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. 

Suds and Pollution in Kolkata (India Blog 16)

Suds and Pollution in Kolkata (India Blog 16)

This evening, I walked down the street to that place called “Blue Sky Restaurant” near Sudder Street. It is a really bad place, but has cheap food. Some Chinese. It cannot be said that the food is good. I ordered almond chicken and rice. It was edible, but that is about all.

The tables are narrow, made of clear glass and look very bad. The waiter shouts the orders through a window to the cooks in the back. The place is crude and noisy. But a lot of tourists eat there because it is cheap, I guess. It is mentioned in Lonely Planet. But I will avoid going there again. Once is plenty for me. Street food is probably just as good as that, but one does not have a place to sit. I know that I have been spoiled by the restaurants in Turkey. And spoiled by the different behaviour of the waiters in Turkey. The bill was less that 300 rupees. Less that five dollars. I was starting to get low on rupees.

In the evening, I walked over to the area in front of Hogg Market (now so-called New Market). I got out my Leica and took a few shots of the vendors crushing guna (sugar cane) to make sweet rus (juice). I cannot drink that shit now, but I used to have to drink it in Punjab when the farmers offered it to me. For me, the taste was terrible. Worse, sometimes the Punjabis mixed it with milk or rose flavoured soda.

I was feeling a little discouraged. I walked back toward the hotel and thought about changing money with that guy who was running a small money exchange and tourism office. He had a rate posted at 71 rupees to a dollar. I thought it was good, if his rupees were any good, that is. It was quite a lot better than the airport. So I changed fifty dollars. His rate is actually 69 to a dollar. I guess there is some tax on it, which I am sure that he does not pay!

Having replenished my rupee moneybags, I headed for Zurich’s Restaurant for some draft beer. That was great and lifted my spirits considerably.

I was glad to change money so easily without the bank bureaucracy that one used to have to go through.

At the restaurant, that was almost empty, I ordered draft beer. The waiter offered me a pitcher for 550 rupees. I thought it was a good deal, so I took it.

Take it easy, but take it,” as Woody Guthrie used to say.

I knew that would be OK.

It seems that it is easier to take pictures on the street in Calcutta than in Turkish cities. People here do not seem to mind. And the Indians certainly love to take selfies more than Turks.

When the waiter went to get my beer, he didn’t know how to fill the pitcher with the draft beer. When he started filling the pitcher he tipped it on the side. But he had a huge head on the beer. At least six inches. He didn’t know how to get it off. So he went to another part of the restaurant to bring the bartender. That guy scooped off most of the head and put in more beer. I could see what they were doing. There was still a quite big head, but it didn’t matter. The beer was delicious. It seems that they had not mastered the craft of doing pitchers of beer.

Settling down, rather bored, I observed the behaviour of people in the restaurant. There were two young couples at a table not far from me. They were the only other customers in the place, except a family that left soon. The girls were quite “kilolu” as the Turks say, to be polite. They had quite a lot of kilos. They were of university age, but I don’t know if they were students. The way they were acting, seemed rather inelegant to me. They were cutting up, laughing and talking quite loud.

After that, a large group started coming into the restaurant. Twenty people or more. The women sat on one side of the table and the men on the other. A long table had been arranged by the waiters. Only one of the women caught my attention as being slim and attractive. They made an inordinate amount of noise getting settled down at the table. It was a little like the noise on the street. Part of the culture, I suppose. For me, it seemed to create too much confusion.

There were several children in the party around ten or twelve years old.

I finished my beer and paid my bill.

December 10. Monday Morning, 4:40.

The air pollution is so bad in Calcutta these days that people have been warned not to go out for a walk in the morning before 7:30. The pollution is the worst between 11:00 in the evening and 8:00 in the morning. It was way above what is considered to be a safe level.

There is music beating and pounding somewhere close by. I don’t know where it goes on in the morning, but it has not stopped me from sleeping. I slept last night, then woke up at half past 12:00.

In the roadside shops, there are vendors just below my window in the lane on the side of the hotel. They pile the trash from the day in a big pile in the street. I saw the sweeper come with a cart yesterday and a scoop shovel. He shovelled up a whole cart load and wheeled it away.

Now I hear the izzan (the call to prayer) going down from a mosque. It is 4:50 in the morning.

Missionaries of Charity and Mamata Banerjee (India Blog 15)

Missionaries of Charity and Mamata Banerjee (India Blog 15)

Outside the Victoria Memorial, I got a taxi to Mother Terasa’s Missionaries of Charity, as it is called. I had no idea what I would see there, but I just wanted to get a picture from the outside.

I must say that the location was unlike anything that I had imagined before, being such a famous place.

