Thursday, December 23, 2004

Kolkata Kromosome

My trip to the City of Joy was quite an experience. Here's the interesting travelogue:

  • Day 1, 13/12/2004
    All of us S, M, Y, P and I reached the station together and way ahead of time only to find that our train was 2 hours late. I spent the time wallowing in the sights of the New Delhi railway station - a cart laden with heavy cubical luggage pulled by two rickety men hollering at the top of their voice to clear the way, the chaiwala near the leaking water tap, overdressed aunties to barely dressed kids asking for alms - it was a medley of man-made nature. When the train finally chugged into the station we clambered into it without much ado. M had packed a huge dinner for all of us so after having a stomach full of chapatis and aaloo gajar ki sabji we soundly dozed off.

  • Day 2, 14/12/2004
    In the morning we found the onboard ambiance was impeccable and as our seat was just next to the compartment door we were greeted with dizzying scents every time it opened. The conversations ranged from topics like life after death to bio-medical visualization. I had my hand read, handwriting analyzed, even my foot scrutinized - apparently since my foot's index finger is a little longer than my thumb it indicates that my "wife" will dominate me - go figure that one !! Poor S has his index finger a whole lot longer than the thumb and continually has to give in to higher authorities at home; so it might just be true. We reached Howrah at 8:30 pm - 4 hrs late and reached the prepaid taxi stand somehow. The taxi allotted to us didn't know the way to the guest house we were supposed to go to - so with much trepidation I agreed to guide him on Kolkata roads using the map S had drawn for me. As soon as the taxi came down the Howrah bridge it chose to kiss another fellow taxi smack on the lips ! Our poor already confused driver barely missed a thrashing and continued. But he was not to be our charioteer on Kolkata roads - as his taxi mysteriously conked out on a dark highway refusing to budge. We somehow hailed another taxi, went round the city a couple of times before reaching the guest house at 11:30pm. After frantic calls to home and a cold but sumptuous dinner the guest house people had cooked for us - we finally hit the sack.

  • Day 3, 15/12/2004
    First day of conference - we managed to slip into the only interesting tutorial at the conference and then slip out again when the boring ones started. I made P learn his presentation by heart - poor chap was very nervous for his first ever paper presentations. The guest house rooms were five star and the food was ok. Things were looking up already.

  • Day 4, 16/12/2004
    P's presentation went off ok - though he concluded without a conclusion slide. Then came my poster session and guess what - It went of ok too, pretty good infact. I had about a dozen groups (which also meant I had to explain the whole paper a dozen times) in a span of two hours. After a very sore throat, and about six glasses of water I left the poster hall feeling satisfied. From there I proceeded to my uncle's place (And you thought I was going to get away without visiting the relatives - no way !). However it was quite pleasant - I got to meet my new bhabi and got a really really tasty dinner.

  • Day 5, 17/12/2004
    Got dropped at the venue by cousin some 5 mins. late for S's poster session to find him already overwhelmed by the response to his work. It was really good - its a shame it got wasted at this stupid conference - it should have gone international. After that we decided to ditch the conference and tour the city of joy. We went to Babughat, got on a steamer (called a "launch" in Kol lingo) and cross the Ganges to Howrah - and the pearly lights of the city shown brightly against dark navy satin of sky. It was so mesmerising we decided to cross under the Howrah Bridge to Shobha Bazar on a steamer again. We even got a few puzzled "launch" commuters to take snaps of our crowd - they being thoroughly confused over the way we were going gaga over the ride. Yep - we acted like seasoned tourists !! Then we got on the Metro at Shobha Bazar to go to Rabindra Sadan. S got a ticket for 5 people. After 4 of us had crossed, the gate got stuck leaving Y on the other side. Ticket counter dada came gallantly to the rescue and let Y out - bless him ! From Rabindra Sadan we hurried on to the Taj Bengal to catch the banquet dinner of the conference. Inside the hotel I was definitely feeling like Dunston (and was obviously wanting to check in). The food was ok and the dessert "chanaar payesh" was out of the world. Then it was back to the guest house.

  • Day 6, 18/12/2004
    Last day of conference was full of boring papers so we bunked the whole day. Saw the Vidyasagar Setu (one on which Yuva was shot). Waltzed around inside Victoria at a fabulous exhibition on Kolkata's history. Came out feeling angry, sad and happy - don't know what to make out of colonial history. Charnock certainly left his mark on Kolkata for all times to come - for good or bad is for others to decide. I think for the first time I realized at that exhibition how thoroughly subjugated we were - that makes me angry and sad. But to know of Kolkata and her history made me happy. I feel I know India a teeny-weeny bit better now ! We roamed in college street browsing through the innumerable book shops, had a chinese lunch and then I went back to the guest house as I had to visit Nani, while the other's went off to Dakshineshwar Temple. Reached Nani's place at 8. Nani looks the same - she always has - from ever since I can remember. And she bears a kindness in her voice I have never found anywhere else. Had loooong chat with her - to say she's not well would be an understatement but she does all her own work . Way to go Nani !!

  • Day 7, 19/12/2004
    Hurried off to Howrah on a local train praying that my train was on time. It was - down to the last minute ! But guess what while we slept that night it did not budge at all ..... <

  • Day 8, 20/12/2004
    .... and lo behold in the morning it was six hours late. When it finally touched Delhi it was a full eight hours late. Ah - Home at last. And so ended our tryst with a very unique city.


  1. Don't you just love travelling?! ;o)

  2. Yes I do and I don't get to do it as often !