A Travellerspoint blog

KOLKATA: DIRT AND DURGA

TONIGHT I'M GOING TO PUJA LIKE ITS 1999

-32 °C

Dubai certainly seemed a long 5 1/2 hours away after the aircraft touched down at Subhash Chandra Bose Airport, Kolkata, a full 67 years and and 45 days since Indian Independence. The airport had certainly been radically modernised recently and is a full 98% western standard (the odd loose toilet seat is inevitable). I remember when the cattle used to just roam around the check in desk munching as much excess baggage that they could find!

[I must clarify at this leg of the journey that I am half Indian and Sam 1/8th Indian. Between us we are a GSCE maths question. Sam was on a personal quest to trace her routes since her Great Grandmother was Indian and her Grandmother had coloured her imagination with countless stories of growing up in India].

The airport doors opened. After only a brief exposure to the dusty furnace which befell us, we were greeted by the largely silent but hugely welcome presence of reliable and loyal family driver Udai. He knows every cracked pavement, every rubbish strewn side street, alleyway and stray cow in Kolkata. His skill in navigating the carbon monoxide rivers of traffic is just as well. Drivers in Dubai can be aggressive, though compared to the relatively organised UAE traffic, India is Asian Mad Max Full Throttle. Within the litter strewn streets battle scarred private vehicles fight in the free for all with ramshackled buses, trams, rickshaws, mustard coloured Ambassador Cabs and of course cows.

After being serenaded by a chorus of horns, screeching brakes and yelling street vendors, we finally arrived at the sanctity of my Cousin Bunty's ground floor apartment. This is well kitted out pad. It had only recently been grappled from the rent dodging hands of 'legal squatters'. The tenant's tenure had coincided with the majority of the term of the recently ousted West Bengal State Communist party Government. 32 years of corrupt and impotent Government had been prevailed.

Sam was welcomed by family members: Uncle Tapan and Auntie Roma, Auntie Gori, cousin Rintu (plus husband Tapas and youngest daughter Pia), together with numerous maids, servants/home help and surrogate family members. Sadly missing was my Uncle Nilhu who died on New Years Day.

As part of Sam's quest we did get a reconnaissance trip to the historic and atmospherically overgrown Park Street Cemetery as Sam had an ancestor buried there. More of that later.

From honouring the dead to toasting the dead of night, we managed to get a night out at the night club Roxys, which is frequented by the young, the trendy and the wealthy (5 quid a drink). Kolkata is continuous assault to the senses, noise being the most prevalent. Loud dance music (or synthesized pneumatic drills to my ears) compounded the ear drum battering and will no doubt secure an appointment at the ENT Stepping Hill in 20 years time.

Back in the daylight, much sightseeing was prevented by the sheer level of traffic brought on by the holiday season. It was the colourful Durga Puga (festival). Durga is the multi-armed, tailor challenging god being worshiped this time in a riot of colour. Temporary temples and structures had been erected and adorned with flowers and ethergies of the gods. Everywhere in the city streets had been transformed. It is such an experience to witness an event in India, to see the culmination of days and planning and huge community spirit (across all backgrounds).

Part of the fun was just wandering around the packed streets. Sam appeared to be the only white westerner in sight and stuck out like a cue ball on a billiard table. After a few photo requests she was clearly basking in her new found celebrity status. The streets were however getting rather crowded and we were in need of a cup of tea. A cup of tea a few hundred miles away in the tranquility of the Darjeeling Hills.

Posted by gavinbose 01:40 Archived in India Comments (0)

SANDS, SANDALS, SERIOUS WEALTH, SORROWFUL POOR

Dubai

sunny 35 °C

So on Friday the 26th September at 4.30 pm I had switched my computer off at Vagina Rabbit Hatch for the last time. I had apologized for the inconvenience for the 3561th and last time. I had stifled the 8544th yawn and feigned interest for the 660th time in my lackluster performance update. Good luck V.R.H with your dodgy kitchen appliances and your missing orders! It is a good job you do not make aircrafts, for at 9pm the same day myself and my very good friend Sam or Petula (it will be explained later impatient) were flown by the good people of Emirates to Dubai, Disneyland for adults.

On Saturday morning we were greeted at the airport by Chantel, Sam's lovely daughter. We stayed with her, her friendly boyfriend (sorry husband) Jonny and their dog, a pug called Gus. Gus is clearly the reincarnation of a 4 year old boy, demanding a playmate 24/7.

