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Why I am leaving blighty

snow -50 °C

It is almost 14 years since I first ventured to India and a year since I returned from a trip to the Far East. Another job in a call centre battery farm is driving me East again.

I work for a well known brand. A place that could easily drive (the clue is in the wording) me to an addiction that would require counselling with an organisation sharing the same initials.

I am a ‘Salesbot‘. My job is to be that annoying in-bound sales person in a call centre. You will probably have first hand experience of this. Picture the scene. You have been waiting 20 minutes to speak to a human being merely to change for example your address details. You finally get through. The changes are administered slowly as the little mouse powering my computer is asthmatic.

But alas I have not finished yet. For I am I am there to ‘up sell you services’ that you don’t really want or can’t really afford You listen, exasperated, as the sales talk starts irritatingly to eat into your lunch break. Half an hour later the sales mantra carries on to areas that only link tenuously to your initial enquiry. I might as well be asking .“would you like a set of encyclopaedia Britannica’s; or a his and hers carriage clock; or maybe even a time share in the Dominican republic?”.

You are resolute though, 45 minutes after my failed attempt to meet my sales targets, that you do not want a further upgrade. You return to your egg butty, have only five minutes to scoff it down and spend the rest of the afternoon with heartburn. Defeated, I return to my phone to listen to a 30 minute rant by an angry customer who has decided that I personally had orchestrated a conspiracy to overcharge her by £20.

You are frequently the punch bag to the customers frustrations. I just want to say sometimes “ I am sorry your are through to the wrong department, please hold whilst I transfer you to verbal abuse”.
Some of this is justified especially since customer loyalty is thrown out of bed in favour of a one night stand with new customers.

The abuse is sometimes internal. Demands are regularly barked out by the unstoppable goods train that is matron. I want you all to sell this or that (sometimes even the other) by 5 pm. Unfortunately the goal posts are often moved to a different playing field in a different town, in a different country which makes meeting targets more difficult that meeting Elvis, the Loch Ness Monster and an honest banker in a tea shop in Harrogate.

Fortunately I have not faced the Nuremberg trials of ‘return to work’. “Sorry I was only obeying doctor’s orders“. This is when you have returned from a period of sickness. In very Arian way, illness is a weakness that is not tolerated, a hindrance to the sales effort. Excuses are rarely good enough. Not even - “I am sorry I trapped my arm under a bolder and had to saw it off.” “Sorry I couldn’t make it as I had a touch of leprosy“. “Sorry but I died of pneumonia but I will make the hours up in my next life“.

There are other heinous crimes other than sickness like exceeding your break by 1 ¼ minutes or having too many toilet breaks. I was once questioned by a 19 year old training supervisor when sent to the toilet by the selfish demands of my bladder. This was by some pre programmed droid who didn’t know where Cardiff was.

Although I must admit that I am luckier than many and shall miss all my team. But the atmosphere of the place as a whole is that of del boy end of the capitalist spectrum within the straightjacket of communist oppression. I know what it must be like to live in China. This is why I am leaving to a country south of China.

I am indeed tempted to get a job in an outbound Indian call centre, calling Indian customers up us with a frightfully British accent, pretending that my name is Gupta . “My name is Gupta. And how are you today? Would you like a saving on your phone package“. Or maybe I’ll set up a chain of fish and chip shops for drunken Indians to wander into after the pubs have closed.

On 4th January after the last hazelnut has been discovered in a pile of cracked mixed nut shells, after the liver is recovering after a Normandy landings assault, I shall be leaving. Yes leaving: the country; the weather; the talk about the weather; the talk about talking about the weather; miserable commuters; rude taxi drivers; Jeremy Kyle; ridiculously overpriced motorway service station food; inappropriate wearers of lycra; ridiculously long advert breaks on Dave; rude lycra wearing taxi drivers on Jeremy Kyle repeats on Dave moaning about commuters. I shall be spending 10 weeks in India, visiting Aunties, Uncles, Cousins in Kolkatta, Lucknow and Delhi. I shall be sipping inexpensive tea and trekking in Darjeeling, visiting holy places in Amritsa, hopefully venturing into the Mangrove Swamps in the Sunderbans. For anyone who has ever worked in a call centre - this will be like 10 weeks in call work!.

