||[Sep. 6th, 2006|03:16 pm]
Well, I’m here, safe and sound and established in the Mukherjee house in Calcutta. The heat hit me as I stepped off the plane; it was like walking onto a sauna, but the house has lots of ceiling fans and my room is air conditioned if I want. I can see that I am going to get through a lot of shirts but, no matter, I took one off and it was scarcely on the floor before on of the staff grabbed it and spirited it away to be washed. I could get used to this although I cannot get used to the word ‘servants’ – too much of the Raj. (One of them has just brought me a beautifully prepared apple to eat, all pared and cored. Yes, I could definitely get used to this. The house itself is, to Western eyes like mine, very basic indeed but there is everything I will need to do what I’m here to do. I joked about three months in Wormwood Scrubbs as an option but I think that the prison may have more in the way of diversion. Three months on my own here is going to drive me bananas. Mind the treatment will start very soon and I think that may well divert me. Everyone seems very optimistic that they can effect a cure basically on the grounds that I would appear to be so fit and well, apart from the little detail that I have cancer. Pity ‘bout that
The journey was uneventful although I have the distinct impression that the driver who drove us back from the airport was gone considerably faster than the Boeing 777 that brought me from London. I have only been that scared in a car once and that was in Greece when we told the taxi driver we were in a hurry – bad mistake. Road manners here are non-existent. They are as under-regulated as we, in UK, are over regulated. No road markings, no road signs and cars, lorries, buses, pedestrians and bicycles, lots of bicycles, all boiling along in one, lethal brew. I understand that if a car’s horn is out of action it is deemed to be undrivable. I am glad that I don’t have to tackle that lot, ever. I think you would have to be a Formula 1 driver on speed to really cope. Hellish, and it shows. I think they buy their buses, second-hand from Beirut.
Well, the treatment started to day in the form of a medicine that tasted foul after my evening meal. Here we go. It looks as if the whole things is going to be pretty hard line and that I will hardly be able to see anything apart from the inside of the flat, and it just that, a flat, in which I rattle around like a pea in a drum. Prof Mukherjee lives upstairs in a separate flat and the clinic is downstairs. It will be the bhasmas treatment that Jane, my ayervedic doctor hoped for but at the moment it is mainly herbal treatment, linked to a highly controlled diet – no fun at all. Mind you, my minders took me out today and, if the glimpse I had of Calcutta was anything to go by, I don’t want to see any more. It was hell, one long, vicious traffic jam, with no green space at all. Tomorrow morning I will go a walk, locally; that might be better. I’m not convinced.
Am having cultural difficulties with the ‘servants’ who serve up the food and then, even when I am alone, want to stand in a row and watch the spectacle of me eating said food. I have persuaded them that standing in a row and watching is just not on so now they lurk just behind the door. It is what they are paid to do and I never have to ask for more rice or anything - it just arrives as if the thought is enough –but, after years of living, cooking and eating on my own, I do find this difficult. I wish I spoke Bangali. Still not managed to get connected to email. Feel very isolated.
Sunday 3rd September
Big excitement, well for me at any rate. There was torrential rain last night and now the street is flooded to a depth of around eight inches. This has cleared the street of cars but the courageous rickshaw-wallahs still try. I must explain that the hand pulled rickshaw is now largely extinct, although I have seen a few on my limited travels. In their place is a bicycle version, rather like a large trike, with the passengers above the back wheels and the one who pedals towards the front. It looks quant but must be darned hard work, especially if there is a heavy family crammed into the seat. Anyway, they are still plying their trade but, when the street is flooded they cannot see where the potholes are. I have just watched as on, with a very heave woman on board, crashed into what must have felt like a mineshaft. The poor wallah had to get off and had a lot of trouble heaving the thing out again. As he eventually managed and pushed off I could see from the state of his back wheels in general that this was not an isolated occurrence at all. I have never seen a more buckled set of wheels still moving in my life.
It is now the 6th of September and I think, I hope I have my email and internet connection workingl I got wifi piggy back from somewhere or other, I have no idea where from, but, although intermittent, it seems to work OK - sometimes..... a bit like India in general really.
My diet is being very strictly controlled but I suppose it is good for me. Going out is a problem so I feel a bit like a bird in the gilded cage. Mind you, from what I have seen of the place I am not sure I want to go out, certainly not on my own. I don't think they have thought of an A-Z of the place yet and, even if they have, it would be in Bengali and I ain't got that mastered yet.
I can go walks provided I take my minders with me (to ensure I don't grap a quick snack somewhere else) Mind you, I have never eaten so much food in all my life. Lots and lots to eat, and all vegetarian. I keep asking for a steack and they just laugh. I am one week down out of twelve and hope I can make it. I must just remember I am not on holiday; I have a job to do. Tha's all for now.