Good start in Kolkata

Trip Start Nov 29, 2013
Trip End Jan 09, 2014

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Flag of India  , West Bengal,
Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Our first few days in Kolkata went well. We are in the house of the Das family in Saltlake City, the first satellite town of Calcutta. It is mainly a residential area where many engineers and doctors live. This is how Chris’s friend Joydeep phrased it, who had picked us up from the new Dum Dum airport and dropped us at the Das house. 

We visited him and his family in their new house in Rajarhat, the most recent town development. Many high-rise buildings have gone up in this new town that is near the airport, but most buildings bought by people there remain empty for several years now. Awaiting law cases about the land rights and moreover, water and electricity supplied by the state are problematic and still have to be finished.  

Joydeep works at a bank, his wife is a geography teacher at a college. They have two lovely kids and live in a house designed by his wife. The house looks very unusual with lots of space. It is in a compound with a big house of his father in law and it has also has quite a big garden. When Chris was here some five years ago the whole area was mainly farmland.

Fairlawn hotel
The next day we started at the LWS office for a first briefing and we were offered a car for the day. Following that we combined changing money at Newmarket with having a fresh lime juice at the enclosed and very nice terrace of the Fairlawn Hotel that we already frequented in 1978. We visitit every time we are in Calcutta. The old waiters there still remember Chrisand me.

Chris did his usual shopping, buying an embroidered tablecloth. At the nearby Oxford Bookshop I did not buy any book this time, but we scored an India Today and had a small lunch on he first floor.  Chris could not resist the temptation to buy a coffee table book on the history of Flurys the famous tearoom in Park Street. In the 1978-1981 years when we lived in Dhaka this bookshop and Park Street were heaven for us.The reason we are touring in India again is the 40th anniversary of the Lutheran World Service India Trust, the organization Chrisworked for from 1985 to 1997. They invited us for their celebrations from 5 to 7 December. 

Making use of this opportunity we decided to visit a number of Indian-Dutch monuments such as churches, forts and graveyards, all along the coasts of India that we have not seen before. These monuments are what is left from the Dutch East Indian Company’s (VOC) presence since the 17th century. And an additional bonus of being here is the pleasant temperature of 25 degrees and escaping six weeks of misery in the European winter, ha ha. 
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Najma Haque on

Hi Dick, What a pleasant surprise! Would you believe that I dreamt last night about Manikganj and you arrived there too with a gift for me. What a strange coincidence. Good that you can escape the severe winter for a few weeks. Do you know that I'm supposed to be in India in January but it's sooo difficult to get a visa these days. I applied 2 times but didn't get an appointment so I've stopped trying. I was supposed to go see a child that my friend Mary sponsors there and 3 others in Delhi. I shall be going to Yangon in March to attend an international conf on the 'challenges of a free press'. So it may become too tight to visit India after Jan and after March it will be too hot.
Things at home are very hot and volatile at the moment and lord knows when all these will be over. We are overdue for a lot of reforms starting with the constitution. So it's not a desirable destination for tourists. I was supposed to attend a meting in Mym. but it had to be postponed because of hartal and 'aborod'(total stoppage of all transport).
Do you have any follow up work in B'desh next year or so? I might come to Europe and the US next year since my visa for US runs out in 2015. I might come to Holland specially to see Nel's grandchildren.
Have a good trip. Marry Christmas to you and Chris in advance.

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