We’re in Pokhara, Nepal at the moment and I have a cold. Thus I have had some time to write a little more at length on India. You’ll see it’s not all bad.
Kolkata is more vile than we imagined. Open air urinals, glaring men, families living on the street everywhere. On the bright side, there’s cricket. I get an invitation to try it out in the Maidan, the large, garbage strewn public space that I‘m sure many have compared to Central Park. Central Park doesn‘t have goats. Meanwhile, the man who invites me to play tries to smooch CeCe and then asks me for a dollar. He sure earned it. We rush back to the safety of our grimy hotel room. At least there’s televised cricket. Would you believe CeCe likes cricket as much, if not more so, than me?
We’re forced to leave hotel room. No room service. We court death by crossing the street but soon realize that walking is no fun here. So we try the subway. Wait, the subway? Didn’t I see a man pooping in the street earlier? Don’t many buildings lack indoor plumbing? I don’t care if India is “democratic”. What kind of government prioritizes the installation of a subterranean railway before considering traffic lights or running water?
We escape to the Botanical Garden where we see the world’s largest banyon tree. The park is home to hundreds of birds. If India has one thing going for it, it’s birds. No one has told Indians that their Chinese neighbors will pay through the teeth for any caged bird that’s either colorful or sings. The secret’s safe with me.
Instead of dinner, we opt for televised cricket in our hotel room.
There’s no cricket on TV today, so we decide to head south to the Sunderbans, a mangrove delta home to man-eating tigers and crocodiles. It takes us 10 hours to travel 200 kilometers. At a junction, the bus driver sprints down the chaotic street to flag down our connecting bus. At a town halfway, we meet a friendly man who invites us to his thatch-roofed home to meet his family. He climbs a neighborhood coconut tree so that we can have a snack.
Everyone else just glares at us.
The government organized tour of the Sunderbans is a colossal bore, aside from the birds. The government should spend less time on tourism, more time on plumbing. We meet an English man who’s here on his fifth trip. He’s clearly swum the Ganges a few too many times.
We’re endure more glares on the way back to Kolkata. Once there, we go to the train station hoping for a ticket. I wait in three lines and fill out a form only to be told that they can’t sell me a ticket. They direct me to the tourist ticket office across town which closes at 5pm. It’s 4:55. A few hours later, we visit a travel agent who has a ticket for us in five minutes. Unfortunately we have to wait until the following evening for our train. At least there’s televised cricket again.
Thanks be to Ganesh for cricket.