Varanasi Cyclog

Varanasi – Calcutta Cyclog

 

The train journey to reach Varanasi in UP has been a long one – taking me to Andhra Pradesh, Chhatisgarh and Punjab.

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 The Railways still run the old First Class compartments on Vizag LTT Express

 image004 Circular Hostel building at Andhra University Engg College, Vizag

 Along the way, this time two interactions were quite interesting. I met a pair of drivers going to pick up the Jammu Durg superfast to Katni. They boarded the train with me at Bilaspur. In the 4 hours we spent together, I got a lot of tidbits of the life of a train driver. Some samplings: A record has to be maintained of the time required for passing every block; The same is also recorded in the engine as a printout; The duty of a driver is typically not based on just hours – he has to take a train from A to B; The old vacuum braking system required 1.5 km for a train to halt from 100 kmph, the new air brake requires 600 m; Also in the old vacuum brake system, even if the vacuum got broken, sometimes a piece of plastic stuck in the system caused the engine driver to not notice this breakage, as his vacuum would not drop, as a result sometimes bogies could get lost; W/L is an instruction for the driver to honk, as there is a level crossing ahead; During days of fog, the linemen place firecrackers on the track so that the driver is warned about the presence of a signal ahead; When an engine runs over a buffalo, there is a chance that the wheels of the engine get lifted because of the sturdiness of the buffalo’s construction; The driver carries a butcher’s knife to free the undercarriage of the carcass; In contrast a cow gets cut like butter; The diesel consumed for a 300 km journey is about 1400 litres; However for the same distance journey from Bilaspur to Ambikapur the consumption is double (Elevation difference); The storage capacity of diesel in a locomotive is 5,000 litre – the tank full is done at 4500 litre usually; In the new electric engines there are 8 traction motors, one at the center of each axle; The new engines have cruise control; The speeds generally specified are 60, 90, 100, 120 or 140 km/h; The 140 speed is only in the Delhi-Bhopal track.

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Peepal Tree Bilaspur Trustee, TN Rao, lending a hand to education.

 image008 Detour to the Rock Garden at Chandigarh where you can find beauty in scrap.

 On the train from Ambala to Varanasi we had this guy who came into our compartment from the sleeper class to charge his cell phone and got chatting with us. He talked of many things, about his village in UP near Varanasi, where every house has usually more than 1 or 2 of its members in the Indian Army. Why they even had a CSD canteen in the village. His grandfather, his father, his uncles are all ex-army. He said that of the 5 brothers they were, the 2 eldest were officers in the army.

What about you? I asked.

Ahh well, I am also in the army. But you know during my days studying in Varanasi I got into bad company, so could not do graduation – and hence had to join at lower ranks. So now I am at Jalandhar, posted to man the Prithvi missiles that are located there. But boss, the Indian army is in a sad state, let me tell you. It is going to take just one skirmish with China for me to prove that to you.

Why? I asked out of curiosity.

Saab, the officers, they don’t make them the way they used to in the olden days. Earlier you could expect the princes and kings becoming officers, but now, hey did you know a chamar recently became an officer, a chamar, can you beat that? And these officers, these nincompoops are the reason for the downfall; there is no morale today in the Other Ranks.

Let me tell you a story from my days in Kupwara. We had this arrogant young guy from Punjab, who would make life miserable for all of us. One day we were to sit out in am ambush at the border. It was winter time. We waited – one day, two days, three days. The young captain brashly ensured that the sentries were on duty all the time. On the fourth night the sentry called out – ‘the guests have come’. A convoy of 12 people were crossing the border.

The captain was informed – and he froze. He said ‘don’t do anything, let me get the permissions first.’ The young soldiers taunted him – Sir, we have been waiting for 4 days now, what for? Let’s start the shooting. No, wait, I must talk to the CO.

I was woken up from sleep in order to get the radio set operational. I fiddled around with a few knobs, and reported to him that the set was not working.

Make the set work, that’s an order.

I retorted that I am a signals guy, if I am found tampering with the set, I could be court martialled.

The Subedar interrupted, sir, I have possibly more experience in the army than the time you have spent living, we need to go ahead.

The shooting started – with 4 casualties, 3 militants were in the range of the guns and were shot dead. The 4th casualty was beaten up mercilessly and then shot with the militant’s revolvers by the Subedar and his team. He went on to receive the Seva medal, posthumously, from the President of India.

