Corporatist Rule for India? (India Blog 17)

Corporatist Rule for India? (India Blog 17)

Monday 10 December. 5:00 Morning. Kolkata (Calcutta)

There was a big argument going on in the street last night. One guy was just shouting to the top of his lungs for the longest time. It is a matter of live or die and I don’t think they have much to lose if they die. One sees these guys sleeping on the sidewalks in the daytime, wrapped up in some old rag of a blanket and it seems like they are just laying there and suffering. They are just living it out till they die literally on the spot and someone comes and picks up their body.

I saw one person, a man, wrapped up in a dirty blanket on the sidewalk just nearby the hotel yesterday. There were flies swarming around him. (Another call to prayer is going down now. They need more prayer.) Flies were sitting on that dirty blanket. I wondered if the guy was already dead. People usually walk in the road, anyway, not the sidewalk. There are so many obstructions. On the sidewalks, people just go around the wrapped-up bodies.

Well, people walk on the roads in Turkey too. I am very used to that.

Society is badly broken with that going on. Mother Teresa was just a sort of band-aid for the misery and poverty. I cannot say that what she was doing was not good and kind, but I can say that it is just a meliorative, a palliative that can do nothing to reach or address the root if the problem. Broken down society, broken down world.

At the same time, there is a lot of closeness in families, big families. Sometimes communalism emerges. And people try to put one in a box: Muslim, Christian, Hindu, Buddhist, American, British, French, Bangladeshi. And sometimes there is hatred for what one seemingly is.

I get the idea that USA or American propaganda has worked here and I am embarrassed when guys (I have not talked to a single woman yet in this country in casual conversation), when people come out with big compliments about “America.” I don’t know if they are serious or just trying to please me.

I get the idea that they are much more favourable toward America than the Turks, who are just about one-hundred percent cynical, not believing anything that the USA puts out. Recent figures showed that the US image was the lowest in Turkey of any country in the world. Largely a result of the US screwing around in Iraq, Syria and Iran. Causing trouble everywhere.

I have to get a shower this morning before those Australians get up and use up all the hot water!

I noticed that the reviews of Calcutta that I have seen on Youtube never mention the huge mosque that is here. They usually talk about the two big Hindu temple complexes.

The Islamic sections of the city seem invisible to them.

Now the birds. I don’t know if they are crows, have suddenly come to life and are calling loudly. It is 5:21 in the morning.

I think that I saw one nice-looking dog in this city yesterday. And yesterday, there were two Dalmatians, hunting dogs, apparently, mean and ready to attack, at this hotel. The dogs on the street are miserable. There are a few cats. They too, are mostly miserable.

M.N. Roy, the Indian communist wrote about why Hindus hate cats. And wrote a book from the cat’s perspective. Autobiography of a Cat, I think. It is great. Very witty. He wrote it in an Indian prison, where he was kept for years by the British.

Strange thing is that I feel almost at home in this city.

People sometimes call out to one on the street, but it is best just to ignore them. Some women around the hotel are doing the milk powder scam. I just ignore them. That scam is overworked. There should be signs with a warning.

AVOID THE MILK POWDER SCAM WOMEN!

The last thing they want is milk powder!

And about the street vendors. I will say that they are trying to help themselves. They have found a way to survive and protect themselves by organizing and unionizing. That is far better than seeking charity. They survive through a very difficult struggle.

But when I look at the whole thing, my view has to be that only some sort of rule from the top could save such a society. Population growth must be controlled. Either left-wing, right-wing, Hindu fascist, or other nationalist ideology, maybe religious nationalism combined with Bharat, Indian nationalism.

Corporatist rule from the top. I am almost reduced to advocating it.

In Bengal, it could be Netijiism, from Subas Chandra Bose. Bengali nationalism, something that people could believe in and accept and impose strict discipline on society. There seems to be a complete lack of discipline in this society.

It might break down at some point, as in the Soviet Union, or in Turkey and Argentina, but it will have improved society and made things better for most people.

The historical model comes from Saint Simon in France. Science and engineering of society. Ataturk picked it up for Turkey. Stalin in the Soviet Union. A form of Jacobinism.

In Turkey, Tayyip Erdogan is the using the same model as Ataturk, as far as top-down rule is concerned. Jacobinism. Just different underlying ideas. It is top-down rule and the state can impose some discipline on society. I guess that India is the closest thing to anarchy in existence.

