Sunday, December 27, 2015

The calm before the storm

I was hyperventilating all day before my departure for Bangladesh for some reason beyond comprehension. I had the sense of something being wrong and that nagging feeling just didn't leave me that entire day. I was strung out for most parts and the feeling only escalated as the time of my departure neared. I couldn't sleep that night.

Landing in Kolkata made me feel much better. I had never been to the city. Since it was my first time there, I wanted to absorb as much as I could in the knowledge that my time here was limited. Music muted, senses enhanced, the adventurer in me awoke.

The first thing I was hit by was the distinct scent of paan - something that I found is all around the city. I got on to a bus asking him if it would go to Park Street. He said something in Bengali that I couldn’t make head or tail of but he nodded, which was enough cue to hop on. I asked the girl beside me where I should be getting off. She suggested MG Road Metro Station and then asked me to take the rail to where I wanted to go. I liked the idea of having something else to check out after a bus ride, so I did.

That being India's first underground metro rail system came as little surprise given the stark difference between that and the one that I'm accustomed to in Bangalore. At first, I was taken aback by the crowd hustling in and out of the rail - that was packed to the brim - at that station. The crowd intimidated me. I thought it was a bad idea and tried to exit the station. Eventually I decided to go through with it. I got into a relatively emptier train that came along after a while. A friend had suggested I go to Edesia for brunch. I got off at Rabindra Sadan and began walking along the streets and was quite marvelled by the old-street charm that it was adorned with.

Walking past hordes of street hawkers catering to the many who depended on them for their breakfast, I didn't bother looking at Google maps for directions. Instead, I asked people in the good old way that it used to be done before the invention of smartphones. Around me were students scurrying to college, office-goers fighting a race against time to get to work, children being forced to go to school and some lovely looking food - which I regret not tasting in hindsight. (I thought I would on my way back from Bangladesh, which was a grave mistake as I never got the chance!)

On my way to the eatery, I stumbled upon St Joseph's Old Age Home. I ventured in and asked the matron if I could spend some time there; she was more than happy. I spent a couple of hours there, chatting with different people who were thrilled to have someone to talk to about life, their experiences and families. It was extremely satisfying and filled me up with loads of inspiration. If love is found in the most unexpected corners, so is inspiration.

After brunch, I headed towards Park Street where I was supposed to meet a friend. I strolled around the area more so to stay awake than kill time. I finally met her (for the first time!), we had some lovely steak at a local joint and a great time before I had to leave for the airport. Albeit being tired, I was thrilled with how my day had panned out; I loved travelling alone in a city that was alien to me.

If travelling alone for most parts in a city I had never visited was such a great experience, how different could Bangladesh be? I was all set for Bangladesh, or so I thought.