Tuesday, 16 October 2012

Tonight I Will Sleep In Kolkata

Tonight I will sleep in Kolkata for the first time.  The days since my last post have been even tougher and culminated with a 2 hr nightmare bus journey with about 150 other people.

After Balasore I continued on and wanting to get off this highway I headed for the coast and the delights of Digha.  The day was hot and long and I was still being very slow.  When I finally arrived I set about finding a hotel which at first sight should have been a breeze.  Digha is a kind of Bangladeshi version of Blackpool.  If you don't know this place look it up.  There are scores of hotels so I selected a clean looking one and asked for a room - no room for me.  So to the next and the next and the next.  I tried 10 hotels before discovering that there is some sort of global "no-singles" policy in town.  As a last resort (really last resort) I tried a guesthouse I had passed in a side street and was rented a dingy room for an unreasonable amount of money.  After chewing the fat with some of the locals on plastic chairs outside the guesthouse I set off to look for some food.  I have been really put of the usual Indian fare which is a shame, as I love it.  It seems it was my day for unsuccessful trying today.  It took me about 8 restaurants to find some one to make me eggs on toast.  Suitable full of egg I wandered down to the shore to see the delights of nocturnal Digha.  By the light of a thousand bulbs and a million stars row upon row of souvenir stalls touted their wares.  Throngs of tourists browsed and grazed their way through the evening.  Change the colour of peoples skins and it could have been anywhere from Coney Island to Blackpool. 
The next morning I set off for Haldia and the promised ferry to Kolkata.  The signs suggested a journey of 75 kms and my recently acquired sat nav even less. The vagaries of the Indian roads and road signs led to a ride of 95 kms once again.  The day was very hot and I tried to stop in the shade for a bit if a doze at one point but soon gave up.  The Bengalis are much more "in your face" than most other Indians I have met.  They are happy to stand 3 feet away in groups and discuss you, with their friends, in loud voices and with much touching of my stuff to boot.  The end of this day proved to be the hardest I have had to date.  It should have been easy but during the last hour if someone had offered me a ride home I would have taken it.  One incident did help me though.  I was 14 kms from Haldia and my moral was in my boots.  The road was incredibly busy and noisy.  Darkness was falling and I was starting to worry about my safety.  I had just been hassled by the police for no obvious reason.  Then I saw an old man holding the rope round the neck of a dead calf.  The animal had obviously been hit by a vehicle and killed.  A small crowd stood and watched.  As I approached the man continued to stand, holding the rope as if waiting for his cow to get up and move.  I cycled path and looking back over my shoulder I could see the old man was still waiting as if in a tableau.  This small cow must have been of great importance to the man and perhaps to his entire family.  I stopped to take a drink and watched as he continued to hold the rope and stare at the dead beast perhaps lacking the belief or the courage to let go of the rope.
The next day I discovered that Haldia is not the place to get a ferry to Diamond Harbour.  You actually need to go to a small town 25 kms up the road.  When I got there I asked if there was a ferry to Kolkata, was told yes and duly bought a ticket.  Once on the ferry all was going well until we pulled into another small town on the opposite side of the river.  Rather like the old man the night before I stood and waited for the boat to move again.  Like him I was still waiting even when it was obviously no use.  Last off I finally admitted to myself that the ferry does not go to Kolkata.  So I caught a bus.

Anyway I am here now and 1st impressions are good.  My room is standard but with HOT WATER, the first for nearly a month.  The bazaar area near Sudder Street is frantic and very friendly.  I am still a bit off colour so I will seek comfort in spaghetti tonight and then exploring time tomorrow.

1 comment:

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