Along the Hooghly River in Kolkata (India Blog 26)

Along the Hooghly River in Kolkata (India Blog 26)

December 13, Thursday. 5:20 Morning.

I woke up too early, but got enough sleep. I plan to go to Eden Gardens and walk along the water front today. Along Strand Road. Fort Williams is there too. There is no need to go back into the crowded poor areas again, and I do not want to anyway. I have seen enough of that.

I hear the temple bell ringing now.

These runner rickshaw wallas have a small bell in their hand that they ring when they are looking for customers.

I realized that the night is so different without all the horn blowing.

I did not see the rich parts of Calcutta but I think they must be some distance from here.

Now the birds have started up cawing loudly. Sounds like crows.

8:35. Had breakfast. The Australians are staying around quite a long time.

I feel good today. I will try to stay out of big crowds today. I might use up the rest of my black and white film today. On balance, I probably brought enough film with me.

11:40 Morning. A beggar woman outside the hotel just said to me: “No money! Just milk powder.” I gave her some small change anyway. My goodness! A beggar telling one “No Money.” If one wants milk powder, they can get it with money.

I think she has a deal with the shop keeper for that milk powder scam. You buy the milk powder for her at high inflated prices. She gives it back to the shopkeeper and they split the money. They both get money and the shop keeper still has the milk powder.

Anyway, I accomplished my purpose. The guide book, Lonely Planet is not exactly clear on the Fort William story. Maybe they could not exactly say that it is a military base. It is actually the headquarters of the Eastern Command of the Indian Army. I saw that at once.

First, I got a taxi to the Eden Gardens. I thought that way, I would find my way to the Hooghly River. When we got to the gardens, there was a huge open field where some boys were playing field hockey. There were various homeless people laying under the trees on the grounds.

I walked along the road. There were huge old and interesting trees along the way and I got some pictures with my cell phone.

After a bit, I came to a wide area of asphalt that was a bus stop. I didn’t realize exactly what it was but found out later. From there, one can walk right down to the River, but I didn’t know it at the time. One has to walk across the local railway tracks and down to a ferry landing. The buses are there to take passengers that come from the Howrah side by ferry.

But at the time, I didn’t know what I was doing and got another taxi to Fort William. Then I realized that it is now a military base.

The sign said: “Headquarters of the Eastern Command.” Across the road to the west, a military band was playing. The road may have been Strand Road, I am not sure. At the military band performance, the band was playing the same melody as “Amazing Grace.” I could see the band playing in front of a building. I presume that the performance was open to the public.

I walked back up the wide road for some distance. There was a crossing. I crossed over and saw a gate marked: “Prinsep Ghat.”

Right at that spot, I saw that I was very close to the new bridge across the Hooghly River.

I walked through the gate for the ghat as I figured it would get me down to the river. Actually, there is a walk way along the river under big very old trees. I took some pictures of the new bridge.

But before the river, one must cross the railway tracks of the local train that runs along there. There was a walk way that one had to climb up to get across the tracks.

There were some interesting things along the river. People were going down to the river and bathing in some places. I kept walking and taking pictures with my cell phone. In some places, there were house boats on the river. It took more than an hours walk until I realized that I was back at the place where the buses stop. Along the track shanty houses had been put up, so it was another area of urban migrants who had no other place to live.

From there, I could see clearly the Mighty Howrah Bridge to the north. People were coming out from the river and across the tracks. When a big crowd started coming through, I realized that a ferry from the other side had landed.

By this time, I was getting a little tired. It was still too early to go to Kwality Restaurant, so I decided to get a taxi back to the hotel. Man! I love these old Hindustan Ambassador taxis. They are somewhat crude, but very tough.

I had taken 109 cell phone pictures in the morning. After a rest, I would go to the restaurant in the late afternoon.

4:40 Afternoon. Took a taxi to Kwality Restaurant on Park Street and got refreshed. I walked back to the hotel, ready to be off for Delhi tomorrow.

Man! I have had quite enough of this Sudder Street. It is so bad for walking.

5:00 I discovered the easy way to walk to Kwality Restaurant, but anyway, it is finished now. That’s okay. I saw a lot of things and took a lot of pictures in Calcutta (Kolkata). I still have half a roll of black and white film in my Leica and colour film in the old Minolta. I will try to use it in Delhi.

Kwality Restaurant is quite good. I enjoyed the food. I didn’t know exactly what to order, so I ordered a type of channa. I had not had that before. It was a little dry, but not bad. I had some tea after the meal.

