safe, where not as impressive as I thought: I hear their guns where jamming due to lack of maintenance (oil and clean your guns guys). I wont criticise them too much though, because as I mentioned before they are sporting WW2 guns: the dirt bags had modern weapons.

Anyway, Kalkata or Calcutta, they don’t know how to spell their cities name; everyone spells it one way or another, or some variation of the two. We went to a planetarium at last after three previous attempts elsewhere. It is just like in South Park: we sat down, waited and then a lady with a hypnotic voice (with unfathomable English) started talking. Tom said he lost consciousness when the constellations came out, but I managed to stay awake until the planets, when she started mumbling about how Indians will land on the moon soon. We snapped out of it at the end and Tom asked me if we had been drugged. We now love the Planit-arium.

Kalkata has a Catholic cathedral, which is shared by many Christian denominations. I am not religious; I believe in God but not organised religion, but somehow I find church comforting, which I guess is from my “Christian” upbringing. It felt great to sit in familiar surroundings in silent meditation for a while. My self and Marcin (a good friend of mine) used to go to St Pauls every now and then at lunch, so it bought back good memories, especially as it has the same name. It had all kinds of memorials from colonial times about “dieing for England” and “dieing for the Empire”.

Pedal rickshaws are banned from the city, WOHOOO; but they have been replaced with man-drawn-carts instead. We got into one of these carts out of novelty and found the guy surprisingly fast, but it was much more dangerous than pedal rickshaws as the traffic does not give them a chance.

We have been eating at Blue Sky which seems to be a major backpacker hangout, and we have met quite a few cool people in there, which makes me like this city even more. They use Sugar Puffs instead of crushed Corn Flakes when you order Museli… We tried the more upmarket Tiarra restaurant, who I am going to recommend to any google readers. They have a joystick instead of taps in the restroom basin and a waterfall instead of just plain water coming out of it.

We left our hotel (Galaxy) because they locked us out on our fist evening here, plus the room was damp. They also charged us an extra day for “reservation”, which makes my blood boil, because as I mentioned before “man with money come, take room” would lead to “you misunderstood, room gone”, but because no “man with money come, take room” he made us pay an extra 500rs.

I think I do love this city! The people here are great, even the beggars are cool! They don’t harass and stalk you or anything, nor do the PR who always do that. There are a few bad eggs, but mostly really cool polite people. One crazy guy goes around touching westerners and mumbling, but I even like him because he does his crazy shit for a few seconds and then leaves you alone. We found another one of the fabled supermarkets here! It has barcode scanners and everything! We also found white tea leaves there! Oh yeah we found one in delhi that sold block tofu for 35rs (45p) J

We tried a different cyber Café’ here (ooh so interesting), but the dude running it was taking digital pictures of everyone’s passports and then asking them to input their details into a database… am I the only one that sees a problem? Seriously? There was a full house and people where even waiting. When a computer became free I handed him my driving licence, which is legal ID under Indian law… he refused it and insisted he keep a permanent copy on his database with all of my details. Maybe I am being a little paranoid, but they have no data protection act here and a thriving fake passport trade. Tom took the dudes picture on the way out, “because you took my picture and details”, but there could be a few Tom Lee’s roaming the world soon. Apparently he has 700 people on his database so far… there is no regulation here at all.

We have to get a train to Chenai… which is 28 hours in sleeper class, without guards and no doubt with the usual fair dodgers who try to steal your space (I don’t know why we bother paying). I am going to try a trick a saw another traveler do to avoid being harassed by passing unsavourys who target foreigners: he simply covered him self in a blanket so no white flesh was showing and he was left alone, where as I was woken up and was not left alone (on many journeys).

We spent our last day here at the Victoria Memorial which is one of the last monumens of colonial times. No photos allowed… then we went to the art gallery and got to talk to the artists who’s work was on display. The art was selling for 4 lack (400,000rs) which is around 5200. They thought we where super rich simply because we where foreign which was cool. There was a couple of paintings that spoke to me, but I am still to poor to be an art snob.

We could not get a plain out of here for another 9 days, so we opted to go to another town. We are flying to Singapore; staying there for half a day and then getting a train to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. We will probably stay there for a day and get on a train into Hat Yai, Thailand and then move onto Ko Somui.

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