Monday, October 26, 2009

Allahabad to Kolkata

I was feeling pretty bad as I waited for the train to Kolkata (formerly known as Calcutta). I was upset that I didn't get to see the Nehru's houses in Allahabad, because I just wasn't feeling well enough. Then, a bird decided he didn't like my shirt and shat on my shoulder. I determined that the bumps covering my face are mosquito bites. So, things weren't off to a great start. Next, I'm sitting there, new shirt on, and a guy yells at me in Hindi to move over to the side so his family can sit together. As I shift, I let out a loud, "I was just sitting there, you don't have to yell at me!" There was room to sit on the other side and that way I wouldn't have to move, so I was upset. Then this guy tries to talk to me.

He seemed like he was ok-off and was with his daughter and wife. In broken English, he asks, "Alone or with group?" "Alone," I reply, already agitated by his yelling and the audacity to then converse with me like nothing happened. He repeats the same question; I repeat the same answer, even less friendly. "Um. Where is you group?" "Alone!" I say after giving him a dirty look. A question later he asks, "How many Americans are with you?" "Alone! Alone! Alone!" I yell, about ready to knock him out. He then says something to his wife in Hindi, which included the words, "Alone! Alone! Alone!"

But the conservsation, unbelievably, didn't end there. He asked to see my camera. I said no. He thought maybe I didn't understand, so he repeated. At this point, everything I'm saying is a yell. Then he wanted to see an "American pen," which I got news for everybody, looks remarkably like an Indian pen or what I would imagine a Danish pen, an Armenian pen, or a Kenyan pen look like. Then he wanted to listen to the "American songs" on my Ipod, which I believe was playing some Klezmer music at that point. I declined every offer.

I got a lot of rest on the train ride, although I only ate rice and chapatis because I couldn't do the veggie curry. We got off at Howrah station at 4am. Kolkata at 4am is a great introduction. I went to the hotel that rejected my online booking attempt. I woke up the receptionist and after a miscommunication, he let me in, thinking I had a booking. He didn't find it, but he did give me a room and at a great rate. I watched the Yankees make the World Series. I took the metro, which isn't as nice as Delhi's but still good, and walked around a bit. So far, I really like Kolkata. It has many of the familiar features of a city, with big buildings and tons of taxis. People go on their merry way, not stopping to stare at you or try to scam you. It's like New York meets India. Yet, there isn't the safety concerns that accompany most visits to big cities around the world. Except of course, when you're trying to cross the street.

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