Tomorrow, I am off to Delhi.

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St. John’s Church and South Park Street Cemetery (India Blog 24)

St. John’s Church and South Park Street Cemetery (India Blog 24)

6:00 Evening.

At 9:00 in the morning, I got a taxi to St. John’s Church. I told the driver: “Near Calcutta High Court” I thought it might help.

I guess it did. The guy knew where the high court was. He took me there, then stopped in front of it.

I said, “No, not the court, I want to go to the church. I think that he did not understand “church.” There was a young guy there who looked like a student. The driver asked him and he told him the way. The church was just a short distance farther.

I got to the church and made some pictures. There are several tombs around the church. They have inscriptions. One can see that many of the British died quite young here. That is, the ones who did not get rich and go back to England. Disease and malaria got a lot of people in the terrible climate.

Job Charnock, for example, is buried near the church.

I went inside the church and made some pictures. A few other foreigners on tours were also there.

I think that I was the only one that was there on their own. I like to take my own time. My own sweet time.

I am not rushing. I’ve been dragging my pecker through the crud for nearly three-quarters of a century. Three-quarters of a fucking century. And what a fucking one it has been when one looks at the history.

And the next one is likely to be worse from all indications at the present time! As far as I can tell.

Back to the church. The sword and the Bible! The twin pillars of Western Imperialism. That was the second half of the formula for imperial rule. Imperial plunder, to be more exact.

And it ain’t over yet, baby! Hoisting entire nations on the mighty petard of the US dollar by the big banks in New York City. In case that fails, just bomb the fuck out of them. When they refuse to take orders. The missionary business is rather old school today. They will be softened up with bombs.

It is a beautiful life. A beautiful world. If one is lucky enough to dodge the bombs. Those bombs that bring, of course, national security, political stability, and of course, peace.

That’s what we learn in international relations courses. So-called.

I took about 30 film pictures. More by cell phone.

When I departed the dearly beloved St. John’s church, I got a taxi to Park Street. This was truly amazing. When I asked the driver how much, he pointed to the taxi meter. My God! You mean those ancient things actually work? I had no idea that they did. Or that they were ever used. It said 30 rupees when we started and went up to 70 rupees at Park Street. The driver even pointed out things along the way, like “The Bengal Commandos.” A military outfit, presumably.

The traffic was one way on park street at the time, the wrong way, so he could not go to the cemetery at number 52.

I just gave him 100 rupees. Amazingly, the guy reached to give me back some change. I thought: “What kind of Calcuttan is this strange creature?”

I just said: “Its okay” and let him keep the change.

From there I had to walk east on Park Street. It was good that I did, because it was a good place for pictures with my cell phone. And a pleasant walk in an area quite a lot more upscale that Sudder Street. There were more upscale shops and restaurants, more like Connaught Place in Delhi.

I noticed signs up around the city. They said that the city of Calcutta was offering a 65 percent discount on paying traffic fines. Just pay 35 percent of the fine and get cleared. But there was a deadline of a month or so.

Obviously, no one is bothering to pay the fines. So they are settling for pennies on the dollar. Or rather paise on the rupee.

I walked past several people wrapped up in blankets along the sidewalk along the way. And several shoe-shine wallas. It was a good long walk.

I had just recognized that I had come to the cemetery wall when an older woman asked me: “Can I help you?”

I said, “I am going to the cemetery. It is here, I think.”

There are some people who genuinely want to help one. And I appreciated that.

I just came in front of the gate and went inside. They charge one fifty rupees if one has a camera. It seems silly, because just about everyone has a cell phone that will take pictures today.

The St. John’s Church fee was ten rupees. This was fifty. A big discount on salvation and sin, it seems, as Woody Guthrie remarked. But there is a more hefty charge for dying. There is a premium on dying. The fee for getting put out of one’s misery, perhaps. Possibly worth it.

So I paid up and went inside. It was amazing! The huge tombstones that they had put up there! Fruits of the Empire, I guess. But in the first row of monuments, I realized that there were piles of trash behind some of the big grave stones. I walked on and tried taking pictures with my Leica 35 mm lens. I needed my 28 mm lens, but had not brought it.

There were many old tombstones. They were very old and enormous. I mean, really big. Some of them go back to the 1700s (eighteenth century).

I put my last roll of Ilford black and white film into my Leica and hoped the pictures would come out good.

