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.

Advertisements

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!