train to calcutta

3 December 2004

I tried to leave Bodh Gaya the day before, but on an impulse went to a famous Tibettan doctor who was on pilgrimage from Switzerland. I can speak German, but he speaks swiss-german and that is a bit rough (even for the Germans). I was expecting some herbs for ringing in the ears -- so much more noticeable in my tranquil state of mind. Instead he suctioned small glasses on my meridians using flaming cotton soaked in alcohol and left me for an hour. This causes a huge nasty bulb of flesh to suck up into the glass, and a scary bruise (not permanent). "Kein Angst" - do not allow myself to have fear or worry. The same advice from Ayurveda, though Tibettan ayurveda goes further and says that us skinny ectomorphs should be even more wary of attachment (which is the root of fear in buddhist thinking).

The upshot of this is that the meridian points are on my shoulders where I carry a backpack. And they were still a bit sore, so one more day I wait.

The train I took from Varanasi to Gaya was 16 hours late, so I hardly expected anything better going from Gaya onto Calcutta. After many hours I muscled my way into the Area Control to huddle around the Important Man. This man is like a rock start in India. He is always completely unfazed, his moustache is perfect; he has 10 phones around him (all 50s or 60s technology)--these ring constantly; 20 men waiting in front of him -- only 4 of them have the power to get his attention; hundreds of people on the platform who wouldn't dare to approach, and tens of thousands who can't even make it into the train station. I'm a white guy, it takes me 15 minutes to catch that moment and hurl at him "Doon Express ? Calcutta ?"; 5 minutes to get an answer: "No Doon Express"; 5 more minutes to confirm that its cancelled (accident); 5 more minutes to get him to scribble another train on the ticket and say "platform 4". A couple of hours later, I actually get on a train. 14 hours, 2 crazy russians and an australian later, we arrive in Calcutta. We take the ferry across the Houghly.

In the paper in Calcutta I read that there was a train accident (involving a cow of course) and 6 people died. It was on the line I was travelling on, on the day I would have travelled on, but not the same train. Jah light is watching over me, right ?

Calcutta is really nice; very calm; the people start up relaxed conversations and many of them are educated normal human beings who are not trying to get me into their rickshaws. The streets are fairly clean; there is a variety of food; the internet connections are cheaper and faster; all the writers and intellectuals live here; they have a super new metro underground; the beggars are a bit more pushy but we are pretty tough bastards at this point;
and tonight ... we get to see Lord of the Rings

By the way, in New York we sometimes use the latin-american phrase "poppi" : as in "hey poppi, gimme a pastrami and coffee". I did that a couple of times here, but its just been pointed out to me that "poppi" means "bitch" in hindi. I'll stick to "hey boss.."

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