There were some people living in the cemetery. Not many. But I thought that it was a bad policy if they let squatters take over the place, while they are charging to see it as a sort of tourist attraction. I thought that if they could restore all those tombstones, how beautiful the place would be. But maybe, some would prefer the thick moss that had started growing on them, showing how old they really were.

I walked on around and made pictures of several of the huge stones. Toward the back of the cemetery, they are not as close together and it is easier to shoot pictures of them there.

I was about to finish my film, so used my cell phone for many of them.

When I was leaving, the guy at the gate asked me to sign the book. There is a place to make some comments.

I did sign it and put down my place of residence as Izmir, Turkey. I said that the cemetery was very interesting from a historical point of view. The British must have thought of themselves as small maharajas to put up those huge grave stones, monuments over their graves. I think they could do it because labour was cheap and plentiful, essentially free for them. And the profits from the East India Company in India were so enormous. I wanted to make a comment about the lack of maintenance, but decided to just leave it at that. It is too bad that the place cannot be restored as it is so rich in history.

I started to walk back and notices that now Park Street was one way in the opposite east direction. I managed to cross to the north side of the street, but not easily.

I wanted to look for a restaurant. At one point, there was a crossing with lights, but people were just going out into the traffic. They were taking a chance and the drivers seemed rather ready to challenge a pedestrian.

My goodness! I waited and crossed in a crowd of people, but even that was not very safe. Absolute madness!

I came across some book stalls on the side walk. I looked at the books. But I did not want to load myself down with more books. The one I had would do me for the trip.

At one book store they had a sign in the window that they changed dollars. So I went in and changed another one-hundred dollars. They told be that the Kwality Restaurant was just down the street. So I walked. Man! By this time, I was pretty tired from all that walking. I needed a rest and some refreshment.

I found the Kwality Restaurant and went inside. A very nice place. It looked very big inside, but only because one side was a mirror, the full length of the place. I sat down on some comfortable seats in a corner.

I ordered a type of malai kofta and nan. I was afraid that they would not have beer. And I was keenly in the market for one after all that walking. Man! I was relieved when the waiter said that they did. He brought a big beautiful bottle of cold Kingfisher Beer. I started sucking it down as I rested my tired feet.

The food came, and then I had a second one of those big beers. Man! That was great! The class of Indians in there was totally different. Middle class.

A group of eight was sitting next to my table. A sort of family affair. They may have been rather socially conservative. But I very much liked one attractive middle aged woman, around fifty, who was sitting over across from me. I don’t know. She was very attractive. Most women have been familied and fatted out. I drank the second beer more slowly watching the scene in the restaurant. I also enjoyed the tasty mango pickles, achar, with the food.

Man! I went out of that place a renewed man. Restored my faith in India. Well, that would be going a little too far. But it made me realize that I do like these types of experiences in India. The ones that are quality experiences.

That is not meant as a pun. And seeing some decent looking women, not all the peasants on the street who have recently come from the villages.

I took a taxi back toward Sudder Street. It was actually closer than I realized.

The driver could not go all the way and let me off at a very busy corner.

The traffic was absolute chaos. Absolute madness!

So I just stood in front of a shop on a corner for quite a long time taking shots of the street and people with my cell phone. I made about 325 pictures with my cell phone, just today.

I walked the rest of the way to Sudder Street. This street is driving me mad! Beggars calling out to you on the street. I said: “Oh, I have so many friends in Sudder Street. They just call out to you as you walk down the street. Of course, they are poor, but they have made begging into a profession. One can see how they are training up their children in the same way. Showing them just how to do it.

Actually, I met a guy on the sidewalk there who said that he was going to train some street kids not to be beggars. I told him that I hope that it is successful.

He asked me how I liked the city. I said that it is a great city. But a difficult city. I knew that before I came, but I had always wanted to visit the city.

Old School Photography (India Blog 22)

Old School Photography” (India Blog 22)

I was hungry. But I didn’t quite know the orientation of the place at the back of Hogg Market. Exactly where was I? I asked a young guy where Nizam’s restaurant was. He pointed. Told me to walk forward and then to the right. But I realized that the place looked different from yesterday. I found the restaurant, but it turned out to be a different Nizam’s. A copy of the first one, I guess.

I ordered one dish and two nans. It was paneer (cheese) in some kind of curried sauce. The food was quite tasty.

I still do not know my way around Hogg Market very well and get disoriented. Getting back through the market, I ended up going through that horrible meat market once again. Then I came across the young guy who had sold me the scarves. I was quite tired and ready to get back to the hotel.

