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Year View| Summary| Highlights| Month View| Thursday 23 November 2000 (Day View)

23.11.2000Thursday 23 November – Calcutta

After waking, I paid my 100 rupees for tonight, and signed the book. All foreign tourists in India must sign a book stating where they came from, where they plan to go next, and including passport numbers and such like. I skipped my cornflake breakfast on account of the mouse eaten hole in the bag and went to the Indian Museum instead. After paying the 150-rupee entry fee, I spent the next two and a half hours engrossed in a very interesting display of nearly everything imaginable.
Built in 1874, the Indian Museum is a grand and imposing colonial building with a very impressive facade and India’s finest collection of treasures. It was evident that some sections were urgently in need of funding, and restoration work was underway on one section of the building. It then being lunchtime, I left in search of a fabled Hare Krishna bakery that had been recommended to me. After an awful lot of looking, I decided that it was not to be found, so went to St. Paul’s Cathedral instead. Built between 1839 and 1847, it is one of the first important churches in India, and also quite impressive. I also came across a rarity in India, an air-conditioned supermarket, aptly named the AC Markets. What would be totally normal in most other countries, is touted as a speciality here.
I then made my way to the famous Victoria Memorial, probably the most impressive reminder of India’s British past. A huge white-marble museum, stepping inside instantly transports one from bustling Calcutta to the centre of London. Amid huge pillars, and in near silence, one can meet the busts and paintings of nearly everyone who is famous in British-Indian history. It is truly an amazing experience, the extreme difference between outside the grounds, and inside.
A quick walk past the Calcutta Cricket Ground (Ranji Stadium) brought me to the Eden Gardens. It is here that the tame ’sacred’ rats live, and like most rats, they enjoy being fed. The gardens are nice and peaceful, in the centre of the MAIDAN. Originally a large area cleared around a fort, to allow clear shooting of cannons for defence, the Maidan is now a large grassed area, with a few gardens and sports fields, following alongside Calcutta’s Hooghly River and a nice place to walk.
At the southern end of the Maidan is the Birla Planetarium, apparently one of the largest in the world. This sounded pretty impressive to me so I went and had a look. 20 rupees got me a 40-minute show, during which the sun set, the stars rose and rotated, and the sun rose again. I’ve never been to a planetarium before, so had no idea what to expect, but I was pleasantly surprised.
There isn’t much in the way of nightlife in Calcutta. Or to rephrase that, what nightlife there is in Calcutta, I wasn’t game to find out, so I went and watched “Perfect Storm” at a local cinema with the Welshman I’d met on the train (name withheld by memory department for reasons unstated). This is the first movie I’ve seen outside Australia, so I wasn’t sure what to expect. The cinema was very large compared to Aussie ones. Huge in fact, with a balcony upstairs part which cost more, and a large back downstairs area which also cost more, and the cheapskates place down the front, which is where I sat of course. The seats up the back where very plush, but mine were fairly standard. The movie and sound seemed much the same as back in Australia, although the screen was necessarily larger.
On the downside, I got a very sore throat and blocked nose, all the symptoms of a bad flu coming on, around lunchtime. I think all this pollution isn’t doing me any good.

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