Saturday, March 22, 2014

Leaving Calcutta; On to Patna; The Day the Gora Died in the Shop

Mark and I had the morning free yesterday, so we met up with Sayak- a OneBeat fellow, to show us around Calcutta.  Sayak took us to find DJ equipment in the electronic market in Chowringhee Rd but the store he had located was closed.  He made some calls and found out it would be open later.  We would return later.

We hopped a cab with him to the Victoria Memorial, the stunning marble dome and merringue moment to the Empress of India.  We strolled around the grounds, and through the monument, looking at the old intricate Mughal and British weapons, and the British East India-commissioned paintings in Romantic style of India.

After a nice stroll around the monument, we hopped another cab to the giant bridge spanning the Houghly River, the mighty body of water which abutts Calcutta.  We sat under the shade of the giant bridge span that reminded me of Charleston and chatted about collaboration outlines for our upcoming program as boatman steered their little falucca in the turbid water.

We caught a cab back through the teeming streets, back to the market to find some in a market speakeasy some actual DJ equipment that we would use and eventually leave behind for the budding Indian DJs we would groom.

We lunched over the delicious Calcutta Egg Roll- the omelette chapati slathered in chili sauce and red onions, which our consummate host treated us to.  

Mark and I packed up and checked out of the opulent palace.  One of the staffers at the Grand Oberoi gave me a goodbye present in the form of traditional chimes.  I was quite touched.  We took a car to the airport and checked through the security procedure.

Mark went pashmina shopping for his wife, and I was trying to get wifi.  The bar had wifi, so I popped in and figured I would grab a drink while I checked my email.  I looked at the menu and ordered a whiskey on the rocks for 360 rupees (a lil more than $5).  I checked my email and waited a bit for Mark.

I finished my drink and asked for the bill. Instead of it being 360 rupees, it was 950 rupees.  Puzzled, I asked why.  The bartender told me I got a large whiskey.  I responded that I had only asked for a whiskey. On the rocks.

Yes, but you drank the large serving, which is a double.

But I didn't ask for a double.

But you drank it.

Grr...okay, that makes 720, where did the extra 230 come from?  Apparently taxes and service charge.  I knew to give up, because I wasn't going to win.

We flew to Patna on a tiny little carrier.  We arrived, checked in to our hotel and I wandered off on the street for dinner.

There were some roadside carts serving food so I sat down on a small bench above the ground to have a bite.  I think I am probably the only gora who ever ate there, because they laughed and stared.  I ate my egg curry and vegetables with chapati while the eyes of the fellow diners were on me.  As I was sitting on the ground, I felt myself getting bitten by fleas.  I tried to eat faster to get away from the itchy bites, but they kept piling chapatis on my plate and I felt forced to finish.  Finally, I finished the dish and quickly got up and out. My arms looked like braille.

The next day, Mark, Saaida- the Consulate's cultural affairs specialist accompanying us and I went to St. Karen's school- the place where we will be hosting the music residency in Patna.  St. Karen's is a Christian school on the outskirts of Patna- at least it is sponsored by missionaries but the students are all Hindu or Muslim.  This is rather common in India.  There is a Jewish School in Calcutta with nary a Hebrew.

Anyway, we were greeted with flowers and rolis- marks of blessing on our foreheads.  We met with the principal and staff, then toured the fine school and met in the auditorium with some students.  Mark introduced the program.  Beyond teaching the kids about hip hop and breakdance, we are working with these students to design PSAs related to issues that affect youth such as gender violence.

And I introduced myself since I would be returning to work with the kids with the program.  I greeted them with a big namaste and they all laughed.  They made me demonstrate some aspect of hip hop, so I gave a meager attempt at beatboxing.  Later, the kids gave us dance demonstrations of the hip hop dances they knew and also of Bollywood.


After our visit, we headed back to the city center amid teeming streets of full-on traffic including rickshaws, motor bikes, cars and cows.

I stopped outside the hotel for some lunch in a little samosa shop.  I got some kachori chaat- a fried lentil puff- smashed and covered in chickpea stew and topped with chili pepper.  As I was eating it, I managed to inhale some of the chili powder into my lungs and proceeded to choke and die in the small shop.  Hacking and crying, I tried to catch my breath as the whole shop stared at me.  The guy behind the counter was kind enough to get me some water, but I figured that would be a lil extra death so I grabbed a small limca soda to wash the pepper away.  Once I could breathe again, we all had a good laugh at my expense.

Later that afternoon, we visited another dance school and we spoke about the program and doing some workshops for them, and they demonstrated for us.  And then they taught us some Bollywood moves.




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