Posted by gavinbose 14:08 Archived in United Kingdom Comments (0)

Bombay Road (Stockport) - Main Street, Orchha (India)

Trains, plains and too many automobiles

sunny

Comparing the first leg of my flight from Manchester to Dubai on the A380 (worlds biggest passenger aircraft) to the second leg from Dubai to Kolkata was like comparing the boarding of a small rowing boat to the boarding of the Titanic. The analogy was however kept away from the rest of the 525 passengers. Don't mention the "T" word, whatever the mode of transport! It took a full hour to board the beast and it was too big to get a perception of through the gate window.

Us lower caste passengers were kept from exploring the private bar, beds, showers, casinos, shopping malls, jogging parks etc that existed above on the first floor, well in my mind anyway. I couldn't however complain as there was at least plenty of leg room. It was a comfortable flight as I settled down to listen to some music and watch a few movies. My grey always seems to suffer due to flight fatigue, although not as much as the extreme ditherers. On embarking the aircraft they seem to loose all concept of mental capacity, spacial awareness or indeed are unable to acknowledge the weary and frustrated queue of people also waiting to put their luggage in overhead lockers. My mental affliction, however was trying to understand the plot of the in-flight movie Wall Street 2. Maybe that was the whole point though. The finance sector doesn't want us to understand what they are doing, that is why the world is in such a mess. As Gordon Gekko would say "confusion ladies and gentlemen, confusion is good". The antithesis of this culture though was formed by the 4 very inspiring retired teachers and nurses who I sat next to on the connecting flight from Dubai to Kolkata.

I was greeted at the airport on 5th On by my cousin Bunty and the family driver (a different world alright), then taken to his parents Auntie Gori and Uncle Nilhu. The are clearly getting on as are my other Auntie and Uncle (Roma and Tapan). Roma is ill at the moment (though getting better) hence It was thought that it be best if I didn't stay in their roof top ensuite guest room. As usual though I have been made to feel very welcome and was fed on excellent A380 sized Bengal meals. I had not been doing much for the first few days other than catching up with relatives and visiting a local market. We shared a bottle of whiskey and a bottle of brandy with Bunty's friends, who I have got to know over the years. We visited a couple of bars also including a bar playing live blues music. The customers were so polite and orderly, showing none of the usual drunken Brit behaviour. It must be said however that the price of a single drink exceeds many Indians daily pay. I also met up with my other cousin Rintu, her husband and her very studious teenage daughters (well the higher educations system is highly competitive).

This is my 5th trip in 14 year and Kolkata is still as hectic as ever. On the busy side streets lined with dilapidated colonial buildings, people play cricket oblivious to the incoming traffic. People still drive 100 metres when it would be clearly quicker to walk. The smog hangs in the air like in some cliched 1930s Sherlock Holmes movie, albeit with the odd cow wandering into shot. At least this time I discovered the quick and efficient metro system (the first in India). I did however hit the rugby scrum of rush hour on my way back.

On Monday 10th I left all this behind to start on a journey that would take me North Eastwards to Amritsar. After visiting family in Delhi and Lucknow I will need to be back in Kolkata for 26th January which is Gori and Nilhu's surprise 50th wedding anniversary.

The debate raging on the first part of my journey from Kolkata to Satna (the 18.15 Shirpa Express) was were we on coach or B1 or B2?. For some inexplicable reason, or possibly a curse from the Hindu god of transport chaos, the coaches had been swapped around last minute. Fortunately, to avoid bloodshed, the conductor confirmed that although it clearly stated B2 on the outside of the coach we were indeed on B1. Only in India!

