It’s been a awhile since I last wrote
This past weekend I:
Played in Hiland’s Park Squash Tournament, which I took far too seriously (intentionally). I lost in the semi-finals, if you can call them that, to Shivam, Hiland Park’s best player. The final set was epic, and I lost 21-19! That’s 10 overtimes. I think on nearly every point, I had to make a diving shot for the ball. A normal squash set only goes to 11, with the winner having to win by two. It was awesome to have a crowd cheering, too!
If I have one goal for the end of my time in Calcutta, it is to be able to beat Shivam and Ankur, the number 1 and two respectively at Hiland consistently. This is more important than my research. Did I say I take squash far too seriously?
Sunday morning I left with Ankit and his father to see the The Statesman’s Vintage & Classic Car Rally. It was an incredible display of cars and something that makes Calcutta seem so incongruous with itself. It’s a city with abject poverty but one with a history of extreme wealth, and even if that wealth doesn’t exist today in the same forms, these cars tangibly represent the city’s privileged class. But, I think more strangely is the fact that these cars signal old wealth. Where else in India is old wealth visible? Mumbai, Delhi, Chennai, Hyderabad, Bangalore, Adhmenabad—predominantly new wealth, cities with incredible growth. Calcutta doesn’t really have that. Much of its wealth is from the past, and many of its families are dignified in the peculiar way that perhaps, F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby captured.
The car show had one Rolls Royce. I couldn’t figure out the exact model, but I recall it being built in 1923.
But the real steal of the show, for me, was a, bright yellow, unusual German made car by Messerschmitt, a company which to me evokes images of camouflaged WWII fighters. I had no idea that Messerschmitt as a company even survived World War II. Anyway, they developed a couple cars with two wheels in the front and one in the back in the 1950s. You sat in it, and the door closed above you like a cockpit. The steering wheel pivoted much like a the dials on a clock face.
After the car show, I headed with Sheela to join our friend Ifte as he presented a Calcutta walk (his company) to a group of South African tourists around some of the historical colonial sections of the city, including St. John’s Cathedral, St. Paul’s, and Dalhousie Square (now B.B.D. Bagh—named after three martyrs (I suppose the British would have called them terrorists) who tried to storm the Writer’s Building (then opposite Dalhousie Square), the seat of the British Government. We also the infamous Black Hole of Calcutta which is where the Nawob of Bengal threw the British Inhabitants of the city he captured in 1757 into a hole where many of them died, though this history is certainly debatable. It was good to see parts of the city on a Sunday when it was quiet, and of course parts of the city that I hadn’t seen as a tourist.
In other news, we’ve had Turkish-Dutch guests over, and they just bought a motorcycle which they plan on riding all the way back to the Netherlands on! As well, Mithu our maid came back from her Holiday to Jharkhand. Also confirmed is that One Step Up on Park Street has great burgers (lamb, meaning they are great for India standards) if they are available.