In India, the Nehru, Gandhi, Patel, model failed. A historical period of corporatist rule might have done wonders. Now, it may be too late. They missed the historical window of opportunity.

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.

Walk to Howrah Bridge I (India Blog 12)

 

Howrah Bridge Walk I (India Blog 12)

5:00 Afternoon. Man! I am tired. Walked a long way. Walked across the Howrah Bridge and then back across again. Took a lot of pictures with the Minolta in colour. I will write the story as I get time.

It is almost dark now.

After breakfast, I left the hotel around 9:00. I thought to just walk to the Howrah Bridge, but it is a good long distance. That’s for sure! It seems like three miles on the map that I have. I was glad that I went a little early. The traffic was not too bad at that time.

For part of the distance, the people who live in the open along the street were just starting to set up their shops. Shops have been set up along the sidewalk for much of the way.

There are hundreds of places for street food. Channa and puri. Most of it looks okay, but it cannot be very sanitary, it seems, for sure.

They have large heavy metal trunks where they pack their things every night. Then they break it out again in the morning. It is a huge work. What a struggle just to survive!

In some places, they had made packs in large plastic sheets, tied up with ropes. They were taking the ropes off. It seems that some of them sleep there. There were hundreds of people holding metal plates, standing and eating food. Various kinds of channa (chickpeas) and puri (fried bread). Also curried potatoes. The food smells good, but it would be hard to eat in such filth. It is cooked in the stoves that they have set up all along the sidewalks.

There are huge old buildings that in British times would have been elegant and beautiful. A hundred years ago. Now, they are falling into decay.

There are many old buses. Many of the city buses are old, beat up, and terribly crowded. I took many pictures.

In one place, there were some benches next to a big garden. This is BBD Bagh in Dalhousie Square. I was tired by that time and sat down for a rest.

An old guy came and sat down next to me. He looked older than me, but later told me that he was sixty-five. A Bihari from Patna. He hardly knew any English. I could only understand part of his Hindi. I was trying to remember some Hindi but sometimes started to fall into speaking Turkish.

He was just a friendly guy that wanted to talk to me. They say that Calcutta is the most friendly city in India. Some people are not friendly, but people are not mean or hostile.

I wanted to mention that these low-scale workers on the street and working in the markets and other places are constantly shouting to each other. Sometimes angrily, it seems, but always very loud. Well, how could they not be crude, the way they have been treated. Worse than animals. Society has use for their labour only.

So it was a strange discussion with this guy in mixed languages. He told me his name, but I can’t remember it. He was more than half toothless and that made him look older. He asked me all the places where I had been in India. I listed a few for him and he started talking about Varanasi. He ask me something about what I was eating, but I could not understand all of it. Finally, he said good-bye and walked on. He seemed to be a decent person.

I walked on. I had already taken pictures of the large red-brick building across the street from the garden.

When I crossed the street, I noticed that it was the Writer’s Building, the famous building where British clerks worked. There was a notice above and arched doorway that it was the Writer’s Building. I wanted to take a picture of that sign, but a police officer came and said “no.” That was okay. It is part of some government bureaucracy now. It takes up a huge area. In any event, one can take pictures of if from across the street.

I walked on. Before long, the masses on the side walk became more crowded. Sometimes I had to wait for others, as there is so little space left for people to walk in. Then there were more sidewalk cafes. Further were shops selling big pipes, types of water pumps, auto parts. Also big pieces of round and flat steel. By this time, I could see the top of the steel girders of the Howrah Bridge. What a landmark!

As I got closer to the bridge, I couldn’t see exactly where one would enter the roadway. There was a constant stream of people coming in from a side road, so I thought that must be the way. Buses were also coming down that road. So I saw how to enter the stream of people, but I was actually crossing on the wrong side. The south side stream of people were going west. The north side stream of people were coming east to where I was. But some other people were going my way too. Some peons were carrying huge bags of flowers on their heads from the flower market under the bridge.

Getting across the roads in that area is a problem. There are so many buses coming. If one finds an opening, they can be hit with a motorcycle. There is mass confusion. Just total anarchy. John Kenneth Galbriath once described India as a “functioning anarchy.” I think that Calcutta is the closest possible thing to anarchy!

