Overland to Bangladesh 1973 – Part 10: Delhi to Calcutta
Delhi to Calcutta
My departure from Delhi was chaotic. I had lost the Left Luggage ticket for my trunk and in order to reclaim it, I was told to get an indemnity bond. This involved finding a shop in the bazaar nearby and queuing, then finding someone to explain how to fill in the form, which was blank, and finally – two hours later – being reunited with my trunk. It was taken with all speed to the luggage office to get it registered for the journey. The official looked at me gloomily and informed me that I had missed my train.
However, my watch told me there were still five minutes to go, so I paid for the trunk, left it with them and ran! (By then, I was relaxed about the idea of the trunk coming on a different train.) This afforded local spectators with the extraordinary sight of a laden European running up stairs in the heat of the afternoon.
I jumped onto the train as it was moving out of the platform and was very grateful that I’d chosen an air-conditioned carriage. It was rather noisy with a number of crying children, one of whom held up the train for quarter of an hour when it got lost.
The next morning it rained heavily near Benares and rivers became swollen. We reached Howrah Station about an hour late at 5.30pm. Stepping out of the air-conditioned carriage, the humidity hit me. That and the fact that there were people everywhere. The station was like a small town.
I took a taxi to the YMCA where I took a rather pricey but clean room which I shared with a paunchy Indian hotelier called Banerjee. He had been in the same carriage as me coming from Delhi. My journal does not record what Banerjee was doing in Calcutta, but next morning he got up and dressed to kill – new leather boots, white trousers and a new white shirt.
I found my bearings, went sightseeing and sent a telegram and a letter to Hassan: the telegram to Jessore where we had arranged to meet, the letter as a back-up to his Dacca address. I also took a bus to Howrah to see if my trunk had arrived. It hadn’t.
The next day, Sunday, Banerjee and I were served early morning tea, then breakfasted together. After lunch, I took a tram to Howrah and was delighted to find my trunk had arrived. There was the usual ceremonious form-filling ritual, made pleasant by helpful officials. They advised me to take it to the Bangladesh ‘office’ for information about transporting it. So I took a taxi there. It turned out to be the Bangladesh High Commission, which was closed. That evening I had an excellent Chinese meal and returned to the YMCA for an early night. Banerjee was there and as usual went into ecstasies about the gastronomic delights of his day – “very good fish!”