Travel Diary: I am serious, a city HATES me … KOLKATA

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I know. And you know (by now at least) that things do just happen to me.
Say, what is the odds of being struck by a car in Kolkata? 
PRETTY LOW it seems despite the chaotic traffic.
Factor in Christmas Day on New Market.
Even LOWER.
Lastly, add in the probability of being ramped on the very same knee that screams murder when in rains.
NEVER.
Yet, I survived that fate and unlike the thin inferior paper place mat in Bar-B-Q, Park Street that suggested that those born in the same lunar year as me are megalomaniacs, trust me, I’d rather much prefer a normal non-eventful existence.
 Photo © Penelope Gan – New Market, Kolkata – Meat Section – All Rights Reserved
 Photo © Penelope Gan – New Market, Kolkata – back street – All Rights Reserved
{photo dedicated to Keat khor khor – :p}
With this odd occurrence, I knew with 100 per cent certainty they weren’t joking about the fine prints on the accompanying slip in the Vicodin box. What I’m trying to validate here is Dr. House’s beloved obsession does not just work. It work-WORKS! 
I had a car driving straight into me for a good few seconds, knocking my sorry “80-year old” knee some 6 feet distance before I realised I was being hit by a car! Besides the patella doing an impressive 90 degree shift (as you would have witnessed soccer player’s patella’s misbehaving and them knocking it back with the blow of the back of their palms in the past), nothing seems amiss and I continued my stroll around Kolkata covering an impressive distance that includes Bertram St, Mott Sil St, Madan St and Lenin Sarani in search of the perfect famed Bengali sweets, before heading back to Park St to get some books at Oxford Bookstore prior to dinner at Oberoi.
  Photo © Penelope Gan – Christmas Window Decoration in Kolkata – All Rights Reserved
By around midnight when most around me were walking a tight rope between reality and nirvana under the influence of brandy soaked fruitcake and Yorkshire pudding washed down with excessive amounts of port and after dinner vino (which I can’t understand and appreciate for its excessive sweetness) in the plush Oberoi dinning room, the pain kicked in and stayed on till New Year’s eve, where I learned that Vicodin fine prints meant business to the ‘t’ once again.
The thing with Kolkata is not merely: things just happens to me.
It was a sordid case of a city with a vengeance to pay.
Christmas Eve. National Museum.
The signage hanging at the gates said something to the effect of stowing bags away. I asked the ticket counter if I could bring my Domke into the museum with me and showed him the bag and its content, patiently explaining why I wanted the entire four-point-something-kilo load with me at all times. The ticket attendant was not the friendliest person on earth, but then again had you stuck me in that hole behind a glass with a tint film that’s even extracting itself from its location in protest, and only the dirt as dark as soot seems contented to stay on, I too would be the moodiest person who walks on this earth. 
Point is after lots of grunts and loud spats in Bengali (I assume), he said ‘ok’ and threw me my tickets and change in crumpled, soggy rupees. I don’t know about you, but my temperature automatically rises 3 degrees when someone yells at me and ‘jumps’ a further 5 degrees when money is thrown, not handed over, to me. I find the latter terribly offensive… but I’ll allow one exception –  if it’s at least a million bucks, oh hell yeah, you may throw it at me.
Determined not to be bothered by the rude ticket attendant, I made my way to the security scanning post just before the entrance. Typical of all security check points in India, I can’t help being more worried about the shoddy wobbly wooden  structure with a black rectangle box with two LED lights; one green one red, attached at the top of the frame from falling on me rather than the red LED going off along with a deafening siren, signaling the dogs to come get me. So, keeping my sights firmly on the wooden frame, as if my gaze was enough to steady it, I step through the frame only to be met by an out stretched palm that stopped centimeters away from my chest.

I can’t believe this. I am denied entry with my Domke!
Either the National Museum guards are (a) deaf, (b) pre-programmed with a ‘IN – NO BAG. NO IN – BAG.’ or (c) thick, yes, I was refused entry with more grunts and louder protestation in what I assume must be Bengali with some mild man-handling. 

{god, if only they spoke Hindi, which I am more familiar with, maybe (just maybe) I won’t feel so offended}
‘Fine’, I thought. Who wants to visit your lousy museum anyways?’ and I headed back to the ticket counter and demanded my rupees back. No luck.

With more grunts that was accompanied by tiny molecules of liquid flying across the space between us, only to be stopped by the tinted glass, I lost it. I yelled the place down in my typical fashion; though a milder version of WT’s performance in Charles de Gaulle and Sentosa Island … memories that are shimmering at the top of my head lately as our carpet smuggling, bazaar hunting and Tagine meals  ‘expedition’ draws nearer this year. :)

Anyways, admittedly, under such conditions, curiously I too, can be incapable of any embarrassment. My mind is laser focus on ‘What’s Principally Right’.

Interestingly, whilst I was spotting a beetroot red face by then and having a hoarse throat, no one behind the counter seems to have been affected. Heck! Not a spec of bacteria on the once white marble counter top drop or flinched either. So, it’s confirmed.

The National Museum people/bacteria/dirt/etc. are (a) deaf, (b) pre-programmed ‘IN – NO BAG. NO IN – BAG.’, (c) thick, (d) all of the above. 

Upset that I had just subsidised 20 Indians’ tickets with my foreign visitor entrance fee, I left and headed for Oxford Bookshop… attempting to find refuge amongst things that says a lot to me without being annoyingly audible

… only to discover that the (a) deaf, (b) pre-programmed ‘IN – NO BAG. NO IN – BAG.’ rule exist in all entrances in Kolkata. 
More absurd, I was told point blank that the ‘IN – NO BAG. NO IN – BAG.’ policy is exercised to avoid shoplifting. 
aaahhhhh… so, the guard surrounded by books was a slight improvement, in that he could vocalise some comprehensible words unlike his long lost prehistoric ‘cousins’ who grunts like the taxidermy collection in the museum once did. Well, I guess it must be true when they say that the environment shapes a person!
Any how not wanting to work out the arithmetic and economic logic of me leaving 3 lakh worth of camera equipment with the guard at Oxford Bookstore, just so to curb my probable itch to flick a 30 rupees bookmark … I left in a fury for Flurry’s across the road …

to be continued …
{in my upcoming account / POV on traveling in West Bengal … an itinerary I still owe Keat khor khor} 

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