My 17 1/2 hour journey was delayed in the fog by 5 1/2 hours, meaning that I spent a day on the train. Spare a thought though for those who were travelling to the final stop - Indore. They would have arrived a further 7 or so hours after me. To frustrate matters more there was no buffet car today. There was a solution at hand though. One of my fellow passenger ordered some decent veg Thali takeaway that intercepted us at one of the stops. This is all part of Indian travel. Everyone takes it in there stride. It turned out to be a very enjoyable journey. I was chatting to an eclectic group of fellow passengers (all Indian), ranging from a 50 year old former civil servant (a desirable job in India), who was able to retire at 45 and live a leisurely life of travel and doing as he pleased. On the other end of the spectrum was a textile student who's intense studying, often without sleep for 48 hours, once had him hospitalised. His regular 24 hour (if he is lucky) train journeys home from his University in Bhopal is the only time he gets to relax. He calls the train his second home. That what train travel is like in India though, it becomes one big social club.

I got off at the transport hub of Satna but missed my connecting bus to Khajuraho. I made up time though by sharing a taxi with a Chinese tourist. On the 2 1/2 hour journey he wouldn't stop talking. I wanted to relax. He also had this weird way of pronouncing Kolkata so it sounded like Crocodile. At one point I imagined a Crocodile eating a Chinese and not even leaving a spare rib.

I spent 3 nights in Khajuraho. It is famed for 24 (there were once said to be about 60 more) 1000 plus year old Hindu temples with intricate carvings. Many of these Karma Sutra carvings, feature gravity defying orgies, bestiality and sundry unmentionable acts. These sandstone depictions of post water shed pornography would once have had Mandip Whitehouse draping the temples with muslin.

I tried to escape the endless army of touts trying to sell my guide books. "Which country from?" "Russia". "We have guide book in Russian". Next time I will say that I only speak an rare Cornish Dialect. Its a beautiful place, surrounded by lush countryside as far as the eye can see, hence it is possible to escape such annoyances. One day a visited this 7 km long volcanic canyon. During the monsoon season it fills further 30 metres. The allegedly spectacular waterfall was fairly dry at the moment. The Crocodiles that I hoped to see basking on the rocks (after having fed on that Chinese guy) were not present. I did see antelope, spotted dear and Lemur monkeys in the surrounding national park.

After basking in the ambience of Khajuraho I took a 5.30am bus to my current location, Orchha. From the main road I had to take a 10 minute shared rickshaw drive with 14 other passengers. I am only just beginning to learn to breathe out again. This place is even more atmospheric than Khajuraho. It is a small but significant historical site, once again with a very scenic backdrop. Imposing seventeenth century mhogul palaces and temples surround the narrow streets. There has been a festival to mark the end of winter. It was fascinating just watching the crowds progress towards the river to ritually bathe. The carnival atmosphere was alive with music and busy market stores selling sweets. I was able to see it all happen from outside my BBC (Basic But Clean) hotel room.

I even had TV in my room albeit Indian TV seems to be a succession of adverts interspersed with the occasional programme. They do show western films but are heavily sensored for swearing, sex, nudity (Offended bits pixelled out. This is the country that only allowed the first kiss in a movie as recently as 1977. Have they forgotten about the 1000 year old temple sex! As for the adverts, exclusively aimed at the middle classes, only show a side of India that doesn't exists. Most of the poverty and the dirt are airbrushed out during, for example, an ad for a skin cream to lighten the skin tone (the desired look).

Yesterday I tried some Korean food in a local restaurant. I asked about 4 or 5 different dishes and was told on each occasion that it was like a chappatti. The one I tried did indeed taste like a chappatti although it was very good. Chappattis are versatile things!

I bought a day pass to see the sights but couldn't figure out how to get to the top of the tallest temple for the finest view. This morning, in a premeditated plan hatched before breakfast, I turned up anyway before it even opened. As expected there was a caretaker around whom I bribed to open up. He took me on an exclusive tour, right to the roof top. He fed the monkeys (a little too close for comfort) and showed me a vultures nest complete with egg. I got a snap before it flew off.

I must fly off myself know and get ready for the next stage of my journey.

