#4 India, Feb. 6, 2015

The bus from Puri to Bhubaneswar was unremarkable except I think I caught on to something. In Mexico and Bangladesh, the ‘conductor’ on the bus would pound the side of the bus twice for the driver to go, and once for him to stop. There were all kinds of pounding on this bus by miscellaneous people, (I had noticed this previously, too) not just twice but three or four times. It was confusing to me, but given some of their postures and gestures after they pounded, I began to think it was for ‘good luck.’ Heaven knows buses need it as the horrible traffic does cause quite a few accidents.DSC08230

After I arrived, oDSC08233nce again I had linner at the Maurya Gardens and thought that the vegetable salad was worth photographing. Walking to and from yielded some photos of various people DSC08234and their lives.

Sunday morning I had a date with Shabari and Gopi, the couple that I had met in a restaurant a couple of weeks ago. They picked me up at my hotel in a very nice small car and drove me to their apartment. They live in government housing since she works for the Government Health System as a physician. Sunday we had to meet later in the day because every Sunday morning she drives out to a village, which is largely Muslim, and spends most of the day seeing patients. The Muslim women must be seen by a woman doctor so if she didn’t go, they wouldn’t get DSC08239healthcare. What a generous thing to do.

They had prepared a lovely dinner, which we prefaced with some beer that I brought, and some rum that they provided. We had such a nice time talking our heads off. Shabari gave me a beautiful raw silk shawl as a gift! It was made by the Adivasas, the tribal people that live near DSC08238here.

The next morning I got the early train to Kolkata’s Howrah Station. This time I had bought a more expensive ticket (unknown to me at the time I was buying it) which put me in a ‘chaircar,’ which is more like first class. It was much more comfortable and cleaner than what I had when I trained to Bhubaneswar, but it really wasn’t as interesting. However, what a bargain! The price of the ticket was $10 (as compared with about $2 when I came) BUT: First I got a bottle of water. Then I got breakfast, which was a fruiti box drink, two dal patties, two slices of bread with jam and butter, and a cup of tea. Then I got a snack, which was a paper cup of carrot soup with two breadsticks and butter. Then I got dinner! That was a full meal with rice, dal, paneer masala, chapatis, pickle, sweet curd (yoghurt), and for dessert, Gulab Jamun, my favorite. It was served in wobbly foil squares and kind of made a mess, but the food was really pretty good—better than some airline food!

The line at Howrah Station to get a prepaid taxi was looong, but there were free-lancers who one could bargain with that would take you right now for some extra money. This I did, and so got checked into my same hotel that I had earlier, the Ashreen Guest House.

Did you hear me screaming? My email account was again locked! I managed to live chat with somebody, though, so eventually (it took hours) I got it unlocked. There seems to be something wrong with their system if they can’t keep it unlocked for me to use.DSC08242

DSC08251To calm my soul, I went to visit Mother Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity. The nuns were DSC08250most hospitable—we were invited to view her bedroom (pretty plain-jane) and her tomb. She was born in Albania, joined an order, and taught high school in Calcutta. Upset by the city’s poverty, she started the new order of The Missionaries of Charity. She was staunchly Roman Catholic and some Hindus were unhappy with her views. Anyway, she certainly did minister to the most destitute DSC08248of the people here. She lived to be 87, a contrast to her picture as a young girl.

I have now planned my itinerary for the next month. And in so doing, I booked a bunch of train tickets so I’m committed. It’s pretty much what I had planned initially, but I switched some things around.

DSC08261Here are some scenes from being out and about.

Would you like some sugar cane juice?

DSC08259

Everyone needs a rest after lunch.

DSC08260

Or perhaps you need a shave?

DSC08262

Do you live on the sidewalk?

DSC08257

Or do you raise goats?

Everything is interesting in Kolkata.

I eat one meal a day but have a fruit salad in the evening, bought from a vendor right outside my hotel. It’s a nice dish of fruit—papaya, watermelon, banana, apple, plus DSC08265cucumber and jicama. It is served on a paper plate with a toothpick and costs 20 rupees, about 35 cents.

DSC08267

I finally got to the Academy of Fine Arts. Their opening hours are 4-8 PM, which is awkward for me. I met one of the artists exhibiting his self-portrait—Avandish, a nice young man.

DSC07438

I just learned from BBC that the number of people in the DSC07439world living in abject poverty has halved since 1990. That’s good news. Still, I guess the more affluent suffer from the same things that we do.

Well, hallelujah, I finally got everything updated on my email so that if I get locked out again (and apparently they don’t think this old lady would actually be in some exotic place so it could happen) it will be easy to fix.

DSC08270My plan for Thursday morning was to visit several landmarks north of the Maidan, where there are many colonial buildings. I did see Tank Square, which became Dalhousie Square, which became BBD Square. ‘Tank’ was when it was the water supply for a young Kolkata; ‘Dalhousie,’ when it was named after Lieutenant Governor, Lord Dalhousie; and then ‘BBD,’ the initials of the three men who tried to DSC08274DSC08276assassinate Lord Dalhousie. There was the 200-year-old St. Andrews Church and the Writers’ Building (built for British clerks). Then the going got absolutely impossible on the DSC08278sidewalks.

Walking in the street was too dangerous so I hailed a cab and went back to my street, consoling myself with a chai from my usual chai server.DSC08279

How can these people live here with all the congestion, niose, traffic—even foot traffic is impossible. Still one can’t say that the city isn’t vibrant!

I was walking along toward a restaurant for linner when I heard a voice say, “Carol, isn’t it?” To my surprise, there were Carolyn and Carl whom I had breakfasted with a couple of times in Bhubaneswar. They were still riding rented bikes, although they admitted that it was pretty difficult in Kolkata. We had lunch DSC08282together and caught up on our activities since we had last seen each other. Kolkata is a huge city, and it was such a surprise and pleasure to run into each other.

I’ve had just a couple of mosquito bites at night, enough so that tonight I’m going to put up my mosquito net. I use those 3M wall sticker things that don’t leave anything behind on the wall.

And I’ve decided not to take the couple of day trips that I had sort of planned. The destinations were not 4-star anyway, and one has to get a bus at the Howrah Station Bus Terminal, which I think would be very hard to do as Howrah is so big and sprawling and pretty intimidating. Certainly there is plenty to see and do in Kolkata, where I will stay for two more days. After that I shall head northwest to Malda for three nights and return.

This entry was posted in 2015, India. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s