But he invited me to come to his shop for a tea. So I agreed. It was not polite to turn him down.

It is Indian tea with milk and sugar already boiled in the tea, of course. So it is rather sweet and gooey. It really does not go well with me after drinking Turkish tea for years. The tea is served in one of those small clay cups. They are tiny and burn one’s fingers when filled to the brim.

I used to think those cups were more environmentally friendly. But seeing the piles of them swept up in the street behind my hotel, I am not sure.

I sat at his shop for tea, just at a counter, really.

A middle aged woman and her husband came to look at bed spreads and spreads for furniture. They are colourful and beautiful. No doubt about that. He kept showing them a large variety of them. A fantastic display. But when he gave them the price, the woman acted sour and refused at once. She didn’t even try to bargain for a deal. I think selling must sometimes be hard. But he must be doing okay. He had a huge stock of goods in his shop. Some of the silks are quite expensive, but beautiful.

It is probably easier to sell to foreigners, I suppose, who do not have a good idea of the prices.

After the tea, I got away because I felt like I needed a rest. But it was hard getting out of that market, crowded with shoppers. It was quite a long way to the front and the hawkers came after me like flies on fresh meat. They were very much on top of me. Man! I couldn’t get rid of them! And then there was a woman with her baby who tried to throw the powdered milk scam on me once again. I don’t know how many times these women came at me with that powdered milk scam. It must be the most overworked scams in that place for foreigners. They better think up some new ones. I am sure they will, too.

A kid was coming and grabbing my ass from behind. I wanted to scream! Man! These people will drive one Stark Raving Fucking Mad! Finally, I just said to this guy who I was moving past: “Just leave me the fuck alone!” Boy! But they pretend not to understand that!

Meanwhile, all the Indians are strolling through the market and enjoying themselves, enjoying their leisure. And these leeches are coming after the foreigners. I seemed like I was one of the few there.

I could have gone berserk. It wouldn’t have been the first time. And start shouting! I did it once in Budapest when the metro police women kept bugging me about my ticket. I started shouting and the two women with badges just ran away. I escaped out of the metro. I was not trying to ride free. But with their help, I learned how to go free in about three days. They thought they were still communists, when that era had already died.

I was trying to flee the scene at Hogg Market, to escape the tout-hogs, but I could not get up enough speed because of the crowd and confusion. They had set up many markets in the street outside of the buildings and there was a mass of people. All confusion, with motor scooters, motor cycles, cars, jeeps, big vehicles, bicycles, in those small roads. Some Indians have gotten rich and have big beautiful vehicles.

Finally, I made it out of there and walked to the hotel. I will take my chances with the mosquitoes, more than with those pests. There were hawkers there who wanted to change money as well.

Along that wide avenue yesterday, I saw a large group of attractive young girls or women standing in a group. I don’t know what they were doing with them right then, but it seemed that they were certainly made up as call girls. Getting ready to go somewhere. That seemed perfectly clear. I cannot be sure, but that was my hypothesis.

I guess that there are lots of ways to take down women and that is one of them. On the other hand, maybe it gives them a better life. It is an empirical question. I do not know the answer.

This morning, I met some New Zealanders at breakfast. The Australians are still here too. One of the New Zealanders sat down at my table at breakfast. I asked the past middle aged guy if he was on a tour. He said, no, unfortunately, he had to work. I asked if he was Australian. He said, no, New Zealand. I could tell that his accent was not quite like the Australians.

His company is doing some kind of manufacturing in India. We had a good conversation. I told him about my photography. When I told him I was using black and white film, he tried to put me down. He said: “That’s sort of old school, isn’t it? Is anyone still making black and white film?”

Yes, old school, and getting more popular as more people get tired of digital. Kodak went back to making film, along with Ilford in England.

Another guy from the group came and they talked shop. There was a Chinese guy who was part of the group too.

And I found out that they are building roads in Afghanistan too. Their big concern seemed to be “getting the prices right.” I wonder if it is American money that is funding it. Subcontracting out, I suppose. Sounds like it would be funded by the US war machine in Afghanistan.

Now there is something that one cannot object to!

Nakhoda Masjid Area, Kolkata (India Blog 21)

Nakhoda Masjid Area, Kolkata (India Blog 21)

December 11, 2018, Tuesday. Early morning, 7:15. “Well, here it is Tuesday, ain’t had no news,” as Hank Williams would say. “I’ve got those gone but not forgotten blues.” Nope. Unfortunately not the case.

