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Kolkata, India

I’ve just been to the delivery place, planning to tell them that I’m not sending the bike back any more, I’m going to sell it to the guy in the hotel who has been asking about it virtually every day for the past week. He can only pay 3000 Rupees, but for him that’s two months wages, and he seems to really like the bike. You don’t get bikes like that in India. You don’t get many bikes like it any where. All the way across Canada people were interested in the bike. Particularly other cyclists.

The delivery place wasn’t open just now. I waited outside from 10 until gone 10:30. I was worried about what to say to them since they have put a lot of work in.

I’m now in a coffee shop called Barista on Park Street, a Western style coffee shop. Air conditioned. It was saying in the paper this morning that there’s a heatwave in Kolkata. Temperatures hitting 40 degrees is high for the time of year. It’s been hard to do anything during the day. Yesterday I was sitting on the roof terrace of the hotel, in the shade until the sun came around the wall at about 4 o’clock. Then I went to my room and lay down on my bed with the fan on, though the air blown down by the fan felt hot. I woke up just after sunset and went out for something to eat, not really having eaten anything all day. Someone bought a watermelon during the afternoon and I had some slices of that, and two slices of toast for breakfast, but otherwise it’s felt too hot for eating.

This cafe is about the only place, other than the internet centre, where I’ve felt comfortable with the laptop. A French guy asked me if I had wiffy. I said I don’t. The laptop does but the cafe doesn’t (have wifi).

This area is where most of the expensive hotels are. Sudder Street, where I’m staying, is more of the budget backpacker travellers’ area. People are older here.

Rugby is on the TV screen, with the sound turned down. A woman is singing American Pie. On the walls are drawings of coffee cups and slogans:



Across the bottom of their notice board is:

Learn from your parent’s mistakes… use birth control.

Went back to the delivery place but they’re still closed. Now in another cafe just off Park Street. Also air conditioned and also very western, but younger, with a loud jukebox currently playing Indian funk rap Bangra…? A table of five girls put it on and cheered when it started, then danced a bit in their chairs, remaining seated. There’s a university just over the road so I think most of the people in here must be from there. Wealthy young Indians. A coffee in here is about 20 Rupees, and a fancy drink, which seems to be what most of them are drinking, is about 40 Rupees. The average daily wage is maybe not much more than that, so these kids really are rich by local standards, but not by western standards. They must feel rich though. The poverty around here is so obvious. Walking out of the other cafe a young girl walked along with me, grabbing hold of my shirt sleeve and asking for money for rice. But maybe when you live here for long enough you get used to that. It just becomes a fact of life that there are beggars and poor people. They’re not people you know so you don’t compare yourself with them, you compare yourself with people you know who are as rich or richer than you so however much money you have you always feel poor.

One o’clock and the place is full.

Delivery shop still closed. They asked me to come back today, so maybe they don’t want my business. Too much hassle for them. That saves me having to tell them I don’t want to send the bike back to England any more. The guy in the hotel will be happy. He’s asked twice today already, and on the second time I told him yeah, unless I get an email from the bike maker saying he wants the bike back he can have it.