I had visited Dubai last January when the weather had been very pleasant and was able to see so much of the place on foot without risking spontaneous combustion in the heat. It is very much a materialist Mecca for the Arab world, where the streets are paved with gold for many. For some the long streets may lead to a mere Dinar. It is still a fascinating place to visit, especially as a stop over. This time it was nice to take it a bit easy and not rush around sight seeing. On the Saturday we enjoyed post flight relaxation on private beach of the trendy Blue Marlin hotel. Just the tonic chilling out on the beach, sipping an endless flow of cocktails and posh finger buffet food. On the beach, present were paraded the bronzed, the beautiful and the bloody rich. Absent were the bashful, the budget backpacker (bar one) and the bloody pious.

The following day was a stark contrast as we visited the great Mosque in Abu Dhabi, a beautiful marvel in brilliant white marble, one of the biggest mosques in the Arab world. No skimpy bikinis for the ladies but robes to preserve their (sometimes fake) chaste. A diplomatic incident nearly arose when I innocently placed my arm around Sam for a photo. Touching females was certainly taboo and the photographic evidence on my camera was swiftly erased by the attendant/lewd behavior police.

On the Monday those splendid chaps at Emirates decided to take us to another Journey, this time to Kolkata, the place where for rich and poor alike the streets are lined with dirt.

.H

Posted by gavinbose 05:05 Archived in United Arab Emirates Comments (0)

I APOLOGISE FOR THE INCONVENIENCE AGAIN

No more 8:11 to Piccadilly

"I can see Russia from my house."
Sarah Palin, patron saint of bible bashing ignorance

“Once the travel bug bites there is no known antidote, and I know that I shall be happily infected until the end of my life”
Michael Palin, patron saint of travellers and silly sketches

The doors open and 30 pairs of lifeless, emotionless eyes stare dead ahead. Expressionless, speechless, joyless, lifeless; driven by one instinct alone survival, financial survival. Yes passengers pour out of the delayed 08:11 from Stockport and arrive at Piccadilly station.

No not "Day of the Dead" but "Rush Hour of the Dead". This is my daily commute to Manchester. I can't criticise Manchester too much though. It is a vibrant, cosmopolitan place and the Manchester tart is a rare and underrated dessert. The multitude of ethnic backgrounds does provoke curiosity as to the world away from rainy city (or fear if you are a UKIP voter).

But alas I want to escape again. I am Steve McQueen in the cooler, Clint Eastwood on the rock or Tim Robins staring at the poster of the Hollywood starlet. Every second of the day I am planning my escape route. "Let's all go for a mass skive" I want to shout aloud to the 700 plus passengers at the station. "Let's all jump on a train to London (no too expensive", Blackpool or even Wigan. The biggest sickie of all time maybe!

Another 12 months in another faceless call centre is over. For one year my soul was further shouted away through the headphones of despair again. I worked for an on-line retail business, the 'chocolate fire poker' of ecommerce. The name of the company shall remain anonymous to protect the the indifferent but it rhymes strangely with "Vagina Rabbit Hatch". Every order placed by their customers is a lucky dip. You may find that your family dog is impaled by the food blender as the local Yodel driver re-enacts his dream to be a shot putter. You may find that your dog died in vain as the item is shattered into a thousand pieces anaway. You may have ordered some heavy duty shelving and you just may end up with a chocolate fondue set.

I felt inadequate, as my email answering statistics will show. Unfortunately I had not yet sufficiently evolved down the evolutionary scale like my younger colleagues. Although I had reliably progressed from the bear skinning forefathers, I did not evolve to have the speed of navigating around the keyboard at 100 miles an hour. I did not acquire the robotic power to mechanically answer 100 emails a day.

The more the micro managed demands of the call centre world programme their staff to strive for their quantity led haven, the more the other faculties must drop off to accommodate this. Like vocabulary, knowledge of history, politics, geography and reasoning powers capable of voting for anything other than the contestants in Big Brother. It is true that that one young supervisor in a call centre once thought Birmingham was in Scotland. This could have swung the independence vote.

Independence of spirit is required to escape the harsh rigours of mediocrity, boredom and micro management. Or just a 46 year old zombie commuter with an atlas and a Darwinian deficiency.

Follow my blog through Dubai, India, Bangladesh, Myanmar, the Philippines and Taiwan over this 3 month journey

Posted by gavinbose 22:47 Archived in United Kingdom Tagged commuting Comments (0)

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