Monday, October 16, 2006

Monday, 9th October, 2006 – Arrival in Kolkata

Apparently domestic flights are not allowed to take off late at night, so I had to stay over in the domestic terminal of the Mumbai Airport till 7am when boarding started for my flight to Kolkata. I saw two black women there in that terminal, and they actually came to sit next to me. It was pretty nice to see that. I was sitting down alternating between knitting and reading. Once my flight was called, I boarded a bus to the airplane. My seat was 03C. It was in the first class part of the plane. I thought I had the wrong number so I went further into the plane. One of the flight attendants came to my aid and directed me back to the first class section. I was pleasantly surprised, and kept wondering when the right owner of the seat would arrive. I relaxed a bit more when the plane took off.

It seems one of the trademarks on the Indian airlines is the provision of wet towels. On my flight to India from London, we were given hot towels. On this flight to Kolkata, we were given cold towels (because the weather was hot enough). We were also fed wonderful Indian food, with lovely desserts. My flight to Kolkata was a lot of fun. I actually nodded off right after eating because I had stayed awake the whole night ( I didn’t want to risk missing my flight.)

When we arrived in Kolkata, I started getting nervous pangs. My arrival in Mumbai had not made me that nervous because I still hadn’t arrived at my destination. This was it, though. I had to manage over here, without knowing anyone nor the language nor the system. I got my luggage with no hassle, and now had to figure out how to get to my hotel. I was pretty scared. I asked a lady standing next to me how to get a cab, and she said I should just go outside and take one.

I saw that there was an internet café in the departure hall, and I thought I would go send a quick email to my family and friends that I had arrived safely. I couldn’t leave my luggage outside the café, and no one in there seemed to be paying me any attention, so I just went outside to find a cab. I ignored the first few drivers who hailed me, but finally stopped to talk to one of them who was pretty persistent. He said he would charge me Rs. 800, and I finally negotiated to Rs. 650. I felt pretty proud of myself. I gave him my address, but he said that hotel wasn’t good, so he took me to one called Kings Hotel, which was pretty near the airport. Their rates were a bit expensive, so I said no, and we headed off into the city. He took me to a hotel called Hotel Royale (I think), which was pretty posh. The cheapest room was about Rs. 1200 per night, and I didn’t think that was a wise way of spending. The lady at the reception recommended a sister hotel that was a little bit cheaper. The driver took me there, and I ended up paying him Rs. 700 to thank him for his hard work (although he had overcharged me a bit).

I was shown my room and asked if I liked it, and I said yes. After checking in/registering, I promptly fell asleep because I was so tired. This was around noon. I woke up at 5:30pm, and went downstairs to get some food from the restaurant, only to be told that there was a strike, so no store or restaurant would be open till 6pm. I finally left for the internet café around 6:30pm, chatted with Christelle on Gmail and sent email to let folks know that I had arrived safely. Just as I was definitely starting to feel that I was the only black person around, a group of US students came, and two of them were black; Octavia and Brendan. Octavia spoke with a Texas accent, like my friend Kristina Ross, and it was just to nice to talk to her.

After using the net for a while, I went back to the hotel and ordered a chicken wrap and a paneer wrap, with a bottle of soda. I went back upstairs and was up till 5am because I couldn’t fall asleep, and also because I was hoping my family would call. (I found out that sermons by Creflo Dollar was broadcast on one of the TV channels, Star World I think, in the morning. So was the program by Kenneth Copeland and his wife. Interesting. )

And that, was my first day in India.

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