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Published: March 21st 2010
6/2/10: It was our last day in Chowringhee Kolkata and we mostly just chilled until we had to make our way to the Howrah train station at 6:00pm. We came across an Indian snake charmer who is so stereo typical for India and I watched as he took two cobras out of his hessian sacks and proceeded to play music his Indian snake charming flute. It was pretty cool and I was only just saying to Jacinta that morning when we might see that. We had some dinner at our local restaurant on the corner and not having meat in for the last 5-6 days was driving both of us crazy so we ordered a Goat madras and chicken curry. It was so nice and it was just what we were looking for, we only hoped it wouldn’t come back and bite us later whilst on the train. We asked the hotel what we should pay for a taxi from Sudder St to Howra train station, he said no more than 70rs so after 6 taxis that wanted to charge us 200rs we were starting to wonder if we would ever find one that cheap. We crossed the road hopping for
better luck and two younger men asked if we wanted a taxi and we said “Howra train station using meter!” they said OK but then proceeded to get in a friendly scuffle who was going to take us. We were torn between two taxis and I even suggested flipping a coin, we ended just choosing a taxi and the other guy excepted defeat. We loaded the bags and he started to murmur something to us in Hindi. We both couldn’t understand and he wasn’t making any effort to be clearer. Finally the other defeated taxi driver translated and said he wanted 200rs, we both immediately said “you use meter 70rs not 200rs” The taxi driver shook his head not excepting our price or to use the meter so we got our bags back out of the boot and walked away. We didn’t walk far only 10m before another taxi pulled over and we had to go through the whole process again. The new taxi driver ended up accepting 80rs with no meter and it was close enough for us.
AN INTERESTING TAXI RIDE: Our taxi driver was to grottiest pig I have ever met, very friendly but grotty. I was
sure he had not had a bath in a week with a stained T-shirt, 2 wks growth and dirt all over his hands he was very unpleasant. The taxi wasn’t too bad on the inside but on the outside was filthy and dinged up. We took off finding our place in the traffic quickly and within seconds he was looking over his shoulder coughing and trying to talk to us at the same time. Jacinta copped a face full of coughed up germs and if he coughed any harder would have had the rest of his lung in her lap. It was a real gurgling cough too, it could only meant one of two things a massive lung infection or TB. He had to stop talking halfway through his sentence to empty the mouthful of chunky flem from his mouth. He spat the gob full out the window and went to carry on his conversation only to be interrupted once again by the pools of infected flem within. Once again spitting out the window but this time he was going to make sure he got it all. With what can only be described as a series of repeated drawbacks followed
by a big hoyk he failed to get the alien out of his lungs the first time and proceeded to choke on the horrid sputum as he tryed drive through horrendous traffic at the same time. I think the size of the foreign body from his lungs even took him by surprise as he couldn’t put enough power into the spit as most of it landed on the driver’s side door letting gravity slide it to its intended destination to the road below. I had told him that we were from Australia and then kept our mouths shut as I needed him to concentrate on other things like going 80km/hour through ridiculous peak hour traffic. It was easier to go faster the closer he got to the sidewalk and with other people walking on the road he sat on his horn to move them out of the way. Some people couldn’t get out of the way fast enough and with a little flick of the steering wheel he managed to brush past them just before he would hit light speed. This happened for another 2km’s as the sheer skill of this driver even enabled him to take a mobile call,
read a texted message whilst me and Jacinta’s knuckles were white from the death grip on the upholstered seats. Weaving in and out of the traffic we witness hundreds of people and families living on the footpath, they built shelters with whatever they could find and it was extremely sad to see but I also hopped that we didn’t have an accident because there was no way I would get out of the car in a slum like this. Just as I had thought this, we almost hit an unsuspecting man that stepped out from the front of a bus and almost had to spend the rest of his years begging on the street with no arms or legs.
He asked us if we were going to the old or new train station, we had no idea that there were two stations and with nothing showing on the tickets we only assumed it was the new station. We made our decision quickly as we were just about to pass the old station. There were literally thousands of people around the train station all either carrying something on their heads or walking. It was very intimidating knowing that we were just about to step out into this. It would be madness to travel to a Kolkata by yourself as you always feel better travelling with someone. Our worst fears had been realised after being dropped off in the sprawling mess only to find out from the information booth that we were in the wrong train station. We had a 400m walk back up to the old train station and we didn’t mess around getting their either. It was probably the quickest I had ever seen Jacinta walk with a backpack and there was no way a beggar was going to hassle us at this speed. We arrived at the old train station with absolutely no hassling what so ever. I can only put it down to our power walk, weaving in and out of the crowds or the people that were walking places just wanted to get home after a hard day’s work and were not the type of people that would hassle you for money. A quick check from the information counter that we didn’t have to go back to the new train station again revealed we were in the right place. We entered the massive station thinking it would be a relief to get inside where it wasn’t so busy, our thoughts couldn’t be more wrong as it was twice as busy inside and within a seconds we had our first beggar hassling us for money. We ended up retreating into a cafe to seek shelter away from the chaos. After ½ hour we met some other backpackers that were travelling to Varanasi and it felt good that we wouldn’t be the only westerners on the train. We said hello but got brushed it turned out that they were all deaf and once we showed our interest in trying to communicate we sat and talked for another hour before having to board the train. We had a great laugh as we told them about our two year adventure and compared notes on where to travelling. We boarded the train just in time walking into a jamb packed carriage full of Indians. Our other fellow travellers were in another carriage and my first impressions were that we wished we paid for first class instead of second. It ended up being fine and with a lovely Hindi speaking Indian couple sitting across from us we found ourselves using simple sign language to communicate again. A couple of hours later we were tucked in and ready to sleep.
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