When we arrived, I could only see the gate and the entrance inside a building. There were a couple of iron gates with the name and another small sign near the doorway. I had no desire to go inside. I don’t think they would have let me in, anyway. I don’t see why unless I wanted to contribute some money. And it was Sunday.

So I just took a couple of pictures and decided to head back to Sudder Street. However, on the way, we came across a political rally on the street of Mamata Banerjee’s All India Trinamool Congress Party. I had rather lost track of Bengali politics. I thought that I might get some interesting pictures there.

So I just asked the driver to drop me there. I figured that it was close enough that I could just walk back to Sudder Street. I took some pictures of the speaker and the crowd on the street, without understanding what was being said. Several people were up on the stage, mostly men, with one guy speaking into the “microbe phone” as Woodie Guthrie would say.

I walked on. I realized that it was a pretty poor area, but the shops and sidewalks were much cleaner and more sanitary, it seemed, than in those places on Chowringee where all the street vendors are. They have really made a mess of the city in that respect. But it is probably necessary to provide a livelihood for millions of people.

Some of the buildings in that area were very old and run-down, but it was much cleaner. I felt that I would not mind to eat in some of the small restaurants there. But I am being quite cautious, as getting a bad stomach will take one down. It is not worth the risk.

Along the way, I stopped and talked to a guy who was friendly. It was a conversation about how bad Trump is! He was a genuinely friendly guy not putting any trip on me. He told me the way back to Sudder Street, which was not far.

Along the way, another guy came up and said “hello.” This was a very suspicious guy and I wanted to just get away from him quickly. He started by asking me where I was from. That is generally the first question. I said something like: “New York, California, Los Angeles,” like that. I should have said Bangladesh, as I sometimes do.

They are not really interested in knowing, anyway, most of the time.

Then he started to try and flatter me. He said: “Great Country” and so on. I said, “Well yes, they have big problems.”

At that point, he started to show me small bottles of oil or ointment from his pockets. He said that he does massage. I told him that I was not interested.

Then he started to try to give me a demonstration. He took my left arm and started to rub my shoulder. I thought at once: “This guy is going to try to rob me with this shit.”

So, I pulled my arm back and kept control of my bag. I never carry anything in my pockets on the street. And any valuable money is inside a hidden pocket of the bag. My reserve dollars, passport and so on, are inside my clothes, where one would have to make me faint to get to them. When I took my arm back, he started again and said: “Are you going with me?” Then he took off walking rather fast. Maybe he saw that I was onto his game. I don’t know. I could only think that he wanted to pick my pockets and get my money. That was pretty obvious to me.

So I didn’t think he could rob me easily, but I don’t want any stranger putting their hands on me on the street. So I ended it quickly. The guy was trying to pull a stunt for sure. So I got away from him.

I saw a station on the way that compacts garbage. Then I walked a little farther and came to the row of shops selling Christmas decorations. Sure enough, these were the shops that I had seen before just off Sudder Street. So I came back to the hotel for a rest.

4:15 Afternoon. After today, I have four days left in Cal. (Kolkata) It is enough time to do some more street photography. So I will mostly be using the time for that. I still have one roll of black and white film per day for that time. It is not very much, actually. But maybe it will be enough. Actually, I am sure that it will not be. But nothing that I can do now.

Selma called. She says that it is cold and rainy in Izmir today.

8:15 Evening. In the morning, I could not get any hot water for a shower. It may be because a group of Australians had arrived in the hotel the day before. I saw them at breakfast. It seems that they are on a tour. Not a big group. I heard them talking about churches and missionaries. Apparently they are in the business of bagging souls in a foreign country. I thought that had mostly gone out of style. But I guess not. Heads are exceedingly thick in the realm of religion. No doubt about that.

If they are on their way to heaven, I probably ought to go in the opposite direction. And probably will.

There were some young teen-agers in the group, young guys about sixteen, high school age. One of them had bought an Indian pajama and kurta, a sort of Punjabi outfit. He wore it to breakfast. It was a long kurta that came down below his knees. He was wearing a sort of white sports shoes. It was a nice outfit, but it looked very strange on him, with that combination. He was a beautiful young guy. I could understand that they were from Australia from their accent.

The Victoria Memorial, Kolkata (India Blog 14)

 

The Victoria Memorial, Kolkata (India Blog 14)

9 December 2018. 5:50 Morning. It is Sunday. I slept good, from 11:00 last evening or so. I crapped out even though there was a lot of pounding going on. I woke up a couple of times, but had a good sleep.

Noam Chomsky has turned ninety years old. I think that there is not much that they can do to him at this point. Nothing, no matter what he says. Anyone who has not read him could learn a lot from him. Just a couple of his books would be enough if they understood them.