I had a good sleep. I was up earlier and took a few pictures out my window with my cell phone.

I decided to go ahead and use the three rolls of black and white film that I have here in Calcutta. I will still have some colour film and I will supplement it with my cell phone. The pictures are different, but it is possible to make some with the cell phone. But they are not film! Now these cell phones are ubiquitous.

Being ubiquitous, people do not notice cell phones much. It is film cameras that are rare today.

I will head for Nakhoda Masjid (mosque) today.

3:00 Afternoon. A fine day’s outing, except for the very last, coming through Hogg Market. They spotted fresh meat. The hawkers and milk-powder scamming women were out for me big time there. Those hawkers can really be persistent. Absolutely! They will not let one go till one shouts and curses them out. Even then, they pretend not to understand it and continue! Good thing that I am not from Texas. One of them would surely get floored!

Anyway, I got through there and back to the hotel, after running the gauntlet. And the sons of bitches train those little kids to come after you too! That is really why they do not get more tourists in this country, I believe. So you have to get away from it or go Stark Raving Crazy!

One tends to forget that once out of the country.

So the day was not too bad. Good all around. I gave out the change that I had to beggars along the way. So that is now depleted. I now have nothing for beggars. But the city is so full of them that it hardly makes any difference. One could never have enough change to keep giving it out all day.

I think that the women with babies get to me worse than anything else. Get on my nerves the most. I had nothing to do with you producing the kid. Not me! I am not the guilty party!

Now I have to rest up for the evening. It would be nice to drink a beer. I think that I deserve one after that.

I made 260 photos with my cell phone today. Digital shit, of course.

4:00 Afternoon. I will write up some of my experiences today. In the morning, I went out into the street and got a taxi driver. He didn’t know where I wanted to go, but he pretended to know. I said Nakhoda Masjid. Clear as that. How could one mistake it? I don’t know if they listen carefully. He asked me for 300 rupees. It was way too much, so I agreed for 200.

He started up toward the city center but turned to the east. I told him that it was the wrong way. Because, I knew that the mosque was over to the west. I pointed to the other way, as he probably could not understand what I was saying. He didn’t pay any attention to me and kept going the wrong way.

It was clear to me that he didn’t know where he was going, so I said as clearly as I could “Nakhoda Masjid.” Anyone could understand it, but I think they do not actually listen. Maybe the area goes by a different name in Calcutta. Probably so.

Or maybe he would not think that a foreigner would want to go there!

Finally, I motioned to a guy on the street to ask him. I don’t know why the taxi driver did not ask someone. It seemed like he was a villager who had just come to the city recently. The guy that I asked then told the driver where to go. I knew the general direction. So then he turned around and went to the west, where I had pointed. So it was his fault that he went to the wrong place.

When we got there, I saw the Nakodha Masjid, the Nakhoda Mosque. It is in a rather closed building, not an open area like most mosques are. It was in a market area and I saw the beautiful minarets. Very colorful.

I paid him the 200 rupees, that we had agreed on. But then he asked for 400 rupees, because he had to circle around. But that was not my fault. He just screwed it up. Anyway, 200 was plenty, but I gave him 300 anyway. I knew that he would have to be satisfied with that.

When I got out, I recognized that it was in the same general area where I was yesterday. But the mosque was a little farther to the west. I would have come to the mosque yesterday if I had walked just a little farther.

I decided to use my cell phone to take pictures for some time, around the mosque. Actually, people pay less attention to one with a cell phone.

I generally do not make a photo of someone who asks me to make their photo, because they are not usually interesting people.

The other thing is that they may want money. I would rather make candid pictures of people on the street who do not know that they are being photographed.

If you just catch someone on the street, they do not have any right to ask you for money. And if they ask if I made their photo, I point to a building that I was photographing. If one is on the street, they have to expect that they may appear in some photograph.

I had some small ten rupee notes in my bag that I gave to beggars on the street. There were two blind guys across from the mosque and some others.

After a little bit, I got tired of scrabbling with the digital cell phone and got out my Leica M6. I finished the roll of colour film and put in a roll of Kodak Tri-X to push to ISO 1600. I went on down that street and reached the wide boulevard where I was yesterday.

Then I kept walking north on that wide avenue. I finished the roll of black and white in my Leica M6. It was a joy shooting with the Leica after using that joke of a cell phone. Digital bullshit. Horrible shit.

Now I have only two more rolls of black and white film.

There are interesting old buildings along the street close to the mosque to photograph. In one place, guys were constructing things on the street from bamboo. The pieces were laid out on the street.

