Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Day 27 - In Kolkata

I strolled the street in front of the SER HQ In the morning to buy a newspaper and appreciate how the place ‘wakes up’. By 6 am the chai shops were doing brisk business. After buying the newspaper, I parked myself on a bench in a tea shop and asked for ‘cha’. The ‘cha’ arrived piping hot. There was incessant chatter going on, which I could not follow. Apparently the discussion was something related to the Docks. The tea cost me Rs. 2 – arguably the cheapest tea in the entire world.
I thought it prudent to get the car serviced before hitting the roads for the NE. Mohan was a colleague in CONCOR. He has continued with the organization in the Eastern Region and is based in Kolkata. He took me to a Maruti service station not very far from Garden Reach. ‘Motocraft’ is reportedly the first service station set up by Maruti in Kolkata. Alex, from Pathanapuram, is the Manager of the outfit. A preliminary examination only revealed minor work in the silencer gland and leak in the rear shocks; I instructed Alex to replace the latter. After service the car was ready by evening.
Having worked in CONCOR for 5 years sometime back I still have a strong feeling of affiliation towards the organization. I visited their HQ in the Metro Bhavan, which houses the office of the Metro Rail GM. The entrance to the office was full of union flags – the first time I see them on display after leaving the State of Kerala. The Metro has been taking flak over the past few weeks due to a derailment and a public relations fiasco. In fact, the GM and two senior officers got transferred on account of these issues. The political bosses find easy scapegoats in mute bureaucrats.
I headed for Fairle Place to meet Rakesh Saxena, the Chief Operating Manager of Eastern Railway. I have known him since my early days of probation in the Railways. He was posted recently to Kolkata on promotion. Spending time with people like Rakesh is uplifting. He is so full of life and warmth. As he says: “I have told myself that I will always be happy. That’s my choice”. What a wonderful resolution to live by. The hot seat he now occupies does not seem to have, in any way, dented his resolve to be happy. He gave me excellent suggestions on must see places in Bhopal, Jabalpur, etc.
Kolaghat is the office of the Chief Commercial Manager of ER. Ambrish Gupta is my batch mate and we have known each other since September 1981, when we joined as probationers in the Lal Bahadur Shastri National Academy of Administration, Mussoorie. We caught up on railway news – some scorching and some not – over tender coconut water. Ambrish made arrangements for my stay in Maldah as also for someone to take me around the historical site of Gaur, while in Maldah. When you are a railway person you are never alone in this country.
The College Street in Kolkata is an amazing place to visit. I have never seen so many bookstalls together and such excellent bargains. The street is crowded with students. The Presidency College, established in 1817 is an institution one has heard of with so much of awe. As I walked into the premise of the college from the College Street I witnessed the poignant scene of a group of students touching the feet of their tutor – Mata, Pita, Guru Daivam (Parents and teachers are equal to God). In some parts of our country teachers are made to touch the feet of students! It is in Presidency College that Dr. JC Bose did most of his pioneering work.
It was Chole and Puris for lunch from a street side vendor on College Street. One can see people from all strata feasting from stalls on the way side – I hear fish curry rice is available for Rs. 20. My meal of 6 Puris and three helpings of Chole set me back by Rs. 12!
Kaushik Nandi, my former colleague in DP World, works in Kolkata these days. He heads the technical team that is building the tallest structure in Kolkata. It’s a premium residential project that will be completed in two years. Understand that they are designing exclusive car parks to be sold at Rs. 10 lakhs per slot! He offered dinner in Chinatown. The Chinese population has dwindled considerably with the closing down of the tanneries and migration. ‘Beijing’ is an excellent Chinese Hotel ‘somewhere’ in Chinatown. Golden Fried Prawns got the feast rolling over a couple of pegs of the ole chum – Old Monk. Starter preparations of chicken and fish followed. Mixed fried rice and chicken bell pepper, as the main course, was glorious.

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