I will do some walking again today, but not so far as yesterday. I will go to that Victoria Memorial, which is to the south of here. After that, I am not sure. I will surely need my 28 mm lens to take pictures there.

I would also like to get a picture of Mother Teresa’s place, just to have a picture of it, since I am here. I do not know if what she has done is right or not. There is a lot of controversy about it at this time.

Travel always teaches one something and I think that I will learn something on this trip.

1:35 Afternoon. I started out about nine o’clock in the morning and walked to the Victoria Memorial. After that, I took a taxi to Mother Teresa’s. I didn’t see much there, just the front of the place. But I ran across a political rally for Mamata Banerjee’s political party, the All India Trinamool Congress, on the way back. She is the Chief Minister of West Bengal State.

So I stopped and got some pictures of that. I walked part of the way back, shooting some colour film.

Need to change money. Official rate is around 71 rupees to a dollar.

The walk in the morning was not bad. After a while, walking to the south, one gets away from most of those street vendors. They have taken up the sidewalks in so many areas. Now they are organized into unions and the government cannot dislodge them to send them somewhere else.

On the way, I crossed over to the west side of the big street. There was a large park across from the Tata building headquarters. I walked around that park and made a few pictures. There are signs forbidding almost everything. Not yet breathing, fortunately. There is even a sign that says that shooting film is prohibited. It seems that there are cameras everywhere. Presumably digital cameras and cell phones are fine. They just do not want one using film. What could this mean? By that time, I had already taken all the pictures that I wanted with film, so the sign came too late to do any good.

I walked past the Birla Planetarium. A little later, I came to an open area where there were some vending stands on both sides. I looked for signs that this might be the entrance to the Victoria Memorial. But there was not any mention of it anywhere, as far as I could tell. I could not tell exactly where I was according to the map I could find on my cell phone.

Finally, I went over and talked to a taxi driver. He said: “This is Victoria Memorial.”

I said: “Well, there is not a single sign anywhere saying that it is the Victoria Memorial. And there wasn’t. Amazing!

There should be a limit to nationalism.

It seems that they have become so nationalistic that they do not post the name of such a British monument, even though they are charging one to go in and see it.

I was quite early, so not many people were going in the gate. I lined up for the ticket. They had made it pretty stiff for foreigners. It is not important money, but it seems a little over the top. At least a couple of beers. The ticket is rupees 30 for Indians but rupees 500 for foreigners. They have made it some seventeen times as much for a foreigner.

Well, there they have it. They are actually putting themselves down, in my view, by doing that.

As I was walking in the morning, just down from the hotel, there was a huge throng of people. Obviously very poor. Some welfare organization was giving out free food. And the line was very long. It seems that the food was puris and channa.

Back to the Victoria Memorial. I went inside the gate and broke out my Minolta film camera (old SRT 101), because I needed the 28 mm lens to take pictures of the grounds and building. I sat down on a bench to rest for a while before going on up to the building.

A couple of people came up and wanted to make selfies with me. Why, I have no idea. But I don’t mind. A couple of times, it was attractive women, but with a man, of course.

After making some pictures, one must walk around to the back of the building which is the entrance. There is a security check set up there. I went through that and went inside. Several people were coming, but it was still not very crowded. But I noticed that it was quite noisy inside. Especially, people were shouting to each other while taking selfie photos. There were framed black and white photos along the walls from the late 1800s.

I made a few pictures inside, using my Leica M6 (F 2.5 at 1/15 second). I could do it without a flash, even though there was not a lot of light inside.

Inside, one is under a huge high dome. One can climb up to a walkway that goes all around the perimeter, about half-way to the top. I didn’t walk up there, but it could have been good for some pictures.

I made selfie pictures with several people when they asked me to. There were several people from Bangladesh. But the most interesting was this couple from Assam. It surprised me when they asked to make their picture with me. I stood with the woman and her husband.

Then, I felt her pressing her soft warm flesh against my body from the side. It was pleasant, but my inclination was to check my bag. But it was nothing like that. It seemed that she was just being friendly. Getting that close to a stranger of the opposite sex was certainly culturally different from the far more cold west. And surprising for me in India. Maybe Assam is different. I don’t know.

I took a few more pictures and got out of there. Out in the open air. Outside, I sat down on a bench and called Selma. She laughed about the huge discrepancy in the price for Indians and for foreigners.

It is a little over the top. Maybe four times the rate for foreigners would be slightly less vulgar and still make the point.

News from a Space Power.

I would head for Mother Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity.

