The day began with the deliciousness of nutan-gur rasogollas. I had my share of 2, then went for a bath. Teja left me 1, from his share, which I had without demur.
Before that, there had been the pale blue house in the tube-lit street at 4 am, a walk up red stairs, and paintings on every landing, and a bed which did not move, and soft blankets, and a clean bathroom.
And before that, there was Howrah Station at 2 am, and a waiting room that was out of a Rituparno Ghosh film, and another train that was late, and deciding to quit the journey and take a morning off, and a long queue at the pre-paid taxi booth, and walking outside the station and finding a cab.
And the rasogollas brought forth a long forgotten desire to learn the Bengali script, so that I can read Bengali novels, not only the translations. “And why not?’ I said to our friend in the blue house with many odd-shaped rooms, ‘I can read books in Marathi, Hindi, Gujarati, and very slowly, in Urdu. I’m sure I can learn to read Bengali.”
So the only morning in Kolkata was spent in Chuckerverrty Chatterjee and Sons of College Street, buying the book that will teach me Bengali, and some more translations, some which are available online, but the buying of them at CC&S makes them more Bengali, so to speak.
Then a hurried visit to the Indian Coffee House down the corridor. Fooled by the prices, I ordered a chicken cutlet and chicken sandwiches, and realised one of the either would have been enough.
Waiting for a taxi on MG road, we get into a bus. So there was a bus ride to Howrah Station and a few photographs. Calcutta has bits of Bombay in it, as we drive closer to the station, carts overloaded with huge parcels, coolies carrying goods, markets and more markets, and crowds. But before that there is the long stretch of band shops, shehnai bands, and wedding bands, and the best Indian bands, and more bands. I like travelling to places that seem familiar, and yet are so different, which is almost everywhere in India.
Puri at midnight is quiet, peaceful, as we move through it slowly on a cycle rickshaw. For a few minutes, the town is ours, as its inhabitants sleep. Before that, was a tedious journey by a train that is Duronto only in name.
And then, we watch ourselves fall. A few minutes before that, I thought, “This cycle rickshaw could topple so easily.” A few minutes later, outside the hotel, just as we are about to stop, an auto rickshaw comes hurtling at us from the other side of the road, as if he hated the sight of us. He hits us and drives away, at the same speed. The cycle rickshaw, the rickshaw-wala, Teja and I fall in slow motion. We watch ourselves fall, and perhaps watching, we are able to fall without getting too hurt.
The shock comes later.