(To be continued)

Zarang Restaurant Kolkata (India Blog 11)

 

Zarang Restaurant in Kolkata (India Blog 11)

The restaurant where I went to yesterday is in Lonely Planet (Zarang Restaurant). I had a conversation with a guy there. I don’t know if he is the owner or just the manager. I hope that I did not piss him off too much with my comments about Trump, and then some critical comments about Modi.

I hear the morning Izzan (call to prayer) starting from a nearby mosque. The time is 5:54 AM.

The guy thought that I might be supporting Trump. I told him that Trump is doing great damage to the United States. I said that it was a horrible development. He seemed to be astonished. He said: “Oh, but you are an American. Why would you say that?”

I said, “Well, in order to tell the truth.”

Actually, I mentioned quite a few things about the government. I told him that the US is not a democratic country but an oligarchy. It is ruled by the rich corporations. I told him that if you want to be a representative or a senator in Congress, you have to take millions of dollars from corporations to get elected.

I didn’t mention to this guy that I lived in Turkey. I have told some people, but sometimes I do not. When I tell them this, they are always surprised.

When the guy got around to asking me about Narendra Modi, I had criticized Modi for being a Hindu nationalist and communalist. Actually, I suspected that he might have the same sentiments. He said something about religion.

I didn’t want to start getting into talking about the caste system. So I just said, “Well, I agree with the analysis of B.R. Ambedkar. I think that he was right.”

I think that at that point, the guy sort of ended the conversation. He may be an Arun Shourie type guy who trashes B. R. Ambedkar. But I didn’t know.

For Ambedkar, Hinduism was the root of the problem of the caste system. To solve the problem of caste, one had to abolish Hinduism. Of course, that would be impossible in India. Tantamount to abolishing Indian society itself.

People really do seem to be quite naive.

He asked me if I thought the US would keep troops in Afghanistan and in Iraq. I said: “Sure, they will. One should understand that the US is a global empire. Countries have to take orders from the USA. Either that or get bombed.”

Then he asked me if Obama was better than Trump. I said that he is a nice guy, but he was lazy. He didn’t really do much while in office. I could have been more critical, but I left it at that.

The guy said: “Oh, but he got Osama bin Laden.” I said: “That was nonsense. Bin Laden was living in Abbatobad in Pakistan next to a Pakistan Army base. The Pakistan military was protecting him.

He knew that it was true, that the US created bin Laden. Earlier, bin Laden was working for the Americans. I said: “Sure. And they created Saddam Hussein too. The US supports these guys as long as they take orders from the USA. Then the US goes after them if they do not.”

Then I gave the example of Turkey: Tayyip Erdogan. I said: “The US was fine with him for some years after he became Prime Minister. But then, the US launched a coup against him in July 2016 and tried to kill him. It was a CIA operation, carried out with the Fethullah Gulen organization. But they failed. God saved him!” I added the last, being cynical. I also told him that I have written and published a book on the Iraq war.

USA and the New Middle East,” published in Delhi by Gyan Publishers in 2008. It found its way into many libraries across the Middle East, and also in several in the USA.

Wow! Sometimes the people that you talk to seem to be very naive. He asked me why the US would stay in Afghanistan. Good question. But the US is a global empire and being so, generates big profits for US capitalists. Afghanistan is rich with vast minerals. And then, there are the plans for pipelines for gas to South Asia.

The conversation got around to Kashoggi. I said: “Look, the Saudis murdering him was alright with Trump. It is all about money. If he invests in the USA, and buys weapons, Mohammed bin Salmon is great for Trump. It doesn’t matter if he murders a journalist from the USA.

I said that Trump only cares about money. He is just enriching the big corporations in the US. The US working class has been losing since the 1970s.

I said: “Why should I trust Donald Trump? He got his money from his father who was a big slumlord in New York City. He cheated the poor, the tenants and cheated the government out of taxes. That is all on record, of course. Donnie boy is the same.”

Well, there are some Americans who are so stupid as to say: “Oh, you shouldn’t criticize your own country while you are abroad.” Well, I can hardly think of anything more stupid than saying that!

When I criticized Modi for being a Hindu nationalist and communalist, he pointed to the young waiter there and said: “Well, look. He is a Moslem and he doesn’t have any problem.”

I said: “Sure, many Moslems would support him because they both have religious issues.” I didn’t want to talk about communalism.

Modi can use their votes, but they may not realize the thrust of his communalist Hindu ideology.

