Kolkata, February 19 2005
Whato my merry pranksters.
Just a quickie today (whehey I hear you cry). To be honest, the Internet cafe is the coolest place in this sweatbox that is Kolkata!
I've been thwarted twice in the last 48 hours and my saint-like patience is being sorely tested. Yesterday, in an effort to soak up some culture, I set off on a forced march to the Queen Victoria Memorial. The memorial was built by Lord Curzon (Viceroy of India) to commemorate the Empress Queen and its design is based on that of the Taj Mahal (if it ain't broke, don't fix it). After 45 minutes of traffic dodging, tout avoiding, beggar side-stepping madness I arrived at my destination, soggy but unbowed. Following a gentle stroll around the gardens I made for the entrance to the building itself. As I approached the ticket office an armed and uniformed security guard stepped out and told me that no bags were allowed inside. I asked if there was a locker room where I could leave my bag and Mr Guards response was simply to turn away.
After careful consideration and a survey of the defences, noting the 6 armed guards and the size of the building, it seemed obvious that there was only one course of action available to me. Recalling Wellingtons tactics during the Peninsular War, I decided that a 'forlorn hope' charge was called for. Wellington had 100,000 men, heavy siege batteries and a fair bit of experience. I, on the other hand, had my trusty swiss army knife, a melted wurthers original caramel and factor 20 sun cream as my only protection............With a glance up at Her Majesty for approval and whistling 'Nimrod' to myself, I set off on my charge. "Cannon to right of me, Cannon to left of me, Cannon in front of me, Volleyed and thundered; Stormed at with shot and shell, Boldly I rode and well, Into the jaws of Death, Into the mouth of Hell, Rode erm, me" (yes, i know that was the Crimea)............................"Excuse me, are you open tomorrow? I'll come back without my bag".
Today, undeterred by yesterdays failure, I set out in the opposite direction, this time to Eden Gardens, probably India's most famous Cricket venue and rated 3 behind the MCG and Lords. Another 45 minute slog, yet more perspiring and the satisfaction of staring down a tout to the point where he turned round and was almost run over by a tram (you get your kicks where you can find them) and there I was, staring up at the stadium. I approached the 15 armed and uniformed guards and my happiest, smiliest face on this time I was almost man-handled away from the entrance. I asked when the next game was on and where I could get tickets and was basically told that there weren't any games on and I'd never get a ticket. After that parry, I riposted with a "can I speak to someone from the West Bengal Cricket Association please". "No" came the reply. Little did the Marxist guerrilla know that back in my hotel I had a letter of introduction and the name of West Bengals head honcho. When I go back as a guest of the president (I can dream), I'll point the would be Stalin out and have him strung up from the floodlights.
For the record Dad, much is said about the staff at Lords being surly and unhelpful. They are positively courteous compared with their Kolkatan cousins. Mind you, imagine if we armed the MCC guards with 1918 Lee Enfields.
I'm off now, I have to look up another venue I can be turned way from. I'm considering making it my objective to be turned away from as many tourist attractions as possible. Mind you, having been to Delhi, Agra and Calcutta there aren't many places left that I can go and not see.
Toodle pip old fruits.
Lot's of love.