Posted by gavinbose 20:37 Archived in India Comments (0)

From Gwalior to to Amritsar

From the King of the Castle to Hide and Sikh

sunny

I reluctantly left Orchha behind, taking another shared rickshaw to the train station. Comparative luxury this time as there were only about 10 people to share with. I then took a mere 90 min train journey (nothing in India) to Gwalior.

Gwalior seemed to be a bit of a disappointment at first, lacking peace, tranquility and beautiful backdrop of Khajurao and Orccha. Just another another noisy, dirty Indian town. The hotels were some distance however from the main attraction. This attraction happened to be though a 3 km long fort rising above the dusty city dating back to the Mhogul period. Much of it is intact including a 500 year old palace with external paintings (all blue) of ducks, tigers, crocodiles. Coca Cola ads (just kidding) etc. I hired a guide who told me about a former king (in the pre Viagra days) who lived with his eight wives (and 8 lots of benefit probably). None of them bore him a child. To lure wife number 9, a local beauty, he had a separate palace built just for her. Fortunately this all paid off and a child was born.

So I spent most of the day wandering around the fort, admiring the Jain sculptures carved into the rock and the various other attractions. I decided to walk back wandering around the streets of the old town, the land that time forgot! Not a tourist tout in site, just the hustle and bustle of traders selling there ware, pedestrians battling with rickshaws, rickshaws battling with motorbikes. But nobody battling with cows.
I got chatting to a local who invited me home to meet his family and have a cup of chai. He chatted, amongst other things, about his plan to take over the Indian Vacuum cleaner brush market.

My knowledge enlightened by polygamous kings and Indian floor cleaning crusades, the following day I boarded the train to New Delhi. This was a brief one day stop, having already spent some time in Delihi before. It was an opportunity to meet up with my Dad's cousin and family, including her husband, a former award winning film critic. After discussing the merits of Police Academy 9: Raise Your Trunction, over Saw 15: The Black and Dekker Kill I took the night train to Amritsar.

This holiday, other than the odd days trekking in the mountains, was the first time that I have experienced real cold in India. Hot water is a must in hotels. Sometime you even have to ask for an extra blanket as it can get surprisingly chilly at night. It is the transitional time between an Indian winter and Indian spring. Generally a great time to travel. It is like a very good English Spring and hence the constant sweating and clutching of a bottle of water is not necessary. Really a pleasant time to travel.. I was though warned though about the overnight train from Delhi to Amritsar. It was told Sleeper class would be cold (basic as the others were booked up). On this "arctic express" I slept with several layers on. I wish I'd taken the over night bus instead or even bought a blanket Even the penguins and polar bears were clever enough to book warm first class.

After inspecting my digits for frost bite, I arrived surprising quite awake despite having hardly any sleep. Like Gwalior, Amritsar seemed nothing special, just a number of dusty streets. Like Gwalior it was dominated by one main attraction. And what an attraction, indeed possibly one of the highlights of India in 14 Years. The golden temple is the Mekka for Sihks and people come from all over the world. I even met someone from Altrincham!. Had I only got a glimpse of it for 5 minutes it would have been worth it. You go through the very elegant gate and are confronted by this shining gold temple (750 kg of it to be precise on the roof). It is connected by a long walkway to an island within this huge tank, the size of a small lake. The circumference of the tank seemed to be about 400 metres. You just follow the worshippers circling this marvel anticlockwise whilst the chanting can be permanently heard. The atmosphere is mesmerising and I'm not religious. I even visited the place at different times. Sunset is especially magical as the colours and shapes transform on the rippled (by bathers taking a sacred dip) water.

Everytime you do visit the temple it is necessary to hand your shoes and socks in. On picking up my shoes one day I was alarmed to see that they were the pampered 'victim' of a bizzare shoe cleaning ritual. A chain of helpers were involved in the polishing process. When I was ready to pick them up I could almost see my reflection on them. I should have brought my dirty hiking boots instead!