I do not know if he knew what I know about the history of Hindu fascism in India. The RSS (Rashtriya Swayam Sevak Sangh) and so on. I couldn’t get into all of that.

When I start to talk to a person like that, I start to think that I really know too much, far more than is good for me. The guy probably regretted that he asked if he could talk to me. He didn’t expect to hear what he heard.

I later told him that we shouldn’t discuss politics. Maybe sports is better. But then, I didn’t know anything about Indian sports.

He agreed. Sports is a better topic.

I got the idea that criticizing US imperialism is fine for him. He also does not like what the US does. But he does not like criticism of Modi. Wow! This country, like Iran, is full of petty bourgeois shop keepers who are socially, politically, and religiously backward. That was my reflection.

The failure of Gandhi, Nehru, Patel, the socio-political construct. It generated a lot of hot air over the years, but never delivered for the masses. It has led to Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Just like the liberal Obama failure led to Trump in the USA. Hasn’t it happened around the world? Brexit in England. The working class gave Brussels the finger. Up yours! That was the message. Now the ruling class in Britain cannot digest it. They are looking for another way to weasel out with another referendum or pro-European deal in the United Kingdom. Becoming a rat-fink as the Europeans did in the referendum in France, where they had a second vote. So much for British democracy. They just cannot stomach their defeat.

But now most of the Europeans are fed up with dealing with the British.

In late March, the remainers have yet to give up screwing over the people who voted to leave.

Well, this trip is more interesting to me when I can have some stimulating conversations like that. But I didn’t want to hurt the guy’s feelings. He was a nice person.

I am sure that there are many intellectuals at the university here. It is not so far from here. That’s the story this morning.

6:00 Morning. I have been hearing the sweepers doing the streets for some time. The army of bhangis. Slaves, essentially. Indentured labour, for sure.

After breakfast I am off for the long walk to the Howrah Bridge.

The Lytton Hotel (India Blog 10)

 

The Lytton Hotel (India Blog 10)

It was quite a long way into the city through a lot of small streets. There was a lot of traffic. Finally we got down Chowringhee Street and turned left onto Sudder Street. Found the Lytton Hotel. I gave the driver an extra 100 rupees. He deserved it. Came in and got checked it.

The woman at the desk said that since I was staying for a week that she would upgrade my room to a suite. So I got a great double room. It has a table and two couches in one room. It has the bed, desk and closets in the other room. I am not watching TV, generally.

Ali, who is a Moslem, brought my bags up to the room.

After getting organized, I crapped out till about 2:00 in the afternoon. Got up and went out on Sudder Street. Hogg Market is just one block away, just down one of the small roads behind the hotel.

Took some pictures. I love these old Hindustan Ambassador taxis. I am trying to get some pictures of the rickshaws with the guy running in front. I don’t want to use a human for a horse for transport! It is inhumane. It is terribly inhumane! It should be outlawed. Put some of these old machines in restaurants and hotels. But stop this human slavery! It is cruelty.

I got some pictures of Hogg Market. The should buildings need to be restored. The building is beautiful, but like everything else, little maintenance is being done, apparently. It is going down. There is a compound in front of the building. The trash is being swept up against the outer wall, where it stays. They have not picked it up. So it rots and produces filth. It seems like the intentional creation of filth. There is no excuse for that. And the sellers in the market should demand that it be kept clean. Probably they do not even notice it.

Some merchants roam around outside the market and hawk for their shops inside. I have not gone inside the market yet. These kids walk around selling these big balloons. Selling them before they are blown up. I guess it is something new. They do not know just how little interest I actually have in balloons. I talked to one of the Moslem shopkeepers. They are not too pushy.

I walked out onto Chowringhee, then back on Sudder Street.

I went into a bar on the way, but they said that they did not have food. So I left. Also the price for beer was outrageous. Some 400 rupees for a big Kingfisher. And it was too cold in the place. There was too much air-conditioning, and it was so dark in there that I could hardly find my way to a table.

There was another place that has some Chinese food. I ate there, but it was not very good food. Had two small Kingfisher beers.

I shot the rest of a roll of black and white film. I have to shoot some color and go sparing on the black and white. I tried to get some evening pictures of the rickshaws.

Saturday December 8: Early morning, 4:30. Got a good sleep and am finally relaxed, after getting to Kolkata.

Waking up early, I can catch up on writing down my thoughts.

