Today I go to the Kolkata Book Fair with Srutasrava Prabhu and his family. We get an auto rickshaw at the corner of Jessore Road and Bangur Avenue, on the other side of Stool River, and ride the horrendously potholed Jessore Road, past the smelly fish market at the Eastern Railway overhead bridge, and on to the Belgachia Metro Rail station. Ah! — the smells of Kolkata.
Srutasrava Prabhu ("You talkin' to me?") is doing his "National Geographic photographer on assignment" impersonation, capturing the motley menagerie of miscellaneous sights that are Kolkata with his (ahem!) six-megapixel digital camera. His adoring assistant, Devaki Mayi (aged 9) carries his tripod.
Into the bowels of the underground railway: the trains are packed. We squeeze into one of the coaches, and more passengers are shoehorned in behind us. We clutch on to the insalubrious overhead rail that hundreds of hands have held today. Eeew! This is how Kolkata feels.
We get out at the Maidan station and take the stairs up to Chowringhee Road. The sound of Kolkata assaults our ears: a cacophony of horns and bells of cars and cyclists, whistles and sirens of buses and emergency vehicles, shouts and barks of street vendors and dogs, and cajoling and wheedling of street urchins and beggars.
And finally, on to the fairground. We make our way through the crowd to our Sri Chaitanya Saraswat Math bookstall, but first! — ice creams for the kids and sodas for the adults — something to wash the taste of Kolkata out of our mouths!