Since Kolkata was my last stop I waited until then to do some shopping amongst the street bazaars and licensed emporiums. Some shops are licensed by the government and as a visitor there is a huge difference shopping in them and being accosted constantly by touts and shopkeepers wanting you to come to 'their best shop'. The difference is also apparent in that the staff don't pounce on you as you enter and you are free to browse without interruption - such a luxury. Anyway in this one emporium I was looking for a shawl and after a browse found the section with shawls and located an assistant. She was busy showing and explaining to me the different shawls from different regions and asking what weight of shawl I was looking for when out of the corner of my eye I glanced down only to see a rat - the size of a cat scuttle behind my feet.
My jaw dropped - I was unable to speak and my eyes must have shouted 'its a rat'. However the shop assistant nodded and said "Yes rat" - and without missing a beat went on to show me shawls from Kashmir. One of those shawls has come home with me as a memento of that moment although I don't think I will ever forget it or indeed the shop assistant's blase reaction.
My tram journey
I only saw trams in Kolkata and my first sight was after I arrived and while I was in the taxi taking me from the airport to where I was staying. On the way the driver was pointing out sights of interest and what struck me on that journey was the amount of new buildings and apartments going up. The driver was very proud of Kolkata and how it was expanding.
Anyway he pointed out the Kolkata tram which looked a bit ramshackle but nonetheless spiked my interest in getting on one. He explained that the first carriage was first class and the second was carriage was not. I wasn't. sure what the difference was except that a journey in first cost 4 rupees and in second 3.
The next day I managed to find my self at the tram terminus at The Esplanade and thought a tram journey would be a good and cheap way to get a tour of the city - working on the principle that a tram journey is circular and would at some point bring me back to where I started.
This is the driver cooling off before starting:
This is the tram at Esplande terminus:
You can just see the conductor in the second carriage.
Getting on the tram; getting ticket was all easy peasy until the other terminus which in metro terms would be one station so the route is not a long one. Those on the tram got off and new passengers got on. My still being on the tram confused conductor who urged me to get off. I'm trying to make myself understood that I was trying out the tram but going back to where I got on - the language of round trip does not translate!
Anyway as is usual in India when something happens everyone joins in and a passenger with better English than my Hindi explained that I wanted to go back to Esplanade and was happy to pay another 4 rupee fare. I think if I'd got off the tram and got on again he would have been OK it was me staying on which caused the upset. How and ever all ended well.
Bollywood comes to Jaipur
I had joked before I left that I'd hoped to see some Bollywood action as I was going to be in Mumbai. However Bollywood turned up in Jaipur at the Amber Fort where they were using it as a backdrop to a current film. Now the only Indian actor I know is Amitabh Bachchan and low and behold his son Abishek was playing the lead in this film - he is the one in the checked red shirt so people told me:
Now the fort doesn't usually have stalls in its forecourt but they do make a wonderful vibrant sight
A dance sequence - which no self respecting Indian film would be without:
and of course the starlets:
Sadly no western extras required!! - perhaps another day.