Kolkata Travel Blog

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I'd slept like a baby. Got up, fought my way through the three layers of chintzy curtains that blocked the route from my open door (remember that thing that Eric Morecambe used to do?) into the corridor. At the breakfast room (Hello again Felicity), the waiter ushered me to a table where I was apparently to join three middle aged Australian buddhist ladies, who were on their way to a place of pilgrimage, to haul themselves up and down a hill four times a day to pray. They were in good spirits, and very sweet.

I wimped out of exploring under my own steam, having witnessed Calcutta in full flow last night and walked for half an hour this morning. Beggars seem to like me a lot. It was very, very hard to ignore the lady carrying a baby who walked alongside me for 200 yards, saying "sister.

Sugar cane juicer
... please" - even though I knew from several sources that the Sudder street beggars are controlled by a mafia gang. Further on, a man appeared to be ineffectually trying to rouse a dead dog by wiggling one of its front legs. There appeared to be rivulets of blood everywhere - but it was people by the water pumps washing off the red dye from their bodies and clothes. It was Holi yesterday. Consequently just about everyone I saw had  oddly rosy or purple skin and hair today

So the receptionist organised me a taxi (Rs80 - or one pound an hour) and I set off with a 'to see' list. Much good it did me. My driver had his own ideas of what I should see. Including, for some reason, the world's biggest banyan tree. Which maybe should have impressed me a lot more than it did.

The jain temple he took me to was impressive though. All the more so because there was a wedding going on.

I did virtually force him to take me to the Park Street cemetery though. And it was fascinating. A wonderful tropical garden full of the graves and mausoleums of the many Brits of the Raj years who died here. The names, histories and words on the headstones were very moving and evocative. Far too many were very young.  Far, far too many were babies and tiny children - sometimes whole families of them.

Next was St John's church, where my guides (for Rs50) were three young brothers, 8,9 and 10 years old who fought verbal battles to be the first to reel off names, dates and histories of the famous people involved with the place. "Do you know who Warren Hastings was?" they quizzed. Thank goodness I did. They were quite astonishing kids.

We drove back to the hotel, passing the 'Casual Vagrants Home' and the 'Mind Healer' among other eccentricities. Then I had lunch, a rest and then a long walk involving more beggars and pestering stall holders and shop keepers. I began to feel a lot more acclimatised.

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Sugar cane juicer
Sugar cane juicer
photo by: sky69