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Kalash Darshan at BHU Temple

From these Himalyan tales, let us get back to the Gangetic plains. I started my cycle journey literally with a bang – as I filled in air into the rear tyre. Result, 5 km into the trip, I was getting my valve repaired. The road to Mughalsarai is a dusty narrow road with humongous truck traffic. The truck drivers serenaded us with interesting tunes that emanated from the horns whenever they passed any cyclist. To add to the excitement was a very uneven road surface and an uneven road width.

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Day 1: Ravindra Joshi about to join the 4 lane NH 2 after Mughalsarai

 Post Mughalsarai we joined the 4 lane NH 2, that part of GT road which runs from Delhi to Calcutta. The historical road was built by Sher Shah Suri many years ago. Just was thinking about it – you are best remembered not for your wealth, not for your children, but by the quality of institutions you help build. The same was also true about Madan Mohan Malviya and the Benaras Hindu University. The local king who donated the land is totally forgotten today, most remember the person who organized the effort of putting this great institution together. 32,000 students studying in one campus is proof of the fruits of the effort lasting 70 years after the institution builder passed away. Very fittingly at Sasaram, we saw a board showing the direction to the maqbara of Sher Shah Suri – and I paid my mental respects to the great man there.

One of the interesting emails that I received a few years ago titled – ‘It happens only in India.’ It had a foto of a tractor running on three wheels. Managed to see that in reality on the morning of day 1. Front right wheel was missing. Was crawling along with a trailer attached.

Some time after overtaking this interesting tractor, the first puncture of the rally happened – on my cycle. Found a puncture shop and discovered that it was just the valve leaking. Got a new one – and found that the valve stem is short. Took 10 minutes to consummate the filler nozzle and the tube valve union.

It has been my observation that car speed increases by about 20% when you move from a 2 lane to a 4 lane road. Interestingly, I can now say the same about cycle speeds too.

By noon of Day 1 there were 2 sub-groups that had been formed. As a result of yet another puncture (this time not on my cycle), I was part of the slower group. The faster group had stopped for lunch, and kept on trying to describe the location that they were in to us. We kept on cycling but somehow that described location never materialized. Here is where a GPS would have been helpful. Anyways slow group was hungry enough and decided to stop at a dhaba with enough truck population to eat some awesome Bihari food. Post-lunch we discovered the other group eating their lunch – only 200 m down the road!

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Day 1: Anita, Atul and Bhushan having chai at Dhaba on GT Road on entering Bihar

 In the evening we reached Sasaram. The plan was to get lifted by truck to Bodh Gaya, which was about 120 km away. It had been pre-decided that the truck would wait for us at the junction where the 4 lane NH 2 joins the road into Sasaram town. After half an hour of waiting, calls were made to the driver – to no avail, as his phone was out of coverage area. The truck owner was called in Dhanbad. He reconfirmed that the truck had reached Sasaram in the afternoon itself. When the driver was finally traced, it was found that he had been waiting at the junction of the Sasaram road on the Dhanbad side, whereas we had been waiting at the junction on the Varanasi side. Talk about missing the GPS again – but also about how challenging it is to communicate your location on a road. The kaizen then was that we started referring to milestones to indicate our location from then on.

I drove in the truck cabin to Bodh Gaya. 4 people in a 407 truck cab is not really comfortable, but then was any time better than being on the road on a cycle after sundown. We reached Bodh Gaya around 2100 hrs and an impromptu party was arranged to celebrate. Not only for the successful completion of day 1, but also to mark the birthday of our team’s ‘youngest member’, Yeshwant Marathe – who turned 80 on 31-Jan. Role model for all of us, if we live upto 80!

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Day 1: Yeshwant Marathe contemplating on the last 79 years.

 It is interesting how alcohol lubricates conversation. The group meandered towards back-biting a particular member of the group who was not participating this time. This gentleman is amongst the faster of the group. One peccadillo of his is that he rarely waits for any other member of the group, as he is forever looking at besting his speed records. Interestingly the accusation of his not being a team player, sits in contradiction to his impeccable record as a leading volunteer in Pune for many social causes. In fact he is currently a full time volunteer!

The dinner feast which followed the cocktails was sponsored by Marathe saab. Two of the dishes that were served were Manchurian. Towards the end of the meal, I dug into the wrong Manchurian – realizing that it was chicken after the first bite into it. The last occasion with the accidental chicken had been 5 years ago, when the air hostess on the Etihaad flight to New York had been generous enough to serve a chicken omelette to the vegetarian passenger!

