India 2016: Frogger in Kolkata – 22 March

We arrived in Kolkata this morning, wheels down at 7:02 AM. After a friendly exchange with the immigration officer, short queues, within surprisingly no time at all, we were outside amongst the throng of Indians congregating for their loved ones or customers. Donning the #Rollo Afro, Derek became an instant hit with the smiling locals. In no time at all, we were in a cab and by 8:35 AM, we had checked ourselves into Hotel Celesta, happily accommodating us for an early check-in that evening.

Easing ourselves into the day, resting in the small but clean and comfortable room on the sixth floor, we made our way into the restaurant downstairs gorging on an amazing Indian lunch – chicken biriyani, prawn jahlfrezi, dal, potato curry, roti and naan – washing them all down with the champagne of all beers, Miller High Life, which the staff was quite happy to present to us (a few times).

The drive into the city (and even moreso heading back in the evening) proved to be an adventurous affair, DaveRisner’s first experience with what constitutes road rules in India, or lack thereof. There is a joke told here in India. “People don’t drive in India. They aim.” I laughed at that; I don’t think DaveRisner was laughing. At one point, two busses were converging into a point; and amidst their standoff, our cab driver tried to squeeze thru them, failing miserably as the sideview mirrors were almost swiped by the bus walls, the passengers inside packed like sardines oblivious to or perhaps not concerned with the danger outside. Over an hour later, we made it back to the hotel. Derek smartly slept while DaveRisner gripped the handles on the door. He needed a beer.

In between our adventures on the road, we walked through the throng of New Market, people of all kinds hustling us for money and attention. Some were early revelers for Holi, India’s Festival of Colours. With their faces painted with brightly coloured powder, it was not long before Derek was caked. We made fast friends with a couple, the gentleman Ani soon becoming a Facebook friend. As we made it through the Kolkata streets, Derek turned into #Rollo as we were greeted with “Happy Holi!!” declarations. After a pitstop at a shop where the owner snagged us from the street to sell us kurtas (a traditional Indian shirt) that the owner insisted everyone wore in Varanasi to celebrate Holi where we would be the next day. We extricated ourselves from the small shop as soon as we could, our money intact when we finally found a bar to down a couple King Fisher Premiums. We were the only patrons at the bar, being intently stared at by the eight men working and the ten singers singing their Bengali songs.

Soon after, DaveRisner started gripping the handles of our taxi door.

Welcome to India, DaveRisner. Time to play Frogger.

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