I have two rolls of film per day, for the six days in Kolkata. One black and white and one color. I am trying not to waste any. Once the film is finished, I will have to use my cell phone. See what I can do with it.

Yesterday, I noticed that the Fairlawn Hotel, the famous old hotel were Dominique Lapierre stayed, is right outside my window, across the road. I looked down from my window and saw it. But I am glad that I stayed here. I got a better room. Lapierre is the author of the famous novel, City of Joy about the slums of Kolkata.

I will go to the Zarang Restaurant at the corner of Chowringhee and Sudder Street.

Yesterday, a woman hit me with that old scam mentioned in the Lonely Planet guide. At a small shop, she asked me to buy milk powder for starving babies.

I said that I liked babies okay (largely, a lie) but that it would not help. She knows that the money will not go to babies.

I asked her why she didn’t ask Narendra Modi, the Prime Minister, for some help for the babies. She said: “Modi does not help.”

Well, there you go! He knows his India.

So I was onto that scheme without remembering that it was mentioned in the Lonely Planet Guide. How does one know where the money goes, or the milk?

Actually, she does not take the milk powder, but just takes the money.

I am planning to walk to Howrah Bridge over the Hooghly River today after breakfast. The famous bridge. The scope for photography here is endless. I thought that I was okay with 22 rolls of 36 exposure film. Now I wish that I had brought more. I love black and white so much. But let me see what I can do with the colour film in the Minolta.

I need much longer to get up to speed photographing here, but one would have to actually live here for some time. I would need a month, at least. They would get sick of me.

The Flight to Cal: Kolkata (India Blog 9)

India Part II: Calcutta (India Blog 9)

Midnight: (Thursday December 6)

12:00 Midnight. I could not sleep. So Fuck it. If I sleep some, that would be okay. If not, then I will have to catch up sometime. Now somebody has started beating a drum somewhere.

The empty drum rattles the loudest.

Now the two guys in the next room are talking. They were talking loudly in the hallway outside my door. The bathroom door just started vibrating, maybe from the drum beats. Now I have closed it! Sometimes I wish that I was making my own noise and disturbing others the same way they do me. A mutual exchange of disturbing noise. Some people would be too insensitive to get it, however.

I suspect that this new BJP (Bharatiya Janata Party or Indian People’s Party) generation is different from the old ones. More nationalistic. Loving Mother India and Cows. What a crock! What ever happened to old fashioned honest critique of traditional society? The Sangh Parivar.

Where are the Marxists? The opium of the masses has reached flood stage.

This country has so many well-meaning people, so many improvement schemes, and the only thing they cannot improve is the culture of Hinduism, caste prejudice, itself. That’s the way it seems to me.

Ambedkar was right.

I had made the plane reservation for the flight to Calcutta at noon. But now the flight has been moved back to 6:40 AM. There is nothing I can do about such an ungodly hour. Nothing! I wish these guys would get straightened out and go to bed!

Friday, December 7: Calcutta

I did crap out shortly after midnight last night. It is now noon here. I will take a little rest. I had to turn the electric punkas off in the rooms. I have a nice room. A two-room suite, actually. Wonderful! Glad that I did not go for that famous Fairlawn Hotel.

I got into the hotel and relaxed.

7:45 Evening. I have shot one roll of black and white film already today. My film is going pretty fast and I want to get some good pictures.

I had to get out of the hotel in Delhi pretty early this morning, but picked up maybe three and a half hours of sleep. I checked out shortly after four o’clock in the morning and headed for the airport. It was a quiet, eerie, foggy morning in Delhi. It seems like quite a long way to the airport, but the roads are good now. The fare was around 230 rupees. I just gave the guy 300 rupees.

The navigational system in the car tells them how to go, all in English. I have not seen that in the taxis in Turkey yet. Anyway, it would have to be in Turkish.

It was lucky that I could connect to the internet, because I had to show the time of the flight from the email that came with the changes in order to get into the airport. Everything has become too technological these days.

Even in India.

Got checked in. The airline was making offers to upgrade to first class for 120 US dollars. There was no way that I was going to do that. So maybe that is why they put me in a middle seat with a huge bear, a stuffed pig, next to me. I hate that. The guy tried to stuff his coat down between us. I made him move it, as it was taking up my space. I was glad that when he tried to leave the plane, he got it stuck in the arm rest. He refused to put it in the overhead.

The guy on the other side, next to the windows looked more decent.