0400 hrs Day 2. We wake up to hear interesting announcements from the temple next door, which was organizing an exhibition on the Buddha. The loudspeakers would buzz every 5 minutes to encourage people to move on. No alarm that I have set was as effective – by 0430 hrs the entire group was awake and moving (mostly in their beds)

By 0700 hrs we moved to the Bodhi tree. Awesome site. Thousands of pilgrims from all kinds of countries, perambulating the tree – and the temple in order to say hi to the Wise One. The tree seemed dwarfed by the 8th century temple built by Emperor Asoka. You could tell the age by the number of iron pillars that propped up the tree. The temple had inside its sanctorum, the Diamond Buddha.

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Day 2: The temple that Asoka built for the Bodhi Tree and the Diamond Buddha

 Buddhism is not very far from Hinduism as far as rituals go. We could see scores of worshippers prostrating on specially designed wooden boards with gloves for sliding to do something akin to a Surya namaskar.

There was also an army of Tibetan monks, in their trademarked maroon overcoats, being led by the seniors in the morning prayers. Found one yellow robed one, sitting on an elevation compared to the rest of the monks. Asked the Bihar policeman, who he was – Big Boss – came the reply. I guess it was the Dalai Lama sent across from China…

Around 0800 hrs the prayers ended, and as I mingled in the midst of the monks walking out, I found it to be no different an experience from school children enjoying the end of school.

Reached the hotel to find Bhushan walking into the hotel with swanky new blue chappals. His sandals had just been flicked from the temple…

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Day 2: A little bit of Thailand in Bodh Gaya

 Started off around 1030 hrs to Rajgir. Rajgir is to the Jains, what Gaya is to the Buddhists. We first crossed Gaya. One of the things that you note about a city is the auto-rickshaw mono-culture. Gaya was a predominantly Piaggio Ape town; Varanasi in contrast was a Bajaj town. What makes for this culture? Something to do with the distributors and the mechanics?

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Day 2: School in Khirivayan, near Gaya.

I loved the mixing of age groups that happens in village schools.

 Trivia: Lots of rickshaws and autos in Gaya had utensils bolted on to their bodies. I remember trucks with shoes hanging on them man years ago, to ward off the evil eye. What were the utensils supposed to be doing?

Came across a haat with lots of cattle up for sale. Should have stopped and moved around. Did not – but the rest of the group did that. Found a middle aged lady (Ok.. my age too) with her young son proceeding to the fair with a cute looking lamb. (Is that the young one of a goat?) In jest asked her how much she expected for the lamb. 6 fingers got shown. After a minute 1 more finger came down – I am still wondering whether it was 50 or 500 that she was trying to indicate… 10 minutes later we had an old guy walking his goat… This one was expected to sell at 2,000. Just when I was about to depart I found a husband-wife moving away from the fair with a cow. How much? I asked. 4,000 – came the reply. Good bargain, I said, She’s looking great..

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Day 2: Cattle fair on way from Gaya to Rajgir

Had quite a few pit stops on day 2. The second one was to munch on some sarson (mustard flowers. Yummy! Next one was at a roadside jaggery maker, who was busy feeding sugarcane into his bullock-driven juicer. We requested for some juice – to be refused, because the puja to start the jaggery production had not been done yet. Feel free to munch on the sugarcanes though. Yummy once again!

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Day 2: Nandu Bhatewara helping in Jaggery production

Bihar is not all plains. Around Aurangabad we found some hills jutting up. So too at Gaya. And now again at Rajgir. The Rajgir hills were our destination. So for the first time on the trip, we found ourselves climbing ghats. We found good company on the ghats – tens of tongas, each being identified by heroine/ film names. Unfortunately could not find either a Basanti or a Dhanno. Did find one with my daughter’s name though – Simran.

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Day 2: The hills of Rajgir where Mahavira meditated

We checked into a religious resort – Veerayatan, run by an order of Jain sisters. As per Jain tradition, dinner was served before sunset. Even though lunch had happened at 3 pm, we found the wholesome food at 5 pm still appetizing. Jain food is characterized by an absence of root vegetables. We joined in for a sermon at 7 pm. Was good as long as it was in Gujarati. Was enjoying making the effort to understand the language. Someone in the audience pointed out to the senior sister that there were non Gujaratis in the audience, so she switched to Hindi – and I went off to mental sleep. There was a junior sister who sang two charming songs. We were later told that she had been bought up in America and had taken deeksha and joined the Rajgir order. There was a Question session at the end of the sermon. Unfortunately most of the questions were very transactional. Why is senior sister Chandanaji not here? When can we meet her?