Getting tired of walking, I got a taxi back to the hotel. I got out near Hogg Market. When the old Hindustan Ambassador taxi was stopped in traffic, I tried taking some shots out the window of the old taxi with the cell phone.

On an old beat-up bus, painted in bright red, white and blue colours, “Pilot.”

Where the driver sits. The Bengalis have a sense of humor.

India is Great” painted on the back of buses.

Blow Horn.” No need to ask that. Everyone does it all the time, anyway. I don’t know what good it does with all the horns going at once. Somehow the traffic snarls get straightened out in time.

Next stop: Lunch after pounding the pavement.

Another Scam and Pictures (India Blog 20)

 

Another Scam and Pictures in Kolkata (India Blog 20)

The Yellow Vest Movement in France is going on. It is a protest against global capitalism and neoliberal austerity. The global corporatist agenda. It is a backlash against the do-nothing socialists and the right-wing capitalists. Richard Wolff, the American Marxist, thinks that it could spread to a lot of other countries. It has already spread to Belgium.

Meanwhile, nothing like that in America. Or rather, the backlash against neoliberalism put Tiny Hands Trump in the White House. So much for political consciousness. American style.

Let them eat MAGA! I just hope they are enjoying it!

I guess the next election will be a litmus test for that.

I got out of there before the deluge, some 27 years ago. I could see it coming.

Anyway, no one would give me a job in the USA with my ideas. So much for political freedom! I was over educated. Or under roboticized.

4:55 Afternoon. Rested up.

The Hogg Market is quite complex. I couldn’t understand the layout of the whole thing.

I am planning to try using my cell phone for some night pictures in the evening.

I now understand that there are many Biharis in the city. Bihar is a nearby state.

8:40. Evening.

I went out and around and made some night pictures with my cell phone. They are pretty good. I think it is useful for that, after all.

Tonight I got tried for a scam. But I didn’t fall for it.

The oldest game in the world. Using sex to hook a man.

I knew that there were several things wrong with it from the beginning. Anyone would know that who is the least bit familiar with Indian society.

A woman, quite attractive, with two kids, around five and six, comes up to a foreigner and asks what time it is. Sorry, baby. That just doesn’t happen in this country. So I knew it was a scam from the beginning.

But I thought that I would play along a little bit. It hit me that this is the first woman who has talked to me in this country in more than a week. So there must be something wrong!

I played along and showed her the time on my cell phone. Of course, she didn’t even pay attention. Didn’t even look. Everyone has a cell phone these days.

Then she started her cock and bull story.

I live a long way away, near the airport. I came here with some friends. My husband has gone…” I thought she said “to a bar” but I don’t know if that was what she said. Either that or “my husband has gone away far and I am here with the two kids…” By then, the cock and bull story was in full bloom.

I said: “I think you are scamming me.”

She started saying: “I don’t understand you.”

I said: “Sorry, but I cannot know if your story is true or not.”

Of course, I knew that it was bullshit.

At that point, she saw that it was “game over” and just walked away.

She was going to ask me for some money for the kids. How could someone fall for such a cock and bull story? Not if they knew anything about Indian society. Besides, if she wanted to know the time, there are plenty of people around to ask. Why me?

My goodness! One would have to be brainless. I wouldn’t go for such a thing in any country. And everybody in India has friends and relatives who would help them out. Everyone has cell phones today.

Oh yes, I remember that I had my cell phone out when I started questioning her.

She saw my phone and said: “Do you want to take my picture?” She is not the only woman that I could get a picture of if I wanted. She was hoping that I would take a picture, and then she could ask me for money. So I guess it was a fall-back scam if the main one failed.

Some people can ask you to take their picture and then ask for money. Usually, I try to take pictures of those who do not ask me, but look more interesting. And more natural, if not posing. Sure, it would have been nice to take her picture, if it was just a picture and not a scam! She was a nice looking woman. But this was part of the scam.

It happened to me today in the Islamic area. Five young guys asked me to make their picture. They looked like the local toughs. I really had no desire to take their picture. They were not that interesting compared to a lot of old guys. But I consented. They lined up and I took a shot. Then they wanted to see the image in the back of the camera. They do not know what a film camera is. I tried to tell them that it was film and if they had an email address that I would send the picture to them.

But then a guy who spoke English came along and said that they would not have an email address, probably. When I was walking away, one of them said: “One Dollar.” I was already on the way to get a taxi.

