Its early morning in Chennai – 8.30AM – & its my 153rd & final day in the sub-continent. Our plane leaves tomorrow morning at 4AM, so we’re hoping to be at the airport for tonight – we can watch the Spurs-Real Madrid Champions League match in a bar there to keep us awake. By now I’m totally India’d out & looking forward to getting home; Eastenders & some proper chips & curry await. Still, its been a pretty cool do, really.
A few days ago, I was in an explosively happy Calcutta, watching India beat Pakistan in the World Cup. I was watching it in this mad wee political party office for the vibes, & after they won the ‘war,’ the streets of Calcutta exploded into life (not bombs); five guys on a single bike streaming past, the flag of India fluttering behind them; groups of young lads running down every street cheering their head off; the massive jam of people & cars & people on cars down Park Street, screaming & singing & all sorts. A proper awesome display of ecstasy, like a squat party without the drugs.
Just as we were leaving Calcutta for the thirty-hour train ride south – I had my wallet & £50 stolen & Charlie got dysentry. To tell you the truth, I think it was Charlie who took the money – the fear of his imminent return has made him desperate – I just wish’d he’d have asked. But he did pay for my ticket so I can’t really complain. Its also weird to see him leaving in pretty much the same physical nick as he arriv’d in. I woke up on the train-ride south to Charlie pathetically hanging off his sleep bed with his undies round his ankles & an Indian man hovering above him menacingly wanting to chuck him off the train. The dysentry had floored him -literally, pinning him to the skanky train toilet while his entire body gush’d fluids. He was so weak & confused that he sat down on the wrong sleeper bed – stinking of shit in his undies remember – right on top of a menacing guys wife. I sooth’d the situation & once we got to Chennai got him sorted. I’d had dysentry before & knew what to do, y’see. This is Charlie’s version of events;
THE LEAVING OF CALCUTTA
By Charlie Fairclough
We left old Calcutta the way that we came
Three weeks later on the midnight train
We said our goodbyes & paid all our tabs
& walked to the bus-stop avoiding the cabs
The night was dark & the bus was hot
As we left the city behind
Then crossing the Hooghly
Life chuck’d us a double googly
We gobbled a snack & boarded the train
But soon one of our party doubled in pain
& staggering off to the dunny
& whilst he was gone
And to make matters worse
the other one’s lost all his money
Cheeky fucker, nicking my money & writing about it. Still, we arriv’d in Chennai last Saturday. India won the Cricket World Cup later that day, but the celebrations in Chennai were about ten percent of those in Calcutta. Since then I’ve just been killing time writing this essay on Homer of all people (I think I’ve solved the mysteries of the Iliad). Its all good. I guess I’m like one of the sitar disciples learning his ancient instrument at the feet of his master – only my masters are all dead & I’ve had to teach myself
By the way, there’ll be no more group e-mails – I’ve gotta stop some time & I’ve been sending them out on & off for nine years now. Some of you are recent readers & some have been there since day one. From now on I’m gonna use my blog, so this trip just a wee swan song – I started them in India in 2002, so it was apt to finish them here. Anyways, I hope you enjoyed some of the descriptions of exotic places, thanks for your ears guys & see you around sometime.