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Day 3: Phadnis Kaka, Anita, Aparna, Neelam, Marathe Saab and Bapu at Veerayatan

Day 3: It had been decided the previous evening that Day 3 we will act as serious tourists, and not even touch the cycles. Day started with Jain breakfast – khakras with cow ghee et al. We were taken around the Veeraytan campus, starting with the hospital. There are about 10 doctors employed and the specialization is in eye and dental. Could see a lot of people around – and a fair number of surgeries are done free of cost. Was impressed by the facilities – and more so by the respect that the sisters got from patients in our rounds.

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Day 3: Sister showing us around the Eye Hospital at Veerayatan

On our way out, I noticed a grand looking Peepal Tree – and remarked to the sister who was guiding us, that we look forward to planting such trees in our eponymous schools. My only worry was that by the time they became so grand I would be fly-ash. How old do you think this tree is? She asked. I guessed – about 50-100 years. I have been living in this ashram for 40 years now, and I can tell you that this tree is just 35 years old. Wow! I said to myself – cause for celebration. Maybe I will glimpse some grandness in our Peepal Trees before the fly-ash conversion happens…

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Day 3: The young Peepal Tree at Veerayatan

 We went on to a museum run by the ashram which traces Mahavir’s journey through life. What I liked most about the museum was the fact that the walls facing the exhibits were bare except for ventilators to let in light and air. You could concentrate on one direction instead of oscillating between one wall to another..

Next tourist attraction was the Shanti Stupa – and more so the ropeway to get to it. There are 101 chairs on the ropeway – and it keeps on running non-stop. You board the chair at a launching pad, where a guide holds the chair as you jump in. As soon as he leaves it you start see-sawing and move ahead. You can feel the wire tension as you climb up – and also the absence of the same on the way down. Every time the chair goes over a supporting pole wheel set, you get a nice jerk to remind you that life is not a smooth road.

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Day 3: Ropeway to Shanti Stupa, Rajgir

The stupa was a duplicate of what we had seen in Leh in 2008. We were at 300 m altitude and had a nice view of the land around. Noticed a set of buildings, which we realized later on, is some kind of ordinance factory. War and peace co-existing!

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Day 3: Shanti Stupa at Rajgir

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Day 3: Black faced langur meditating near the Shanti Stupa

 Next stop – Nalanda. About 20 km from Rajgir. The oldest university in the world. Primarily a center for Buddhist studies. We met Mishraji over there, an MA in Pali, who was our guide for the tour of the Nalanda ruins. About 11 blocks have been excavated. Unfortunately the way the archaelogical department has worked, the ruins actually look spanking new. We had to visit the museum and look at photographs to see how the ruins looked before the renovation. On second thoughts, it would have been a good thing if actual classrooms of those times were constructed at the museum and we had an AV show about an actual class happening.

The typical classroom was about 700-1000 sq ft with a raised podium for the teacher. A few of the classes even had wells inside for drinking water. The hostel block was located in the same complex. The bed was made into the brickwork. The rooms were quite small – about 100 sq ft – with no attached toilet J A lot of recycling had happened over the years – where every couple of centuries a new set of rooms were built – using the previous generation rooms as foundation. The language of instruction in Nalanda was Pali. Why did Pali die out? We asked our guide this question. Mishraji said that once Buddhism lost its place as state religion, then the language also lost out. Pali’s most famous sentence that I possibly knew beforehand – ‘Buddhan sharnam gaccha mee’ – very close to Sanskrit, with a script which was close to the Bengali one..

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Day 3: Real estate at Nalanda was less costly 2000 years ago. Huge classroom.

Note the podium for the teacher at the farther end.

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Day 3: Maintenance free brick beds at the hostel.

We visited the museum after seeing the ruins and found that the Buddha is found normally in these poses: Finger touching ground, Protection where he seems to be giving blessings, Meditation or lotus pose with both hands sitting on top of cross legs. Our guide informed us that the curly hair tradition of the Buddha began with at the Mathura school of sculpture, which produced most of the earlier statues of Buddha.

