Of course I forgot to mention in the previous post that in between dropping in to the two schools and the university we went back to the hotel, Taj Bengal, (which is a lovely hotel, glorious rooms, brilliantly comfortable, great breakfast, afternoon serenading by string quartet, and such pleasant and smiling staff – all the time, even when there is chaos all around), I received a phone call from reception. They were confirming my check out time (I thought) but then I was informed that our car in which we were being transported everywhere around Kolkata had been upgraded. We now had a Jaguar to take us to the airport. “But I have to deliver a lecture at Calcutta University first and go to the Coffee House and then the airport.” “No problem Mr Cheng.” “Ok.” “And would you mind signing our Visitor’s Book.” Stunned silence. I did wonder why. “Of course.” “Would you like us to bring it up to your room?” But as you can see in the photo below (everyone else skedaddled) I signed the book in reception where a number of staff were present, including a manager or two to assist my check out and to also snap a few photos of their own (I guess to stick in the book alongside my scrawled note). It seems that being featured in a news story in the Times of India (that was one of the interviews conducted in the hotel coffee shop) – complete with photo – I might have been spotted.
So that was a rather surprising end to my hotel stay in Kolkata. By the time we got to the car, after many farewells and calls of ‘please do come again’, the bags were packed (the Jaguar has a large boot) and we were off. And I do applaud the driver. I cannot believe how narrow some of the streets were that he drove down – especially around the university. I was thinking ‘please don’t scratch the jag. They won’t have me there again!’ The hotel drivers rarely honk the car horns … but that sound followed me right to the airport. It was the first sound I remember of India and it will be the last.
Kolkata International airport. Now that is an airport in dire need of a remodel, rework, drop and rebuild. It was sooooo depressing and in desperate need of repair (broken tiles, torn seats and lounges, no PA system and heaps more). There were also no Duty Free shops for me to spend the money I had just changed at the hotel. argh! Luckily with flight delays (there was a problem with the originating Silk Air flight) I was able to shop in Singapore.
SO – that is my trip to attend the Bookaroo Festival and the Australia – India Council tour. Just a surprisingly wonderful time.
More on the Carolinas later but Pam Vaughan (official photographer for the New England conference last weekend) has just sent me oodles and poodles of photos … so if you don’t want to see piccies of me in action – then look away now! There are photos of me with friends, of me panelling, photos […]