The flight was fine. Smooth most of the way. So no complaints.

They served a small breakfast, a sort of pronta and curry along with a roll. Then tea too. The stewardess was from the east, maybe Manipur, a beautiful girl.

The guy next to the window started to get upset. He didn’t want the pronta and asked if there was anything else. Then when the tea came, he asked for lemon. The girl said that she would have to go and get it, since the only lemons were in business class. (That’s what the hundred dollar upgrade was for, presumably. If you don’t pay, no lemons.)

Back in the cattle class section, the passengers do not measure up to having lemons. I said to the guy: “There are only two classes: Business class and cattle class.” He liked that. But his tone was very authoritarian toward the stewardess. First, he had said to the stewardess: “I’ll ask you for tea later.”

Then, when he asked for a lemon, he said: “Make sure she squeezes it.” My goodness! Then when the tea came, he wanted to squeeze the lemon in the tea.

He said: “Bring me the lemon. I want to squeeze it.”

Well, I would have loved to squeeze some lemons, but not that kind. I am sure that her lemons would be lovely to squeeze.

Then the girl offered to bring him another tea. But by that time, it was too late. The plane was about to land. So he had to give it up. I couldn’t believe that he was making so much fuss over a fucking cup of tea!

The luggage came okay and I lined up for a prepaid taxi. There was quite a big line there, so it took some time. The rate was 250 rupees to the city. All the taxis seem to be run by the police association and they are all old Hindustan Ambassador autos. The streets are full of these old cars painted yellow, and I love it. It seems that they have disappeared from Delhi. I mean, what is an Indian city without Hindustan Ambassadors? Each receipt that one gets goes with a particular taxi and the system seems to be working very well now.

It is great that the taxi system is working very well in the Indian airports now. It used to be hell a few years ago.

There was a money change place and I had to change some money, even though the rate was not the best.

The old Hindustan Ambassador was beautifully old on the inside. I regretted that I did not have some film in my Leica as the driver had Hanuman and Ganesh on the dashboard. I had never seen that back in the late sixties. But with Saffronization it is now everywhere in India, it seems.

So-called progress.

I was ready for Kolkata. Calcutta. Ready for heaven. Ready for hell!

A River of Shit (India Blog 8)

A River of Shit (India Blog 8)

I guess that it must have been Punjab that ruined me.

After that two years, I could never really feel at home in the USA again. I just wanted to get the fuck out every time that I got a chance.

Somehow it gave me a feeling of freedom. Freedom from so-called American freedom.

Finally, I had had enough and left for good. That was in 1992. Some 27 years ago. I have never been sorry that I did for a single day. One of the best decisions I ever made in my entire lifetime.

It saved my ass.

Sometimes people ask me if I miss anything. I tell them that the only thing I miss is the poverty. It is true. In the USA, I was always short of money. Once I left, I have never felt poor again. Not since the day I left.

Life, liberty and poverty,” as one of my brilliant students wrote on his exam.

I also don’t have to feel guilty about contributing to the US imperialist war machine that has ripped up so much of the world. That has caused such a hell for so many people. Especially in the Middle East. The US makes trouble everywhere. Political security, my ass! The US destabilizes every place it hits, under the name of political stabilization. Once “stabilized,” American capital can come in and clean up in the country. Make a killing. Get the oil. Cheap labor in Vietnam. That’s the rest of the story that Americans never hear.

Global security, national security and so on.

If one just reads a little of Chomsky and one should understand it very well. But most Americans do not read that kind of thing.

I don’t know if they would understand it, the way they have been brainwashed by the system. So I cannot say how many would really get it. It is not easy to break down systematic ideological indoctrination. This is the especially true in the case of a country so religious. The religious factor is exceptionally strong in the United States of America. It can easily block rational thought.

That is another boon of living abroad. One largely escapes the constant brainwashing. Turn off the TV. Give your brain a break. Shoot the mother, like Edward Abbey did. Free yourself. Free yourself from that river of shit.

You won’t regret it.

Get off shit-face book.

Talk about the swamp in Washington? More like a cesspool, actually. The corporate media floods the country with a river of shit every single day. They call it the news cycle.

My book, USA and the New Middle East, would also be quite educational. If read. It is in some libraries in the USA and a lot of libraries in the Middle East and Europe.

All that work to write a book and no one reads it. Face-book will pretty much ensure that.

Back to Delhi.