Having been there, done that, we proceeded towards Dhanbad – about 220 km from Nalanda. We had the pleasure of the truck driver and his cabin for company for this trip too. We traveled on State Highways most of the time. The quality of the highways deteriorated the moment we crossed the integrated checkpost into Jharkand and the hills. Also we saw more policemen on the highway. The driver then remarked to us that the 2 most significant achievements of Nitish Kumar have been good roads and keeping policemen off the highway. The contrast in Jharkand drove home the point well. We crossed the district town of Koderma – and then moved on to the town of Jhumri Talaiya, famous for the number of requests received from here for songs on All India Radio. In general the density of toll booths in East India is not as high as in the West. Also the number of exempt vehicles seems to be quite high. We reached on a day when the toll booth near Dhanbad had just been shifted 20 km away from its earlier location – and saw a 2 km traffic jam. Thanks to adept handling by Surender, our truck driver, we managed to escape the jam and the toll in about 20 minutes. As we drove to our night’s destination of Dhanbad Club, Surender remarked that the place was in the news a few days back because of a coal mafia murder that took place on its campus. Welcome to Dhanbad!

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Day 4: Bridge on the River Damodar. The dam can be seen in the background.

We were now on the Chhota Nagpur plateau – and Dhanbad’s elevation was more than that of the hills of Rajgir. We started off the morning of Day 4 and had a more or less enjoyable ride as we descended gently from the plateau towards the plains. The first anaemia program of the journey was organized at Kumardhubi – about 20 km from Dhanbad. Moved on past the Damodar valley project and into West Bengal. Interstate borders usually bring traffic jams – so did this one. More so, because a truck carrying iron bars had overturned and was being unloaded, blocking 2 of the 4 lanes. We managed good speed crossing Asansol and landed up at a Rajasthani dhaba in Raniganj for lunch. By 1630 hrs we had checked into Peerless Inn at Durgapur – for a much needed laundry halt. The coal capital of India had generously endowed natural dye to my otherwise more salt less pepper hair. Shunning my no-soap strategy I had to use soap – after almost 5 years of having avoided soap The second anaemia program was scheduled in the evening at Peerless Inn itself. Anita Marathe bought the house down with a self introduction in Bangla. She studied in Kharagpur till Class 8. Our courteous hosts had gifted bouquets to all participants. Useless gifts for vagabonds like us. Next morning all the bouquets were still lying in the hotel rooms, except one which adorned Phadnis Kaka’s bike.

With hotels like Peerless, come the concept of the complimentary breakfast – and like the proverbial camel, I can stock up 2 meals worth of food intake in 1 breakfast. A lavish spread was laid out – and I managed to sample it in its entirety – with an encore on the cup cake front. With only a distance of 66 km to be covered we left at leisurely 1000 hrs on day 5. We almost made it to Burdwan, our stop for the day, but decided to stop 10 km short at a dhaba for lunch. Post lunch we had a nice game of Guess-what-the-bill was. Eventually no one won – the closest guess for a meal for 8 was 400. The bill turned out to be 540, as the 2 dishes of Mutter Paneer were relatively exorbitant.

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Day 5: The professional Chappati makers of Burdwan.

At 2 bucks a piece, they give tough competition to housewives.

Reaching Burdwan around 1600 hrs enjoyed a siesta. Evening was spent buying Mihir dana and Sita Bhog, local delicacies of Burdwan. We then set off to the dinner hosted by local doctors of Burdwan. Enjoyable evening. Assumed that the snacks would be the only items to be served, so hogged so much on them, that later on skipped the dinner that was also on the cards. One gentleman who had been sitting quietly behind me was called to the dias mid-way through the program to be introduced later on as Dr Saha, the MP from Burdwan. Chatted up with him over snacks, to realize that he was working as a surgeon in the local medical college before having to quit when he became a Member of Parliament. Found him very down to earth – hope that we have more MPs like him in future.

Listened in to an interesting lecture by Dr Shirish Patwardhan about how he lost his paunch. Take-away: be conscious of what you eat – no parallel processing while eating. Have started the experiment right away – and am hoping that I can melt my paunch away by this kind of mental energy beam J Dr Dilip Sarda spoke next about good eating. Take away: 2-3 meals a day is good as it keeps insulin flow in the blood stream in limits. Insulin also has side-affects which can result in weight gain. He also recommended adding soya to wheat flour. An experiment that I will plan to implement on my return.