I walked around in the evening a little, trying to make night pictures with the cell phone. I think I got some decent ones. But it is not easy to frame the shot with a cell phone.

I refuse to tell anyone the name of my hotel. I just say, “I don’t remember” or something like that.

But I did tell the guy who was selling silk scarves about my books on India. Maybe it was a mistake, but I didn’t think it would hurt anything. He seemed surprised that I had written four books on India. Well, that is what professors do, sometimes. Write books!

Most of them are not read, unfortunately. Sometimes fortunately!

However, I did not tell him the name of my hotel. I don’t want anyone scamming me at my hotel.

Walking in Kolkata (India Blog 19)

Walking in Kolkata (India Blog 19)

I left the hotel just after 9:00 in the morning. Got a taxi to Calcutta University. The taxi driver pretended to know where it was, but quickly called up his friend and asked where it was. Obviously, he had never taken anyone there before.

The traffic was not very bad at the time. When we arrived, I got down. It did not look like the entrance to a university, but the name was above he gate. It may be just a part of the campus because I know that years ago, the university had something like 60,000 students. I walked along a few of the book stalls outside on the street. They were selling mostly old out of date books.

I decided not to try to enter the university, since my main objective was to shoot some pictures around the area.

Around the corner there were some slogans written on the walls. I made some pictures. No one minds at all, it seems, what one makes a picture of, except the police and security types, of course. I was using up my remaining film too fast.

I went down and around the corner. A fantastic old and decaying building was on the other side of the wide avenue. I had to photograph that. There were small trees growing out of the top of the fourth floor of the building near the roof.

On the way, a friendly young girl met me and said “hello.” Very friendly. Unfortunately, she was not attractive. Short, chubby and rather pie-faced, but a lovely person with a friendly smile. She welcomed me to Calcutta. It was genuine, so very nice.

I thanked her and told her I was very happy to meet her. I asked her if she was a student. She said that she had been a student, but was not doing journalism. It was nice to meet such a lovely person.

I made a couple of pictures of that old building, the last two frames of the roll of film. I had to sit down and put in another roll of black and white film. That was the only roll that I had with me.

I crossed the wide avenue. I think it is the street that becomes Chowringhee farther down. Then I walked on into an area that was totally Islamic. These sections of the city are often divided communally. I didn’t realize it at the time, but it was very close to the Nakhoda Masjid.

The area was certainly poor, but highly interesting. There were many old decaying buildings, crumbling, but generally still occupied. No repair or maintenance, it seemed, for like a century. I don’t know.

Anyway, I shot film there like crazy and burned up another roll of black and white. There were goats in the street.

Once my film ran out, I started to look for a taxi back to Sudder Street. But on the big avenue, it was a straight shot for rupees 100.

When I got to the hotel, they were still cleaning my room. I had to wait out in the lounge room in the hall.

I rested up for a while and put a roll of Kodak color film in my leica M6. I thought that I could always convert the color film to black and white.

When I went out again, I walked to Hogg Market. There is a big bazaar inside there, divided into small shops. It is not as open as Kapali Carsi (covered bazaar) in Istanbul.

A guy came and wanted to show me some silk saris. I thought that it would be a good time to go and see some silk scarves for my wife and other friends.

The guy took me to a shop run by two Biharis from Patna. I ended up buying my scarves there. I probably paid too much, but not much that one can do. I bought 7 or 8 of them. I just wanted to get it out of the way, because I do not like to eat up my time shopping. My wife can choose the ones she wants and give the others to her friends.

I walked around and made some pictures in the market with ISO 200 color film. Without a flash, I had to shoot on 1/15 second at f 2.5 in some places. Some places were brighter when there were lights around.

There was a meat market, a miserable place. There were goats in there that were about to be slaughtered. It made me feel very sorry for them. How can one not have any feelings for those poor animals? It is mostly bakri (goats). Anyway, it is good meat, but I felt bad about the poor animals.

I went out and made a few more shots. Then I thought to take a few shots with the cell phone. The pictures do not come out too badly, but one has to take care to frame them properly. I decided to supplement my film with some of that.

Since I have been in India, I have spoken to only two or three women. In Calcutta, the one at the reception and the girl at Calcutta University. Well, I am not counting the beggar women who are trying the milk powder scam on foreigners.

While I was taking some shots with the cell phone, I stumbled across the old restaurant called Nizam’s. It is very near the Hogg Market. I saw the locals eating in there and decided to give it a whirl.

