Oh, Calcutta

I had heard that Indian flights are more lively, that the people are louder, more garrulous.

I had heard right.

The flight from Bangkok to Kolkata was markedly different from any other I've taken in Asia. Aside from the fact that 97 percent of the passengers were male, this was the most boisterous flight I've ever endured. The passengers pushed and jostled and shouted as we got onto the plane, and kept it up throughout the 2 hour flight.

Within the first ten minutes, the female flight attendant serving our section gave up all pretenses of smiling subservience and adopted a permanent grimace, enlivened by the occasional look of plaintive incredulity.

At one point a male flight attendant burst from the curtain separating business-class from, well, luggage-class and shouted, finger wagging, "Once is enough!" to the man who had been pushing on and off his in-flight service button for the last ten minutes.

A giant Sikh a few rows away jumped up and entered the discussion. Neither Seth nor I could tell whether he was on the side of the passenger or the steward. I wondered if there would be fisticuffs. There were not.

After a very long wait at the baggage carousel, we exited the airport, greeted by Pastor Nandu. He ushered us to a taxicab which looked, like much of the city, like it could have been made in the 1950s. The next 40 minutes felt -- and, in the dark, looked -- like the ride to the Lestrange family vault in the bowels of Gringott's Bank.

Or, as I reflected this morning, it was like experiencing Phnom Penh in fast forward. Everything here is bigger, faster and, somewhat incongruously, both dustier and more colorful. Though I can see how one could get overwhelmed here, I really think I'm going to love this city. Confirming that will have to wait. 

It's almost 9am. We're heading down to enjoy the hotel's complimentary breakfast. If the condition and cleanliness of our room is any indication, I think I'll have a Clif bar instead. At about noon, we're heading to the airport, where we'll hop on a short flight to Bagdogra, and then take a car to Kalimpong. From what I can gather, Kalimpong is absolutely nothing like Kolkata. I'm sure I'll love it too.

John McCollumComment