Day 6: Last day of cycling. We started at 0700 hrs. Did a 3 course breakfast – with first course bread and butter at Burdwan bus stand, second course – an puri-bhaji breakfast for a ransom price of 5 Rupees 21 km from Burdwan and the third course with the rest of the group at the 32 km milestone from Burdwan. At 0930 hrs we realized that 2 of our group members had still not come in. Anita Marathe tractored in at 1000 hrs having taken the wrong turn into the old GT road – and thumbing a lift on a tractor trolley to catch up with the gang. We had assumed that Aparna Mahajan was with her, but turned out that was not the case. Aparna’s phone was not reachable, her stamina had not been too great the previous day, and unlike Anita she spoke no Bangla and broken Hindi. Support vehicle was dispatched back to old GT road to try to trace her. Police patrols and the Burdwan MP were also kept in the loop. Finally she was traced by the support team who were returning back via the 4 lane GT road. All is well that ends well. But it is again very interesting to note that the real test of a person is what she does in a crisis. In rare cases there is presence of mind; most likely it is absence.

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Day 6: Anita and cycle thumbing a lift from a tractor trolley

A good Samaritan guided us to a reasonable hotel near Dankuni. I think most of us have good Samaritans inside of us. We don’t let them come out often enough. Having enjoyed the lunch after a tension filled morning, we moved on towards Kolkatta. Anita’s cycle punctured on the way and was repaired at a truck tyre shop. We got a message from ahead that cycles are not allowed on the new Vidyasagar Setu, so we got on to Shibpur and the old Rabindra Setu past Howrah station. Bingo, we were home. Night stay was on Chowringhee Road at the excellent Chowdhary Guest House. The rooms were big enough to accommodate a table tennis table, with 2 beds to spare. The bathrooms bigger than the rooms we stayed in Bodh Gaya.

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Day 6: Entering Kolkatta via Rabindra Setu at Howrah.

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Day 6: Riding past Victoria Memorial in Kolkatta

In the evening went out for a walk down Chowringhee Road. Found a lot of gold smiths – behind bars. That’s the way the shops are designed – to discourage thieves and customers alike. Saw some free souls gathered on the foot path singing their hearts out. Was one of those magical moments which I view as my own personal religion. Walked into a mishti shop called Balram Malik near the Netaji metro station. The shop specializes in innovative sweets – so had bread mishti doi and palm-gur sandesh. Picked up a few veggies on the way to complete the dinner.

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Day 6: Jailed Jewellers of Chowringhee Road

Day 7 morning. Déjà vu on the Sumptous complementary breakfast. Boiled egg, gulab jamun, 2 idlis, 2 dosas, 2 glasses of orange juice, 2 slices of bread-butter – and schluss fur heute (german – done for the day). At 0830 hours the gang was on its way to Howrah station to load the cycles back on their journey to Pune. Howrah being Howrah meant that we had to visit 4 places to finish the documentation and payment formalities. By 1130 hrs we were done and on our way back. Gang departed to Sunderban – and yours truly and Nandu Bhatewara stayed back for journey back to Pune by Azad Hind the same evening.

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Day 7: Bye Bye Kolkatta! Shirish and Dilip pedaling to drop cycles at Howrah Station

I took the metro to visit my friend Shantanu Ghosh. He informed me that the metro is not as reliable as it used to be. Old railway stock I asked. Yes and no. One of the reasons for the reliability is the metro being a favored mode for suicide nowadays. And with the traction line located as a third rail along the other two – the disruption is longer. Did the designers of the Cal metro think about these issues?

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Day 7: Life in a Cal Metro.

Note: No AC. This was the over-ground stretch after Tolly.

Reached Shantanu’s place and mishti days continued – with 3 sweets forming the dessert. After meals we went for a walk to Big Bazaar. Tanaya, his charming daughter, also called Sonai at home, had to choose a toy for herself. 5 year olds are good decision makers – she looked at a Disney block, a coloring book and finally decided on badminton rackets. In hindsight, I think this is a good strategy – instead of buying gifts for people – take them to a shop and let them choose what they want.

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Day 7: Tanaya meeting up with old friends.

Returned back to meet an old batchmate from IIM Calcutta days – Netaji Chintala. He is helping run a business that his dad founded. They are into literally building bridges. His firm, ICC, markets pre-fabricated bridges of Garden Reach. Major clients are in the hill states. Found the business very interesting. Netaji plans to get active into consultancies for hydro-electric projects very soon.

Nightfall happened and time to go back. A quick look into Tiwari Sweets near our hotel revealed that he did not stock Mishti doi, which I was determined on taking back as an experiment. Found the same at Gangaram – and armed with a pot of mishti doi we were on our way to Howrah. Found our cycles waiting on the platform to give us company back on our way to Pune by Azad Hind Express.