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A Spot of Kolkata

With woody still under the weather, once again, your dear correspondent, Mr. Scott Norton, returns to the writing desk.

We were speeding through Eastern Bihar towards the border of West Bengal when Woody mentioned he wasn’t feeling so hot. His stomach was the culprit along with purple and green discoloration on his hands.


“What do you think this is?”

“Have you tried washing it off?”

“Its probably nothing.”

We both offered explanations about the blotches, but neither of us dare mention leprosy after thee encounters of the night previous. Leprosy takes longer than 12 hours to take hold, right?

The train was three hours late and Woody pounded a breakfast of omelets and toast in an attempt to reboot his system by loading his inbox. “Not helpful,” he groaned.

He put on his flowing Khadi pants, and attempted to coax his body into healing itself.

Woody Snoozing.JPG

As he dozed, I fielded phone calls and sms messages from our dear friend and Kolkata native, Mannan Jalan. His family was so gracious as to extend an offer to stay in his home during our transit; an offer we accepted without pause or debate. It looked like Woody would need a cool, dry, silent place to let his immune system work at maximum capacity.

Out the train window, signs now boasted Bengali text. Welcome to Kolkata, Howrah Station. Alighting from the train, I unsheathed my camera to see it completely fogged up, and rendered unusable by the humidity change.

As we haggled for a taxi, rain came to Kolkata. As we rolled through traffic, the rain poured in sheets on the street vendors and coolies transporting goods. After a series of phone calls and questions our driver approximated the location of the house, in the usual indian way, of asking each person he meets on the street from some blocks, then averaging the results. When we finally dismounted, we were found ourselves by a 19th century colonial British abode.

Jalan Residence.JPG

After meeting Mannan’s mother and aunt, we were received in the parlor and drank cold water. After an enchanting conversation over chilled drinks, Woody retired to our quarters for a rest. I showered and shaved for the first time in a while and was shown to Mannan’s old room boasting internet. I worked and blogged fiercely, coding away problems in the blog and becoming ever more intimate with the Google Maps API.

I tried to make small-talk with Mannan’s little sister who was less talkative than a field mouse. Mannan’s mother however, was refreshingly apt to converse and offered me a drink. Accepting, we sat as ice, limes, and liquor were brought. We continued veins of the day’s earlier conversation, discussing the Baghvad Gita, Yoga, and the healing powers of emotion. Mannan’s sister darted into the room and alerted us that a Hindi TV station broke news of space aliens attacking Romanian mig fighters. After 30 seconds of this alarming news, it was time for me to get back to work.


Waking up the next morning, we photographed Woody’s discolored hands and emailed them to his mother nonchalantly. Breakfast of lentil pancakes, curd, and strong black coffee was exactly what we needed before saying our farewells and piling back in an automobile. Speeding toward the airport, we phoned Nikhil in Ahmedabad and stole our last peeks of the city.


  1. Chief Snakecharmer | June 24th, 2008 | 1:14 am

    Man man,

    What did that to your hands? India is a far better place than doing something like this to a guest’s hands 🙂

    Looking forward to hosting you again.

  2. Andres Douglas | June 25th, 2008 | 3:54 pm

    Wow, sounds intense!
    Is that Mannan from Brown?

  3. Patrick McDonald | June 26th, 2008 | 4:48 pm

    For the last forty-five minutes I have perused each article, soaking in the flavor of India. Scott your partner in crime is quite the journalistic poet, however, I’m afraid those unsightly, stomach-churning, purple and green hands need treatment. But I’m no doctor, in fact I sound more like a frantic mother. So, continue wheeling and spending rupees.

    On a tangent, and probably more important than potential leprosy, have the two panama hats survived the journey thus far? It would be a shame, no a travesty, to continue wheeling without the flare of those particular accessories. When you two dawned those burnt straw hats at the beginning of your travels, it was as if I were witnessing two characters made flesh from a Hunter S. Thompson novel–the rum diaries in India.

    Fortunate travels to the asia wheelin cadre, your “valued dear reader.” (I think Woody dabbled in the world of Nabokov)

  4. Woody | June 30th, 2008 | 1:04 am

    Patrick, I’m blushing in Kashgar to hear that you read and are even enjoying my writing. Don’t worry. The panama hats are raging on. In fact Scott has a new one. You’ll see it soon…

  5. AsiaWheeling » Blog Archive » Best of AsiaWheeling | September 21st, 2008 | 2:27 am

    […] Kolkata: the forgotten city […]

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