When I got to the Regal building, I went into that restaurant in the old Bobbys corner. Pind Baluch Restaurant. At first, I thought it meant Baluch Village, but the waiter, from Utterkhand, said that Baluch just means “place.” Then I realized it must be a Punjabi restaurant, since they started playing Punjabi music.

I had chicken tika and nan. And a big Kingfisher beer. It was not as expensive as Kwality. A great restaurant! The food is better! I was hungry and the food was delicious.

After the meal, I told the guy at the door that I had known the place since it was a discotheque back in 1968, when I first came to India. It was a sports bar when I was there ten years ago in 2008. They were amazed that I knew that about the place and I don’t think either of these guys were even born at that time. It was the infamous Bobby’s. Unbelievable!

Well, I am off for Cal (Calcutta) tomorrow. Now Kolkata. I read that Jet Airways is strapped for cash and the company has not even paid their employees and pilots what they are owed. I don’t know what kind of outfit it is. Maybe it needs to merge with another airline. But the piece said that they were getting a cash infusion soon. They were asking the passengers for it the next day in the airport.

It was not good news to read before taking a flight on the airline.

This is the end of Delhi for this time. Three days, only, this time. That Chandni Chowk is the real India. That is it, undiluted.

I think that I had pulled the wool over my eyes about India. But I think that the scales have fallen now. No need to sugar coat it. The people in these cities, like Delhi, are struggling to survive and are being brutalized there in that mess. Only the very young women are sometimes very beautiful. There are some beauties, but what is their future?

Most will be hit with the tragedy of marriage.

The Red Fort (Lal Qila) (India Blog 7)

 

The Red Fort (Lal Qila) (India Blog 7)

After my photo shoot in the Moslem section, I found a pedal rickshaw and asked a guy to take me to the Lal Qila (Red Fort). He said 100 rupees. A guy nearby said: “No, only forty rupees. Not more than 50 rupees.”

I said, it is not very important, whether it is a dollar or half a dollar!

I was not going to fall, famished on the street, for fifty fucking cents.

Anyway, I got in. An old pedal rickshaw. I do not like to take them and have someone pedalling me under their own muscle power, but one has to take them in a pinch. They also have a hard seat. But the poor guy has to work hard to pedal one. I felt bad about it.

When we got to the fort, which was not very far, I realized that I only had the 500 rupee note. The guy said that he did not have the 400 change. He said that he only had 100 rupees change. So I just gave him the 500 note. I am sure that the guy needed it more than me. It was a lucky day for him.

Having enough small change with one in India is a problem and I am always in need of small bills. Rupees 20 and under and pretty useless and I generally just hand them out to beggars on the street. But they run out quickly too.

It must have been a terrible problem when the Indian Government demonitized the whole money system.

I realized that I had to put a new roll of film in the Minolta. So I needed a place to sit down to do that. I was at the entrance to the Red Fort and it was difficult to find a place. It was not like Turkey, where there would have been chai places and food places and perhaps benches to sit down and do it.

While I was looking for a place, the hawkers started to come to sell me post cards and other things. I was starting to get a little irritated and they were very persistent in harassing me.

I had to tell them, in a rather harsh way, that I was not interested and to please leave me the hell alone. I was busy doing something else. They are like small children, or a TV, howling for attention.

Then I found a low wall near the fence, where I could sit down and change the film. Some two or three school boys stood around watching me change the film.

Then a young guy came selling some kind of rice cakes. He was coming right up to me and harassing me. I said: “Well, I am doing something else right now. So I am not going to eat anything.” It was starting to get on my nerves that they would not leave me alone. It was like I was fresh meat to pounce on.

Finally, I finished changing the film and got up to go inside. I was surprised to see that there was no charge for the Red Fort there. At least, not for the outside of it. A couple of more guys came at me with post cards. These hawkers really ruin tourism in the country, the way they pester tourists. I was starting to get more irritated with them. My objective was to take some pictures and not to fool around buying post cards from them.

I have bought those cheap postcards so many times in the past, I can’t remember how many times. So I was not in the market for them at this point.

I walked inside the gate, which is outside, the perimeter of the fort and started taking pictures with my 28 mm lens on the Minolta. The view is magnificent. I had never realized how big the fort was in the past, with the massive walls and the moat.

I know that there are several special buildings inside the fort, but I did not have time for all that today. It would take a whole day to tour inside the fort. That would have to be another trip to Delhi. So I just walked around the outside of it and made pictures.

