OCT 14, 11 .. CALCUTTA

I have cancelled my plan to leave Calcutta next Monday.. October 17th.. heading to New Delhi.. I have turned in my ticket and that trip and that plan is finished and it is cancelled ..

MY NEW TRAVEL PLANS..

I was originally booked and ticketed to head from Calcutta to New Delhi.. THEN I was planning to IMMEDIATELY travel South from New Delhi to Agra Cantt to visit one of  my very best friends in all of India.. Mister Jeevan Lal..

WHY EVEN GO TO AGRA CANTT?

As I will discuss.. and have already mentioned.. Jeevan Lal is there with his family and Jeevan is one of my very best friends in India..

Some many years ago.. I took two young boys with me to a computer center in Agra.. I showed these two young, bright eyed, eager boys, how to use a computer and GOT THEM SIGNED INTO YAHOO INDIA E-MAIL.. to this very day I am the one that got them started.. these young men.. Vikas and Mohit.. are Jeevan’s two sons.. I AM FAMILY..

JEEVAN MADE.. JEEVAN HAND STITCHED.. JEEVAN CREATED.. MISTER INDIA BAG in December of 1990 ..

Agra Cantt is  a strong military community.. (the acronym Cantt stands for Cantonment which acronym means a military installation).. this makes it  .. in my opinion .. pretty safe given the recent world events ..

Agra Cantt is ALSO THE HOME OF THE MAGNIFICENT AND WORLD FAMOUS .. taa daa .. are you ready Mumtaz ? ..

TAJ MAHAL ..

So this is why I want to go to Agra Cantt ..

SUDDENLY THE OTHER NIGHT I THOUGHT..

WHY EVEN GO TO NEW DELHI.. WHY NOT GO DIRECTLY TO AGRA CANTT ?

So on (next) Tuesday.. October 18, at 23:20 Hours (11:20PM) I will board the night train .. Train Number 12987 .. the Sealdah – Ajmer Express .. headed for Agra Cantt.. I will be in coach A1 lower berth 33 (THE ONE AND THE ONLY BERTH FOR TOURSITS ON THIS TRAIN) ..

LAST NIGHT I WENT TO SEALDAH to check it all out.. I mean to CHECK IT OUT..

What an adventure.. in the late night dark of Calcutta ..

I will depart from Track 9A .. it is important to me to know this.. and to visualize it .. these train stations in India (and Sealdah IS) can be LARGER THAN ENORMOUS..

MY Sealdah – Ajmer Express will have twenty two (22) coaches in addition to its engine.. which makes it about 0.36 MILES LONG.. it took me a full eight (8) plus  minutes to walk its length.. which tracks for me.. about  23 minutes  a  mile walking pace ..

HERE IS THE DEAL.. the platforms are jam packed crowded with people and families sleeping on the concrete waiting for the train to be positioned.. chaos..

When it is positioned.. all hell breaks loose.. some coaches are NON reserved.. first on get the seat they want.. ALL will get on.. each person is guaranteed a space.. but not a specific seat..

I AM GUARANTEED LOWER BERTH 33 IN COACH A1.. PERIOD.. that is why I pay the big bucks for train travel .. heck this all night and all day .. twenty hour (20) adventure is costing me twenty one ($21) dollars American .. for the BIG BUCKAROOS I WANT A GUARANTEED BED TO SLEEP IN ..

BUT WHERE WILL COACH A1 be positioned.. at the front.. at the rear.. in between.. and with a length of 0.36 miles.. this is critical..

LAST NIGHT I LEARNED THIS.. my coach A1.. as I approach the platform and begin to walk down the length of the positioned train to my coach.. is the EIGHTEENTH coach.. I will have to walk past seventeen coaches to get to my coach A1..

NO BIGGIE.. BUT.. when I get there early.. I will simply go to structural column number 29 (oh my goodness captain.. you count things like that so you will know where to be) .. (yes i do) .. (do any of you have these little voices talking to you).. and wait there for the train to roll slowly past me until it has stopped and it is parked and I will be looking at COACH A1.. AND I WILL NOT HAVE TO FIGHT MY WAY FRANTICALLY  THROUGH THE BRUTAL CROWDS PUSHING ONTO THEIR COACHES..

This is horrible on a through station.. a station where the train comes into position (from left or from right) and will continue forward out of the station.. you have NO IDEA where your coach will be and you do have some time limits.. to get on board.. it gets frantic.. and I mean it gets FRANTIC..

Each coach will hold approximately 54 people.. or more in lower classes.. so you will have 54 people per coach getting onto 22 coaches or ABOUT TWELEVE HUNDRED (1,200) people pushing and shoving and struggling ..

Do you get it.. on a through train.. my position is always to position myself at the approximate center of the train and wait as it comes in.. IF my coach passes me I then head that way .. if it does not pass me.. I know to go the other direction ..

THIS IS WHAT TWENTY ONE YEARS OF EXPERIENCE CAN DO FOR YOU..

THEN IT CAME TIME TO GO BACK TO MY HOTEL CIRCULAR AND ..