The golden temple was under siege by Sikh extremists in the early 1980s. They didn't bother handing their boots in. Mrs Ghandi sent the troops in and 100s of Sikhs were killed. She herself was assassinated at the temple shortly after by her Sikh bodyguards. Similar carnage had occurred last century in a public garden that remembers a shameful moment in British colonial history. In 1919 a British general sent the troops in to quell a totally peaceful demonstration, this time by ordinary law abiding individuals. Almost 400 people were murdered. Despite all this both places seemed very peaceful.

On a lighter note I had also seen an event of pure Theatre. Amritsar is only 30 km from the Pakistan border. Every evening at 4.30pm, soldiers from both sides open the border gate and put on this amusing display. The border soldiers are dressed in a curious garb, with a head piece that can only be described as resembling a chicken. They do this peculiar pythonesque walk and put on this rather silly posturing display like confrontational Peacocks. The opposing crowds sing and chant patriotic songs and slogans. All very wierd but good natured. If only wars and conflicts could be settled in this vein.. In Northern Ireland in the 80's the paramilitary organisations should have put on bravado ballet display. Or perhaps in the disputed island of Cyprus, perhaps the Greek and Turkish Cypriots could have had a ball room dancing face off.

I must dance off now

Posted by gavinbose 22:45 Comments (0)

From Lucknow, back to Kolkata

Bob's your Uncle.

sunny 25 °C

My next port of call, Lucknow was for the first time in almost 14 years. My Dad was born here. The Shiite (stop giggling - notice the spelling) Nawabs once ruled (followed of course by the British). In the18th century they built these impressive tombs complete with ingenious defensive features, including early CCTV. A pool was positioned in such a way that it was possible to see the reflection of the invaders/drawbridge to drawbridge salesmen.

Lucknow was also the site of the Indian uprising in 1857. Almost 3000 British residents were holed in to the residency buildings for almost 3 months. Many perished in the conditions due to disease.

The city has moved on and It now has a very classy modern district with shops, parks, flyovers and lots of statues. The current head of Utter Pradesh (Lucknow is the capital) was so vain that she even commissioned (with civil money) a huge statue of herself, brandishing a handbag. Certainly reminded me of a certain ex British PM.

As well as seeing the sites, it was also a trip to see another one of my Dad's cousins (the Jovial Dr Ghosh), his wife, sister and son. It is always good to have a GP as a relative in India. Before I arrived I did a quick check to see if anything (body parts, organs etc) was missing or indeed if I had any life threatening illnesses. Now was the time if really necessary to get cholera, a cerebral haemorage or even a nasty boil. Fortunately nothing to report. I had stayed before on my first visit although this time I stayed in a nearby hotel as they had some sewage pipe problem that I won't go into. It happened to be their 25th wedding anniversary. As is the case in India, it is not just a special occasion for the couple in question, it becomes a big party where family friends and acquaintances are invited. I was honoured. The party was scheduled at short notice to coincide with my arrival and his son Bintu, who was shortly to go down to Pune to start a new job in the Finance sector.

The party took place in a Lucknow school after a false start, a power cut. It was small by Indian standards (only 100 guests). This is just as well as I was constantly introduced to a stream of distant relatives. 5th cousins, 15 times removed. 4th cousin's, brother in laws mother's goat etc etc etc. Any problem with remembering names and relationships was overcome however. Invariably they would be introduced as "this is your Auntie", "this is your Uncle". I did point out once though that, "Uncle, he's younger than me".

The 25th January, was the day after the party. The following day would be republic day and the city was preparing itself for processions and festivals. Huge hotels and public buildings are draped with lights like huge Christmas trees. At 18.30 my Uncle (Dr Ghosh) took me to the train station to see me off. The Himilgiri Express was scheduled to leave 3 hours earlier but was delayed for some unforseen reason. Maybe a stray cow or goat on the track. Anyway he finally found my carriage - 2 tier AC, just the step below 1st class. He waved goodbye as the train pulled away. The wrong train!. Fortunately though this train was also going to Kolkata, albeit at 20 hours was a little slower.

