We left the Indian Coffee House and wandered through some more of the city’s back streets and laneways. Many of the walls were lined with the daily washing. Even the run down, dirty grey buildings looked beautiful with the bright reds, orange, yellow and green of saris and the bleached white of Dhotis & Kurtas drying in the steamy heat of the day.
Washing Day in the Laneways of Kolkata
We decided to take a rickshaw instead of the train. I felt uncomfortable then, and still do, that this form of transport still exists. No one should have to pull another person along by hand, but I realise also that these men need to make a living. Most have come from the countryside in Bihar and have families to support. Unfortunately it’s often the only work they can get.
At this moment there are around 3000 Rickshaw Pullers in Kolkata
Our rickshaw puller or Wallah as they are called in India, was immaculately dressed, small and wiry with muscles as strong as an ox. As we weaved between traffic the tiny bell attached to his fingers rang out to call his presence.
Our Rickshaw Puller in Kolkata, the last City in the World to use hand-pulled Rickshaws. Note the string of his bell around his finger
At times we seemed to dodge buses & cars by inches, but I was amazed by the way our wallah handled his cart with such ease, considering his size and our combined weight. ( more than usual after eating curry, rice & Indian desserts for a month!!)
With his tiny bell tinkling our Wallah negotiates the crazy Kolkata Streets.
We left our rickshaw puller at San Yat Sen station and caught a train to the Esplanande Metro Station. We were close to the expensive Oberoi Hotel. and as a friend had recently told us to have a look inside, we did. As we walked through the internal garden & swimming pool area we would never have known that we were on one of the busiest streets in Kolkata. We saw the billiards bar and thought we would order a coffee. Maybe we’d get a decent one here!!
It was considerably better than our previous one and was served with some very delicious homemade biscuits. But we paid heavily for the priveledge, Aus$20 to be exact. We were served by very polite waiters who were happy to deliver our coffee quickly in case they should miss a wicket in the cricket match they were watching on TV.
Lobby at the Kolkata Oberoi. A nice place to stay I guess, but if you prefer the real experience of Kolkata it’s probably not for you!!
What a difference here. Nothing could have been further from the experience we had enjoyed at the Indian Coffee House and our journey to find it. We had gone from rags to riches within the space of 30 mins.