NO BUSES AND NO TRAMS AND THEY ALL STOP RUNING ABOUT 11PM and I was ‘up the mythical creek in a lead canoe with no visible means of conveyance’..

YES I couldda walked it.. very doable.. perhaps a mile or more.. but at night in Calcutta you DON’T REALLY WANT TO BE WALKING THE STREET..

In the daytime the bus fare is five (5) rupees.. WHEN ALL YOU HAVE ARE TAXI CABS AND THEY CAN CHARGE THE NIGHT FARE.. they were starting at one hundred (100) rupees for the five (5) rupee bus ride ..

I clenched my teeth.. walked past them all and I began to HIKE.. one cab hailed me down.. and we could NOT get there.. so I kept walking.. he again hailed me down and again we could NOT get there ..

AGAIN HE HAILED ME DOWN AND SAID..

“You want to go to the Mother House correct?” .. “Yes”  (and I kept hiking).. “Straight up the road correct? ” .. “Yes” (and I kept hiking).. WITH AUTHORITTY I THEN added ..

“Past Lenin Sarani.. Past Banerjee.. Past Entally Market..”  .. (I WAS LETTING HIM KNOW.. IN NO UNCERETAIN TERMS..  THAT I KNEW .. WHERE I WAS AND THAT I KNEW  WHAT I WAS DOING AND THAT I WAS NOT SOME DUMBASSTOURISTSTUPIDIDIOTWANDERINGTHEMEANSTREETSATNIGHT)

In Calcutta at night you do NOT.. in Calcutta at night you NEVER get into a ‘flying taxi’.. you get into a taxi at a licensed taxi stand.. taxis at a licensed stand can be ‘tracked’ ..

A ‘flying taxi’ can take you to Metiabruz and the Kidderpore Docks and let you out.. there you will face a gun and you will be calmly TOLD TO UNDRESS and the Mafia will TAKE YOUR EVERYTHING AND YOU WILL BE HAPPY WITH YOUR LIFE.. in some past year (I was here when this happened) ..the MAYOR of Calcutta was told.. “Do not come here Mister Mayor”.. and the Mayor said .. “I am Mayor and this is my city and I WILL come there”.. he did and he was shot to death.. period .. of everything that comes across the docks for Mother Teresa.. they say seventy five (75%) goes to the Mafia..

BACK TO MY TAXI DRIVER..

I FORGOT TO MENTION ONE CRITICAL THING.. he did have people with him (they OF COURSE could’ve been Mafioso) ..

He said .. “Thirty (30) rupees” .. I said “Deal’ and got in and lived to tell this story..

GOSH AND YOU ALL WONDER ..WHAT CAP IS IT EXACTLY THAT YOU LOVE ABOUT INDIA..

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TODAY’S .. RHETORICAL.. SIXTY FOUR THOUSAND DOLLAR QUESTION..

You are in Calcutta.. and you have narrowed your search for a hotel down to two (2) choices.. here they are..

Hotel One.. GOOD  news and BAD news..

The GOOD NEWS is this.. the room is truly great.. it is a double room with windows on two walls.. great air conditioning.. so good that you need to use two (2) blankets sometimes to keep warm..  it looks out onto the street so you can sit and just idly pass some time looking out at the street scene.. the restaurant in Hotel One is PHENOMENAL.. and safe.. I have not gotten sick at Hotel One ever..all in all it is a TEN ..

EXCEPT FOR THE BAD NEWS..

The room in Hotel One is infested with COCKROACHES ..

Hotel Two.. GOOD NEWS.. Hotel Two has a resident community of LIZARDS.. AND..  Hotel Two also has MICE ..  there are NO COCKROACHES in Hotel Two.. when a live mouse ran giddily across one of Patti’s bare feet in 1996 she jumped.. there are also seventy seven (77) steps up to your room so you GET EXERCISE DAILY .. Hotel Two successfully withstood the December 26, 2004, major earthquake.. Hotel Two costs half the price of Hotel One.. and Hotel Two is in a SUPERIOR LOCATION .. right on Chowringhee and close to Park Street .. Hotel Two is close to New Market and Hotel Two is also within walking distance to Dalhousie Square (see FWIW 32.3 for photos of Dalhousie)

Hotel Two does NOT have BAD news.. BUT.. it is on the dreary side of life.. does not have a view.. it is dark ..

This trip I chose Hotel One.. other trips I have stayed in Hotel Two..

And you.. what is YOUR CHOICE.. DO YOU CHOOSE .. COCKROACHES or DO YOU CHOOSE LIZARDS AND MICE..

BY THE WAY.. SEATTLE GREG ASKED ME TO ADD THE FOLLOWING..

IN HOTEL TWO.. be sure to watch out that a COBRA (a very poisonous snake) may slither into the room looking for the mice and lizards..

giggle .. smiles.. cap..

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AND YOU ALL WONDER.. WHAT CAP EXACTLY IS IT THAT YOU LOVE ABOUT INDIA..


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