Thankfully I got to my destination Kolkata in time for My Auntie Gori and Uncle Nilhu's 50th anniversary (yes another one). The ticket inspector on the train was very understanding after two fellow passengers (they happened to be railway engineers) explained my predicament to him. They did have a good laugh at my expense first. A fair trade I would say. On arrival at the Kolkata station I did have to allude the platform ticket inspector. I had a plan, if asked to see my ticket I would have spoken in a rare Hungarian dialect with a lisp and a bad stammer. Eventually the words "no speak English" , "no speak Bengali" and "no Speak Hindi" would have been laboured painfully out of my stuttering lips. They would have given up trying to understand me. The plan was essential to avoid a hefty fine. It turned out that all I did was ignorantly storm past the ticket inspector like a charging bull. Works every time!

The second anniversary was a surprise one in a local restaurant. The buffet food was excellent. Indian influenced Chinese is a perfect hybrid. It lacks the blandness of some of the Chinese dishes or the heavy oiliness of some of the Indian dishes. Another round of introductions to Aunts and Uncles ensued. Once my Auntie and Uncle got over the shock of the surprise they genuinely seemed to enjoy themselves. Such events in India are usually alcohol free, so they didn't have a few drinks to hide behind as we would in the UK. As is customary in these events, they draped garlands around each other and placed a lot of emphasis on cutting the cake.

On Jatin Das roads mornings are noisy. A chorus of crows, cars, shouting etc. Street vendors are selling their wears at a ridiculously early hour. What are they selling - only the Gods know. Could be ear plugs I suppose.

For the past few days I have not really been doing much in Kolkata, just relaxing really. Ive caught a few movies on DVD (including 127 hours). I did quite a bit of walking around, just watching the world go by in this this relatively clean and leafy neighbourhood. This is what I saw: decaying colonial buildings; decaying new buildings; the odd hand pulled rickshaw (a rare site now in most Indian cities) emerging from the fog; people selling Chai in disposable clay cups;a shop selling exotic musical instruments; numerous mustard yellow Ambassador taxis (used to be just about the only car in Kolkata 14 yrs ago); a beggar with twisted limbs; many tailor shops; several guys sat on the pavement playing cards; sellers of flower garlands, gifts for someones God of choice or wife of choice if it is for an anniversary finally the odd a stray cow. Despite the poverty and wobbly pavements that almost look like they have suffered bomb damage, I genuinely feel safer it Kolkata than Stockport town centre. There are now stray cows of course other than the silly drunken variety that you see clutching a bag of chips on a Saturday night.

I'm going to moo off now

Posted by gavinbose 08:03 Archived in India Comments (0)

Pondy but not Pongy

Pondicherry and Chennai

sunny 28 °C

Never trust a book by it's cover, a salesman by his handshake, an Indian hotel by it's gleaming white foyer (distracts from the horrors beyond). Never trust a town by the grim bus station on its outskirts at 1am. This can be said for Pondicherry.

Trips to kolkata, due to the pollution, often have me gasping for air. There are two ways to cleanse your lungs - the mountains (more of that later) and the seaside. On 31st Jan I opted for the latter.

Pondicherry is a town with untitary status although it is geographically embeded Southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu. This is where skin tones are as dark as southern African. The state capital of Tamil Nadu is Chennai (formerly Madras). If you fancy a hot Madras well it is pretty much hotter than the North. Temperatures are about 30 degrees but the sea breeze does help, fortunately it cools down in the evening. In the summer you can expect 40 degrees.