They are also still doing the Sound and Light show inside the fort that I had seen twice in the past. The first time was in 1970 and the second time was probably in 1989. It is worth seeing, if one has not seen it before.

Finally, I came around to the gate to the east. Some guys had asked me to make pictures with them along the way. They were taking selfies with their cell phones. I was surprised that so many people wanted to take their pictures with me, a complete stranger. I am not so photogenic and that time, I was actually not in a very good mood, after having to ward off so many pesty hawkers. But I was glad to meet people that were not interested in selling me something.

Chandni Chowk (Old Delhi)

(India Blog 6)

Chandni Chowk, Old Delhi

6:45. Evening. A good day. Good pictures, I hope. Shot about three and a half rolls of film. More than a hundred frames. The last color one is still in the Minolta. It is a good thing that I had that 28 mm lens. I needed it. I had never realized just how massive the Red Fort is. The Lal Qila.

I spent almost the whole day in Chandni Chowk. I didn’t eat or drink there. And I didn’t carry any water as I had the cameras.

Anyway, it is very different from Paharganj. A big Gurdwara there, but I was on the wrong side of the road to photograph it fully.

After that, I wandered back into another area that was totally Moslem. There were at least two big mosques there. One has to get out of the most crowded areas to get decent photos. That is, to even start to frame them anywhere decently.

I sat down on a cement stairway next to a shop to change my film. I realized that it was a good place to take street shots and no one was bothering me there. It was right on the street. So I just kept sitting there. It was right across from a huge mosque. As far as I can tell, I didn’t have anyone trying to steal my bag today.

I still have 1400 rupees out of that first one-hundred dollars that I changed, and it is probably enough to get me to Calcutta. And probably to the Hotel Lytton too. But I would like to change money at the airport if I can. I will be packed up and ready to go tomorrow. The flight is at 6:40, morning. I need to be there two hours before the flight. So I will leave the hotel at a little after four in the morning.

Today was generally quite good. I had to get rid of a couple of hawkers at the Red Fort. They come at you in a very aggressive way with those post cards and other things. Sometimes one has to be quite hard to get them to stop harassing one.

In the morning, it was farther to the Chandni Chowk area than I expected. And there was a lot of traffic. I got down to that big main street. There were families of monkeys walking along the buildings on the opposite side of the street. There was massive traffic, and the middle of the street was all dug out. They were apparently putting in a pipeline. I made some pictures there, but it was too crowded to do any proper framing. The streets were jam packed with rickshaws, cars, small vans and trucks. Even a few bullock carts.

I went into a side street. The sun was coming at an interesting angle, making it rather difficult to shoot black and white film. The electrical wiring was unbelievable, the way the cables were wound up and tangled together. I spent some time trying to photograph that. It was just amazing and quite easy to photograph, really. No one put up any resistance to my photography.

I went inside a smaller lane. This was really better for framing the shots.

When I came out on another street, it had shifted to an Islamic area. I was in front of a large mosque. There were some interesting characters on the street and I began to photograph them. At first, I was just walking, doing what I could. I sat down on a side street, near a stairs, to change the film in the Minolta.

But them, I started shooting black and white film with the Leica M6.

I shot almost a whole roll of 36 frames right there in the same spot. I was sort of back from the street rather out of site. I realized that it was a good place from which to shoot the street. The light was good for black and white, out of the direct sunlight. People had no idea that I was taking pictures of them. It was also a help that there were so many things going on and much confusion. I was not being noticed. There was a constant parade of people walking on the street, where there were no sidewalks.

After a while, an old Moslem guy came with a cart and set up a peanut stand just to the right of me. And he asked me to make his picture. But after that, he acted like he wanted a tip. Unfortunately at the time, I didn’t have any change, and the smallest thing I has was a 500 rupee note. I made a couple more pictures of him while he was selling peanuts.

Young children were coming from a school, packed into rickshaws. There must have been ten or more packed into each rickshaw. That was their school bus. Many people were just walking on the street in rather local colorful outfits, so it was a good place to get local pictures.

Finally, I figured that it was enough in that spot. I walked on and was rather hungry and thirsty by that time. I thought about where I should go. I thought of that Moti Mahal Restaurant that I had made a note of. I knew that it was not too far from there, near the Red Fort.

But first to the Red Fort.