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    All These Colors Tour: India Part 21

    Thursday, October 4, 2012
    Kolkata, India

    Waiters at the Blue Sky Cafe in Kolkata, India.

    As I started off my last day in Kolkata with a little Wi-Fi activity at Raj’s Spanish Cafe, an Indian man wearing a turban and a bunch of baubles hanging all over his body appeared in the entryway, chanting, ranting, and waving around a bowl wafting smoke all over the place. I later found out that guys like this walk around blessing businesses and homes for little bits of money. After one last meal at the Blue Sky Cafe, I said goodbye to the nice waiters and hiked my huge backpack over to Chowringhee Road to catch a taxi to Howrah train station a couple of miles North and across the river. The first taxi I saw demanded 250 rupees. One of the waiters told me not to pay more than 100, so I just started walking North under my umbrella in the drizzling rain. Normally, there’s an ocean of yellow taxi cabs on most streets in Kolkata, but it was totally predictable that I would see very few tonight. Most of them already had passengers, and even the empty ones mysteriously didn’t pull over when I tried to hail them.

    Howrah train station in Kolkata, India.

    Exasperated, I just kept walking and walking at the edge of the road through never-ending masses of pedestrian and vehicular traffic until I came to a big cross street, where I turned left because, damn it, it just felt “right.” I asked a couple of gents which way the train station was, and they told me to wait for a bus, but I had to keep moving. As my rain and sweat-soaked body began to get sore and tired, I entered a walking zombie-like state just to maintain my sanity. After a couple of blocks, I saw what looked like the tower of a bridge in the distance, but much to my dismay, when I arrived, it was just the corner of a building. I kept on plodding Westward, egged on by increasingly larger masses of people walking in the same direction. Somehow, I knew they were all heading to Howrah. Finally, I arrived at the river and saw what I thought was the entrance to a pedestrian bridge. When I tried to proceed, a guy told me to go get a ticket. Upon returning and stepping in, I saw that it wasn’t a bridge at all, but a huge, rusted out, funky ferry that crosses the river. After a couple of hundred people packed on, the ferry slowly chugged across the dark, watery world and let us out right in front of the train station.

    A three-tier air-con sleeper coach on the train in Kolkata, India.

    I was pretty pleased that I was an hour early, and, after stepping inside, I was amazed by the vast interior full of food, drink and knick-knack stalls, and scores of people walking in every direction. Even though it was crowded, the complex was so big, it was easy to walk around. But its large scale also made it totally bewildering, so I stood in line at an info booth to ask which platform I should wait at, as it was not printed on my ticket. Some Indians are brutal line cutters, and two or three tried to weasel their way in front of me, but I just shoved my ticket into the window and got my answer: platform 10. Luckily, it was close by, and even though I couldn’t find a ledge to sit on (there were no benches), I scored a nice spot on the ground under a ceiling fan. Finally, around 7:45 pm, the train pulled in, and the masses slowly waddled into its guts. I reserved a spot in an air-con sleeper car, which contains about eight compartments with benches that fold out into six narrow vinyl-covered bunk beds. There’s also one row of bench / bunk beds that run along parallel with the length of the train. After a couple of hours of listening to a bunch of Indian ladies yack and stuff their faces, I finally climbed up into my bed to saw some wood.

    Roll over photos for captions.
    Words and photos ©2012 Arcane Candy.

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