Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Calcutta. Day 5

This fine morning I really wish to buy a sari, and my flight back to Delhi is at noon. I know I have to get up pretty early in order to explore the market, bargain, haggle, and get to the airport. But I can't stop hitting the snooze button on my cell. B get up!

 Sluggishly I put my yoga pants on, put a bra and leave the guest house. Forget the shower, I'll do that later. Luckily New Market is pretty close by, and it's a beautiful and peaceful morning in Calcutta.  The trusted Lonely Planet (aka Bible) suggests going early, so good thing I left this experience for this morning.

Despite the 8 am arrival, there are still many men and boys around. I ignore the pestilential touts and admire the grand colonial clock tower.  I let myself be drawn inside, for I really want to buy a sari for my sister. I stop at a gorgeous scarf. I must have it. He shows me more. I end up buying 5 of the most beautiful scarves I have seen so far in India, and I bargained expertly (yay- I am gloating inside because I finally get it! It's a Science, or an Art. I don't know. But I got it!)! He directs me to where I can buy a sari. Again I rock the price down. I skip my way back to my hood. Flurys is open. I mean, I gotta have a pastry and an espresso before my travels, right? Right.

I bid farewell to Rahim. In these three days I have become rather fond of him. I ask him how long it will take me to get to the airport. An hour. No. Yes yes maam, an hour. HOLY I GOTTA GOOOO! I get the pastries packed, I hug Rahim and I sprint to my guest house. I wash my pits and face, pack up my sari and scarves and exit quickly.

I beeline to a yellow cab 100 meters away. I am learning to discern honest eyes and mouths now. He seems cool, plus I like his cab because its customized, all festive and lively. I say meter and he head bobs. I tell him the airport.  It's 10:15. Traffic. Traffic. Traffic. I can't help but chain smoke. ugh.. will I make it? He blares music and I am grateful for this: my loud thoughts drowned. I concentrate on how rad his cab is, and how much I enjoy Indian harmonies.
 I eat a pastry.
And then another.

 It's past 11. "Challo challo" I say (let's go! ) but now I have learned to say it in Bengali so I say 'Chollo' instead.  There is one pastry left, I saved the best for last. Once we get to the airport I break it in half ; give part of it to the cabby, and pop the other half in my mouth. As I scramble with my bag and weave my body through cars and people I think two thoughts at once: Oh please let me make my plane, and gee whiz- this pastry is my ultimate favorite.

Oops I forget the security check my bag. The man at the Spicejet counter says not to worry, points to my bag and nods over to a airport guy who whisks it away. A few minutes later I am on line with a lovely Punjabi lady and a British family. We chitchat about India (duh!) and how flying has changed in the last ten years. I'm getting old;  I'm actually initiating conversations that begin with: "Do you remember a time when--" The Punjabi woman is irritated at the turtle speed of the line and gestures me to follow her. We push our way to the front, waving our Delhi boarding passes to all who protest. It's 11:50 now.  We make it on the plane.

I am sandwiched between a young mother with her infant child and a dapper looking pilot. The child has eyeliner on. The child cries a lot. The child has black streaks running down her little cheeks. Once out of the plane I wait to take a bus to the train station. I get to the train station right on time and sit with a most adorable Chinese woman. She giggles a lot. She asks me how I can stand the food here, how I can stand the dirt here, how I can stand the body odor here. Things I tend to forget are exotic to some. We gossip the whole ride.  I am in the mood for chinese food. Again. Always!

I get back to my room, unpack and lie on my bed.....
I fell into the arms of a familiar hug when I got to Calcutta.  I think about the yellow cabs, about the pastries and the typography Flurys uses. I think about Bengali street food. I am a city girl.  Stimulus driven. I need lights and crowds. Give me an anonymity that only being enveloped by a volume and flux of people can offer.   Give me beer stalls and sidewalks, movie theaters and coffee shops.
Give me parks.
Give me yellow cabs. I need yellow cabs.

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