14 years ago I had traveled extensively over Southern India as part of my first trip (5 months) to India. The rationale was that I will always return to NE India, as most of my family live in the North east. One place I missed out for some inexplicable reason was Pondicherry. Cheap internal air fare got me there finally, via a 2 hour plus flight to Chennai. I am yet to hear anything good about Chennai, and that is from the Tamils. Sprawling polluted and lacking in historical sites. With this in mind, after arriving at Chennai airport at 8pm on 31st January, I took a pre paid cab to the bus stop to catch an apparently luxury AC coach directly to Pondy (as it is affectionately known). Unfortunately all the destinations on the buses (going past every few minutes) were usually only in Tamil. The taxi driver waited with me for 15 minutes to no avail. A kindly student volunteered to wait with me, even at the expense of missing his own bus until the said bus arrived. After one hour no sign until I heard the cry 'Pudicherry (also known as)'. Unfortunately the rusty, windowless, prehistoric, bit of twisted metal that looked like it had escaped from a scrap heap was not the AC version but was the standard bus. I was sick of waiting. After checking the terms of my holiday insurance i jumped on board. Any notion of comfort was jetisoned. Like a hamster emerging from a tumble dryer, I emerged shaken and stirred 3 hours and 160km later. At least it was relatively fast if not painless.

I must admit that my first thoughts were 'what is all the fuss about'. In the morning it quickly became clear. Pondy is a former French colony, gaining full independence 50 years ago. It is a labyrinth of tree lined boulevards ,quaint narrow streets (some cobbled). The Mediterranean architecture is all pillars balconies, court yards etc. Admittedly many of the buildings are crumbling ruins. An international operation has sought to renovate the streets and buildings which it is doing bit by bit. Some of the old hotels are the centre piece of this project. They have been brought back to their original glory with pristine pastel coloured external decoration. The sea front is relatively clean and is popular for evening walks. Fine churches (including the Church of our lady of immaculate conception and Ashrams are dotted all over town. A spiritual leader (a freelance Jesus I suppose) based himself from here. According to legend, after his death his powers were passed on to a French lady until she died in Pondy in 1973, aged 97.

As is keeping with the Mediterranean feel it is very much the cafe culture. I spent much of my time sipping decent coffee, fruit juice and Lassi, people watching or just reading a good book. Perfectly relaxing. An undisputed gift that the British left india was the railways. We didn't leave them fish and chips or Hollands pies however. In this small enclave of india the French did however leave their cuisine. French food and of course the odd lassi is all I have been eating. Perfect, as I am no fan of southern indian food, neither are many Northern Indians. It is often just a greasy, salty overcooked mess lacking in any protein. 4 days of eating lovely fish and beef dishes. The cakes are also a winner.

Their version of French cuisine is not however the typical Nouvelle cuisine style with the poncy sized portions. "Can I have the wine list please and oh bring me a magnifying glass for the meal". None of that over fussy style of presentation that looks like a minimalist bit of contemporary art rather than a hearty meal. You know what I mean, the price of the meal is disproportionately related to the size. \
Instead it is really satisfying. You can get a decent main meal for 2.50 (and that is expensive for India).

To counteract the food there was plenty of activity including just plain walking around. I took one afternoon on a nearby beach, hoping to do a bit of swimming although the menacingly sized breakers caused a retreat. Also I had discovered that people had recently drowned. The beach was no, Goa, Kerala, or Andamans but refreshing nevertheless.

For 3 days I visited a local gym, just round the corner from the hotel. The owner is a short tubby chap. A plaque for Mr Pondicherry Weigtlifing championship 2010 is permanently on his desk. "Is that you" I asked. Guiltily he looked at his stomach. "I am out of shape at the moment". Anyway he is very eager to offer advice and was mentoring a pretender to the throne when I was there

I was determined to take just 24 hours in Chennai. Worth a visit but only if you can stomach the traffic. I heard so much about the paralysed snails pace even away from rush hour. As the airport is 25 km I decided to stay fairly near. On the evening of 5th Feb I took the bus but decided to jump off 2 miles before the destination as the traffic was moving at a slower pace than a stoned Sloth.

Back in Kolkata. The 8th February was a day for celebrating the God of Education and for some reason it means no meat until the evening. Anyone caught eating meat will face lines and/ or a detention. I shared a surprise birthday party with the god evening also. Uncles, Aunties, Cousins were present. I got a nice shirt and chocolate cake with my name on and an honorary PHD in Art and Literature from the God

I'm off now - home time.

Posted by gavinbose 03:28 Archived in India Comments (0)

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