Sunday, 26 April 2009

Saturday in the City

Well no, we didn’t exactly make it to pay homage to Mother Theresa. But we’ve had a great day nonetheless. The Blue Sky has become our local, and we are so regular (every few hours, infact) that the waiter always greets us like long-lost friends! Many, many sweet lassis have been consumed, closely followed by pineapple juice. When they ran out of that, we opted for papaya juice. But the pineapple juice rules. How do they get it so tasty and with a massive frothy head?
It’s hot here; exceptionally hot. Even sitting here in the Hotel Paramount, all the fan can achieve on full power is to circulate hot air around the room. And that’s even when Simon’s not talking… Leaving the paradise of air-conditioned shops and bars, you’re greeted with a wall of baking-hot air. In the evenings there might be a slight cooling breeze, but then it’s gone again and the stifling heat returns. But this doesn’t stop the city from pulsating to its sometimes stately, sometimes frenetic beat. If only we could spend a whole week here, but if we were ever to return, it wouldn’t be quite the same again. Nothing ever can quite recapture the special magic second time around, and these few days here are simply far too short!
Well it’s a shame that we didn’t get to see the Motherhouse, but actually they don’t really want tourists there gawping at the tomb: it detracts from the work of the order. And WHAT work that must be, for alongside the majestic colonial and commercial buildings of this elegant city is the constant presence of the outcast. It’s as if they have some kind of interdependent relationship and that they BELONG together. Beside a magnificent neo-Georgian bank sits a huddle of street boys cooking simple snacks over glowing hot coals; lying on his front on a mat outside the Indian Museum is another one-armed beggar, clearly in distress; covered by frayed tarpaulin shelters a young mother with three small girls, all asleep on the pavement in the heat of midday.
In a simple telephone booth at BBD Bagh we make calls amidst the reek of paraffin: it becomes obvious that this is their simple abode as well as business premises. The massive cockroach on the floor making a beeline for my flip-flopped foot causes the woman in a bright sari to laugh heartily! The antiquated sign writing on the door of the telephone booth, the rancid smell of fuel, the rickety staircase and massive wooden doors all with elaborate art-deco carvings, the almost-burnt-out electrical wiring and the filthy old typewriter. All this conjures up a sense of groaning nostalgia, but for what? And then it hits me. Surely London must have been just like this in the Blitz? Yes, that’s it. We’re almost in a time capsule, and the entire scene is just like England might have been around 1940. The only difference being the little Hindu shrine in the corner and the heated discussions all in Bengali. So maybe nothing has changed here since independence. Well apart from their space-programme, that is…
Well we HAVE achieved things today. Like the important admin for the next (and very demanding) leg of our journey. Plus some great taxi rides: one driver must have been around 80. I think that one day he will die at the wheel of his lovely classic car. With a horn that really did honk like a wheezing Canada goose.

So we decided to explore another side of the civic psyche: cosmopolitan Calcutta! We went to the Forum shopping mall to hang out with the jet-set (with whom we dined in style last night, at THE happening joint: Pizza Hut…). There we found a concept food hall called “Burp!” where you charge up a swipe card and get feasting. The best taste of the day? A Rose lassi. Perhaps one of THE best tastes of the trip so far.

Well, then it was back to the Blue sky for more juices and lassi. Perhaps we will spend the morning there tomorrow. If we were feeling pious, perhaps we should spend our time at the cathedral of the Archdiocese of Kolkata (The Church of North India: Anglican by any other name…) but we won’t. The Blue Sky will be our cloud nine for the morning. And in the afternoon it will be time to bid Calcutta farewell, for we must travel again: this time to reach of our final destination before flying out of Delhi on the 8th May. Where are we going? Well, no clues now. You’ll find out in the next few days…


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  2. It’s nice to hear that you’re “regular” & I’m not answering your question about frothy heads.

    So yr telling me the hotel didn’t look exactly like the photo’s ? link below

    I here Si is on back on the paraffin!

    Don’t spam the comments muppets.

  3. hay jon.great reading for us once both keep us up to date very well. you seem to love the lassi and you are forever eating pizza!i wonder where you are heading off to next? nearly home time! xxlove m j j s xx

  4. Simon you've lost somuch weight, I can hardly recognise you