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Holi Day in Kolkata, India

After being out all day following the colour procession around, taking photos and getting covered in paint, I’m sitting on the rooftop patio of the hotel (not as nice as it sounds) and feeling a bit ill. I think I need to go for a walk around and head off for the Victoria Memorial, where I’ll be able to sit in the shade for 4 Rupees. On the way the I walk across the Maiden, a park filled with people playing cricket and flying kites. For many people today is a holiday, though they call it Holi Day. Happy Holi Day. From where are you coming? From England. You come from England to Kolkata? Yeah. Why?

In the Victoria Memorial gardens a guy sits down next to me and starts to chat. I’m really not feeling that great now and don’t have a lot to say. I just want to lie down. It’s good to be in the shade though. He asks me where I’m going after Calcutta. I say maybe Bodgaya and Varanasi, or maybe Darjeeling. You should go to Varanasi, he says. That’s my city. It’s a very nice city. Nice and cool. Cool winds from the Ganges. If you have pen and paper I can write you the best places to go in Varanasi. I hand him my notepad and a pen and he starts to write, very slowly and carefully, writing a heading and then underlining it. He writes in capitals. The letters are English but have a Bengali look about them. As he begins to fill up the page I realize he’s going to ask me for money when he’s finished, and I’m thinking I don’t want to pay him anything. He’s already told me he has a job starting in a month, which means at the moment he has no job, but there are plenty off people in this city far worse off than him and I don’t like the deception. If he’s offering a service he expects to be paid for he should make this clear up front. But once he’s written a page on Varanasi and another page on Darjeeling I’m feeling quite ill and need to get home and just want to get rid of him as quickly as possible so when he asks for some money for a cold drink I give him 20 Rupees, which he seems pretty satisfied with, and leave.

As I walk along the sun is setting and I know that as soon as I get back I’m going straight to the toilet. I’d go before if there was anywhere to go, but there isn’t. I looked for one in the gardens but didn’t find it.

I get back just in time and I’m spewing from both ends. I go to bed but have to keep getting up to go to the toilet. I can’t even keep water down. There’s a bucket outside my door with my paint covered t-shirt soaking in it. I bring it inside the room. It comes in useful later, but I don’t think I’ll be wearing that t-shirt again.

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