Life's Rich Pageant
Notes From Calcutta
As you may have read in last week's blog, my friend G. ended up staying in a place called the Howrah Hotel, out by Howrah Station in Calcutta. The famous nearby Howrah Bridge (sorry, I have no photos) is a great place to contemplate the human condition and your place therein. I recommend standing on the side of the pedestrian path near sundown, when the bridge literally groans with the weight of commuters.
It's like a parade of every vehicle from every century has reconvened for a slow crawl in the purple smog....bicycles, pony carts, stray cows and dogs, pedestrians, cycle rickshaws, auto rickshaws, private cars, Ambassador taxis, trucks, and the traditional Bengali-style long boats glide silently beneath. You begin to feel very, very small....as well you should.
On the same note, I had a psychedelic experience in Howrah Station itself. No drugs necessary - just immerse yourself in the crowds whirling about you. I became disoriented, though I was standing in one place. Finally I had to sit down on a wooden bench and just gaze at the glowing-green, shifting electronic timetables. The Bengali script started to fuse with the English and Hindi and I really didn't see individuals anymore, just forms of energy.
It will happen if you stay in India long enough. If you are lucky, that is. "Why do people go to India to find themselves? India is where you go to lose yourself."
The Howrah appears to be one of the old-school die-hard budget hotels, much like the famous (or is it notorious? ) Broadlands Lodge of Chennai. G. said it was a near-clone of the Broadlands, which is high commendation coming from a Carnatic music buff. Except, he noted, everything is dirtier - it IS Calcutta - and for those who know the Broadlands, that is really saying something.
Anyway, here are G.'s photos of the Howrah and beneath them, my photos of the Broadlands. Almost twins. I love that distinctive, garish Indian Blue paint (never seen it anywhere else, except possibly the Caribbean, where it is said to ward off evil spirits). The above are all photos of Howrah Hotel.
Below is the Broadlands. If you need to find these hallowed halls in Chennai, just tell the rickshaw driver "Star Cinema."
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