At first, I ordered dal and rice and two nans. The dal was mainly just water, but then I asked the waiter for curried potato. What he brought was allu gobi (potato and cauliflower) and some other things mixed in. I had never had anything quite like it before, but it turned out to be absolutely delicious. If I go again, I will just order that and two nans.

The whole thing was only 250 rupees, but one can certainly eat there for less than 200 rupees.

(Later I looked for this restaurant again but ended up in a different Nizam’s that was not as good.)

I came back to the hotel to rest up. But I had eaten too much. I felt like I was stuffed. For shore!

War is a Business (India Blog 18)

 

War is a Business” (India Blog 18)

Freedom is freedom for the man who thinks differently.” Rosa Luxemburg

One thing is that there is no wind here in Calcutta at this time of year. None at all. Completely dead air, it seems. That I probably one reason for the extremely high pollution, besides there being a lot of pollution. It cannot get blown out of the city.

Again, the sweepers have come to scoop up the trash from the street below. Shouting. Shouting and shouting loudly.

Man! What a dirty system! It just gets worse and worse as things decay in these streets. It is really living in filth. In products, quality control is a big problem. There is so much labor here, but little quality control. It takes some education and discipline and minimal levels of health, even for the assembly line.

8:40 Morning. After breakfast. The Australians are still here. A group of Chinese have come, mostly women.

One young woman among the Aussies, is very attractive. She has a beautiful and well-built body.

It seems that I am the only one in the hotel going solo, completely by myself. Most people tend to go in herds. A grown, intelligent man, being led in a herd. It is actually rather disgusting to me!

This lawyer in Delhi, at Alka Hotel, asked me to contact her relatives for “guidance” in Calcutta. I let her think that I would. Thanks! She was trying to help. But I think that I have my own guidance system. And I have not been entirely satisfied when I have been guided by Indians in the past. People here keep “guiding” me to these temples. Thanks. I know that a lot of money went into them. Businessmen buying off the gods. But I really do not want it.

I need to go to South Park Street Cemetery and Nakhoda Masjid (mosque), maybe tomorrow. I need to take some pictures with my 28 mm lens.

Today I will check out Hogg Market and the University area.

They do not want to call it Hogg Market now because it is a British name. So they say “New Market.” It is now needing paint and maintenance. It needs a good deal of restoration.

Aesthetics, that is another issue. I noticed it at the Victoria Memorial. They are not keeping the grounds free of the iron scaffolding and so on. They just do not notice that it greatly affects the appearance of the building and grounds. This can ruin a nice view, as well as the pictures taken of it.

11:45 Noon. I shot a roll and a half of film because the area was so interesting. I came back to the hotel for a rest.

Now I have to go easy on the film that I have left. I have only three rolls of black and white film left and four rolls of colour film. Man! I will soon be reduced to shooting pictures with my cell phone, I suppose! The pits!

Embarrassing!

That will be something new, but anyway, I can learn something about how to shoot that way. Generally, I do not like digital photography. Maybe I will try some today for practice.

I will rest up for half an hour and head to Hogg Market. It was not open this morning yet. So I took a taxi and headed for the university. Calcutta University. It did not seem to be very big. But I know that it is. I never even went inside. But I found plenty on the outside to take pictures of. That was mostly what I wanted to do. There is simply not enough time for everything.

Along the walls were some book stalls and some slogans written on the walls. I started taking pictures of those. And some from the ABVP, that Akal Bharat Vidiyarthi Parishad, All India Students Organization. It is a Hindu Fascist outfit. And linked to the fascist RSS (Rashtriya Swam Sevak Sangh). That was the outfit that assassinated Gandhi.

One slogan on the wall said: “I like a woman who makes decisions, not have babies.” And “War is a business.” Things like that which students would normally write. 

A trench was being dug on the other side of the street. All along a wall were those old pull-type rickshaws lined up. I guess they have gone out of commission and are stored there.

Man! This place is nothing less than a photographer’s paradise. That’s the truth. Man oh Man! Never know what one is going to find!

I am practicing a little bit with the cell phone. I know that I am going to be taking some pictures with that. Tomorrow it will be South Park Street Cemetery and some other things.

2:50 Afternoon. Man! I m full! I over ate, but I couldn’t help it. It was delicious. Nizam’s Restaurant. It is a cheap place behind Hogg Market. Actually, it is mentioned in the Lonely Planet guide, but they do not say much about it. I just stumbled onto it as I was taking some pictures with my cell phone. I hate that kind of photography but have to preserve some of my film.