Well I survived the special Manipuri feast that was laid on for us last night.
It comprised on a large silver tray with banana leaf on top of it. Above that in the centre was a mound of rice which had another 8 tasty morsels piled around it in separate piles. They were all vegetarian and included to my dismay one pile of peas in some green mush, one pile of cauliflower (didn’t try that one), one pile of lawn clippings (looked like), one pile of diced radish, one of potato, one of stringy green stuff and one comprised of two chillies (or pickles) coated in brown stuff. As you will have figured by now food is not one of my strong points – especially vegetarian, but I did try it all apart from the cauliflower. It was tasty, but not a taste suited to my Neanderthal taste buds.
Complimenting it all was four little oblong boxes also cleverly made out of banana leaf one of which thankfully contained 3 tiny pieces of chicken in a brown type of gravy, one with brown sludge which I think was dal (made from some sort of vegetable), one with a tasty soup (content unknown to me), one with what I was told was pineapple pieces but tasted nothing like pineapple to me, and finally and best of all one with rice pudding – made with some weird red rice.
The meal as beautifully presented, and I am sure it would have really been appreciated by someone with a more refined palate than mine. They had made it specially for us, it only cost $10 each, so it was value for money if only for the experience (in my case), I am pretty sure Vijay, who is far more cultured than me enjoyed his – to my good fortune he doesn’t like rice pudding so I got his also – yehaa!!
After that we headed back to our room for our usual bedside chat and then we had a relatively early night.
Next morning we headed to the Airport, passing on the way some people and a couple of Soldiers standing on the footpath beside a man who was lying on his back, obviously dead. Just another standard day in Manipur. The morning paper had headlines and photos of 50 cars that had been set alight the night before in more civil unrest.
At the airport we checked in and sat in the waiting area for our plane which was due to leave in 90 minutes. After about 30 minutes waiting an announcement came over the intercom which I couldn’t understand, but it pricked Vijays ears, he reckoned they were calling his name. He said it must be something to do with me and that I should accompany him. He was right and wrong, they were paging him, but it was because he had left his laptop in the tray when it went through the scanner. The security people saw it, turned it on and luckily it wasn’t password protected so they went into it and found his name on a document. Good detective work, and Vijay who had forgotten to claim it was very relieved to get it back (not that he knew he was without it!)
Our plane left on time, Vijay and I got shifted to the exit row seats, and after 50 minutes we arrived in Kolkata (Calcutta) 15 minutes early. From the airport we caught a taxi into town. The taxi was a Morris Oxford – there are thousands in use as taxis, all manuals, no air conditioning, electric windows or synchromesh (girls – ask an older man what that means!!). They have a phrase in Kolkata where you pay too much for something – they say you were “looted”, we paid 650 Rupees (NZ$13) for the journey into town, the traffic was horrendous and took more than one hour, but it’s possible we paid too much – that might have been the first of 3 “lootings” we had in Kolkata.
It was nearly 40 degrees with 95% humidity. We had no booking but I was confident of getting somewhere for a good haggled discount. We went to a couple of dives which we rejected then tried the flash Park Hotel. They were full – there is an IPL cricket match in town tomorrow night, they said the Grand Oberoi might have a room – I knew from having a mega expensive drink at the Oberoi in Agra that it would be super, super nice, but exorbitantly expensive, but we went there anyway and I haggled. They would do us a room at half price but at $200 it was more than we wanted to spend so after one more attempted (but rejected) price grind we departed opulence and found our way to the Peerless Inn Hotel.
It is a nice Hotel, but certainly not as Opulent as the Oberoi. I ground them down to a discount of almost 50%, and for $130 we took the room.
We dumped our bags and headed out first to a restaurant I hadn’t been to for quite a while to sample their cuisine. I was quite peckish after my fine dining of grass and other green stuff last night and wanted to put something more filling and identifiable to me in my belly.
After leaving McDonalds we made our way to the Victoria Memorial – it is a magnificent 100 year old building, truly a stunning building. We took some photos there and then paid a cab to take us on a circuit that went across an amazing new suspension bridge across the Hooghly River, upstream and then back across the old Iron bridge back over the Hooghly River again. The cabby wanted to use the meter which is unusual and at the end of the drive there was 560 Rupees (approx NZ$11) on the meter. We later figured that the meter was rigged and had accumulated too fast, which was why he was keen to use the meter (Looting no 2).
He dropped us off near the Hotel and we went back to our room to cool down for a while. At about 8.30pm Vijay said he felt like a beer so we headed out to a bar in a hotel 5 minutes walk from our Hotel. We were the only ones there (Tuesday night), and we had a Heineken each. We were stunned when they charged us NZ$30 for the 2 beers. That was our 3rd and by far the worst “looting” of the day. We were in shock for the rest of the evening.
Our last evening away together drew to an end having been triple looted today. Tomorrow Vijay flies back home to Delhi.