A rainy city with a Fine Fellow Pt 1

Imagine the following.
You’re lying on the bed in Kolkata talking to your wife. Maybe you are in your pants because it’s hot.
And the door opens and there stands a man you’ve never met before. Hello my name is Suman, we are to go now.
-Okay, can you give me a couple of minutes.
My English is not good, we go now.

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Suman took me on a tube. It was clean, orderly and rammed. The women have a section in the middle to themselves. But it’s the middle third and there are more of them than us. But still they squash.
A pretty little thing smiles at me. My discomfort, a combination of extreme sweatiness and not knowing what to do when a pretty young Indian woman smiles at you on the tube, is obvious to all. But Suman doesn’t mention it.

He takes me to the University Quarter. Past a ramshackle, brilliant book market. I didn’t take a picture of this because I didn’t want Suman to think I was touristy.

The buildings are British made. From the last time we were here. (My visit isn’t an invasion but in my head I’m still counting this as the first proper British engagement in India since ’47.)
Suman tells me this- that the buildings belong to the Raj. But he doesn’t use that word.

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We are in a coffee house. It is THE coffee house. The place where thinkers and people of substance go to talk of the day’s subject. Now Suman and I are there. We sit in the balcony and look down.

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We have cold coffee. It isn’t coffee in any sense I recognise. He lights a cigarette. There are no smoking signs. I ask can I smoke? He says Of course just because of the signs? This is a place of intellect.
I’m going to write that above my desk in my office. I wont actually smoke in it though because I’m not as confident as Suman. Then he says We are going to the Ganges. I try very hard to hide my excitement. But Suman knows. It’s the Ganges after all.

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We hail a cab. The taxi driver says 100 rupees the second I get in. Suman jumps in after and says- I am Bengali. I am no red coat english man like my friend here. Put your meter on. Now take us to the Ganges.
Or something like that because the driver puts on his meter and it costs us 15 rupees.
We climb through a hole in the fence. Suman says Main Entrance. And now we are sat on the bank of the River Ganges.

We have a cigarette. We buy Fuchka- potatoes and spices in a crispy shell doused in a Tamarind vinegar sauce. It is amazing- sharp and cold and crisp. We have five each. I worry about the cleanliness of it all but Suman seems happy so I gobble them up.
We jump in another cab.

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