With only a week left before we leave India we decided that rather than spend a couple of days in Kolkata, we would just stay overnight.
Advice: In India, always write your plans in pencil.
By this time Sheila was decidedly unwell and had been for a couple of days. I decided to join her in the land of unwell and was feeling pretty dodgy too. We both had to keep the location if the nearest washroom (as they are known) in mind – too much information?
Out comes the plan eraser: train is 3.5 hours late, it is now leaving at 0100hrs – joy! – we have taken to sleeping on the platform like everyone else. At least once the train arrives we get our beds and I get a good nights sleep. Her? Not so good. By the time we get to Kolkata, somehow another hour has vanished into the Indian time hole so we now only have the afternoon instead of all day.
It is a moot point, because by now the notion of colonial architecture and anything else Kolkata has to offer has been completely erased from the plan given physical condition and capabilities.
Stupidly I hadn’t organised a hotel in Kolkata. Normally this is OK, but when one member of the expedition is sick and tired and cranky it isn’t such a great idea. I had worked out the area we wanted to stay so into a taxi we jump and head to Park St with me having increased the cranky level by standing in line for 20 minutes for a taxi ticket instead of paying double and just getting a taxi.
Food has been the suspected culprit and I suddenly had the thought that perhaps this was more of a bug than just cultural wars. After all, I caught it a couple of days later and we have been sharing water bottles.
We rummaged through the medical kit, consulted a holy man, read chai leaves and decided which antibiotic Sheila would take. She’s asleep right now so I can’t ask if it helped, but I am not sure it did, she hasn’t eaten for a day and a half. Having said that, she does seem a little bit better today. Don’t worry about me though, my appetite hasn’t been affected at all.
I am not sure Sheila remembers Kolkata at all. The next morning we have to get to the airport and fly to Chennai. The guy behind the desk has been pressuring me to take the hotel car for Rs500 or Rs600 with AC, I am not impressed and the more someone insists I do something they want rather than what I want, the digger my heels get in.
I had added the Uber app the previous day and this was the time to go for it. I book a car and no shit, it arrives in less than 1 minute and that includes driving past the hotel and backing up.
Sheila is weak and sick and I am making sure she is OK and getting to the car, the guy still wants me to take the hotel car, the porters are being very helpful carrying my bags despite me asking them not to, the Uber driver is making sure we are us, it is frenetic and crazy. We get in the car and the porter sticks his head in and says “please, a tip?”, the last thing I needed right then. I shove a whopping Rs10 (20c) into his hand and pull the door shut to wipe the shocked look off his face. I wasn’t kind, as Sheila constantly reminds me we make more in a year than they see in a lifetime, but they are so fucking insistent and persistent.
My first ever Uber booking is a dream. The guy drops us at the airport door, the total is Rs216 we are out of Kolkata and on our way to Chennai for a few days before flying home via KL. Since seeing Life of Pi after the germination of the India trip idea, Sheila had in the back of her mind visiting Puducherry, the home of the (emphasising this) mythical Pondicherry zoo.
Are we heading to the disappointment of an unfulfilled expectation (as I suspect)? Can it be anything like the movie? Is the French influence still there? After all Noumea was so disappointing.
I still have to write that up, after Mamallapuram.