Walking on the Howrah Bridge in Kolkata (India Blog 13)

 

Walking on the Howrah Bridge in Kolkata II (India Blog 13)

I walked up the curved ramp toward the entrance to the bridge meeting a heavy stream of people just swarming across from the western side. They are not out for enjoyment. They are seriously headed for somewhere important. They are not on a lark like me, I want to say. I took some pictures but realized that I was going against the flow of human traffic. And the bridge vibrates. One feels it all the way across as one walks. The Hooghly is a big river, quite wide.

Just as one comes onto the bridge, there is a sign that asks people not to spit. Spitting is a problem. Right then, my film ran out. There was no place to sit down and change it. This was the Kodak color film in the old Minolta. So I had to change the film just standing there by a railing.

Some crazy person, perhaps religious, came and started putting on an act in front of me. He was trying to attract my attention. But I ignored him, working to change my film. Some small school boys were also watching me. I don’t think they have ever seen a film camera before.

I then marched across the bridge to the other side taking some pictures. One goes down a ramp and then down stairs on the other side. Then there is an underpass that goes over to the other side of the bridge. There was no need for me to go there, as I was going to walk back on the same side of the bridge, the north side.

However, I was glad that I went through there and took a couple of pictures. On the other side, there was a pisser, right out in the open. An array of men, maybe 12 or so wide, were standing and collectively pissing. Brotherhood of pissers. I just pretended to be taking a picture of the bridge, but moved the camera around to get a picture of them relieving themselves. The 28 mm lens made it easier.

Then, I walked back through the underpass to the other side and started across the bridge again.

There are signs that forbid doing vending on the bridge, but in several cases, they are being ignored. I took some pictures of people selling things on the bridge. Some guys were selling fruit. They cut up several types of fruit, papaya, banana, watermelon and so on, and make a bowl of fruit to sell. I would have liked to have one, but I was afraid that it would totally fuck up my stomach.

When I got to the other side, I walked down the steps to the famous flower market. I remembered a video I had seen of it on Youtube. It was not as interesting as I expected when I was actually there and saw it. Peons were carrying big bags of flowers on their heads over the bridge to the other side.

Most of the flowers are saffron color, which is the Hindu holy color. There is obviously a huge market for them.

All kinds of baggage and supplies were being carried across in both directions. I stayed on the bridge for a while to get some pictures of guys coming carrying things on their heads and on poles over their shoulders.

Back on the street, I ended up on a busy corner. It was practically impossible to get across the street with all the traffic. When the light changed, it was not long enough to beat the traffic.

I stayed on the corner for a long time, just taking pictures of those old broken down buses. They were stopping right in front of me. They have a conductor who stands in the door and calls out where the bus is going.

Man! One can see shades of that film of Satyajit Ray, The Apu Trilogy, on the street here. I remembered the young guy, Apu, on the streets of Calcutta. I love those three films and watch them over and over. They are reproduced by the Criterion Collection of films. Beautifully done. It is hard to watch them without crying. Powerful films done with primitive equipment in black and white. I love them. It was a real struggle to produce them in India.

I hope that I got some good pictures there.

I realized that the best way to get across the street was to join a group of people and cross with them. When the light would turn green for walking, the old buses were blocking the path. And the light was too short, in any event. It was an amazing scene.

Finally, I got across with others and walked for a long way with sore feet. My feet were getting sorer all the time. I decided that it was enough photos there and I got a taxi, an old Hindustan Ambassador to Sudder Street. Lytton Hotel. Funny, I told the driver, the Alka Hotel, I realized later. But we got to my place. The old taxis are life-savers.

After a rest, I went to Zaranc Restaurant and had some Chinese dumplings and draft beer. After that, felt fine. I went through the small streets back of the hotel, near Hogg Market, and shot the rest of a roll of black and white film. But I am now starting to get low on black and white film.

The temperature was 27 degrees C today. Man! I recovered with those Chinese dumplings and draft beer. It was light and very good for the evening.

Today when I was on the other side of the bridge, as I was about to come back, I saw some guys discover a dead body under the bridge. One of the guys ran to get someone to come and pick the guy up.

I don’t know how people can survive in some of these streets that are complete hell-holes, worse than shitholes, as Trump has it. And the brutality of these rickshaws here. These runner rickshaws! Man. It has to be outlawed. Those guys are literally dying in the harness. My goodness! Tonight I saw a whole family, man, wife, two children, climbing into one of these rickshaws. And the poor guy was going to run pulling them by foot. Can you imagine such a thing?

I don’t know how many miles a day that they have to run like a horse in the streets. This is something sort of hidden, unrevealed to the world. At least, people just do not think about it. How can one have such a torture of humans as in this country?

Indians will get angry if any Westerner points out that it is brutal. But really, that is the height of being a hypocrite. I tried getting a picture of that and several other scenes also. I hope they turn out OK. I will hang it up for tonight.

Kolkata is a wonderful city. But one needs more time.