Monday, November 30, 2015

1975 Roberta's India Letter -Nov.30

Nov. 30, 1975
Dear Family ––

Hi!  It's only 6:15 AM but the sounds of the city below woke me up so I thought it a good time to do some writing.

I had a great time in Darjeeling – it is known for its tea.  We (a Canadian girl I met there) walked around a good deal – we saw a tea estate where the ladies were picking the leaves & putting them into big straw baskets on their backs.  We did NOT go to Tiger Hill – because you go there to see this fantastic view & the entire time we were there it was very foggy!  We went to what is called the Tibetan Refugee Self Help Center – there you could see everyone busy at work – metalworkers, weavers, etc.  Also there is a community kitchen where all the food is fixed for some 700 people!

I also went to my 1st Indian movie – it wasn't a good movie – but it only cost 25¢!  Called "What a Lovely War" – about World War I.

The bus trip back was as bad as the one there.  In fact I can now say I got sick in India – going from Darjeeling to Siliguri I was in a jeep – packed full it would have held 11 people – but there were 17 people, 2 chickens & a few pieces of luggage – that did not fit on top.  I picked this time to get car sick!  The mountains were something else!  Darjeeling is some 7,000 feet above sea level.  When I got to Siliguri I had about 2 hours to wait on my bus back to Calcutta – so I tried to get my stomach in order again.  Drank some hot tea & had some bread.  I had a very uncomfortable trip back but was not sick again!

Arriving in Calcutta I took a tram (.20p.) – about 3¢ to the Y.W.C.A. – where I found out my room had been filled & also all beds full.  They had taken in a group of 20 or so – so my reservation went out the window.  I called the Salvation Army hostel – they referred me to their  new Salvation Army Hostel for Women.  It's new – not the building.  I consider myself lucky to be here – 10 rupees for bed & good breakfast.  Dorm style – I am in a room w/ 4 other girls – 1 a nurse from France, 2 students from Thailand & 1 an airline stewardess from a small town about 200 miles away.  Last night she came in from a flight & brought us all back candy –cotton, pens, etc. – compliments of Indian Airlines!

We have a bath-tub here – only cold water but you can buy a bucket of hot water for 50p. (6¢) I considered that a bargain.  Took my 1st bath in 2 weeks!

Last night I had dinner w/ Banergee's [Bombay host] cousin here in Calcutta.  He is a Botany prof. at the Calcutta Univ. – just got back this last summer from spending 5 years in Australia teaching.  He is married & has the cutest 7-year-old daughter.  Also his father (more on him later) & his sister (23 years old) was there.  It was a very enjoyable evening.  Their English was good – just the accent a little different.

As to the grandfather – he reads palms & wanted to do mine. 1st he said I had had a minor operation about a year ago as concerned w/ my stomach – but no good results came from it.  He went on to say that in 4 years I will have another operation as to the stomach & I will be in the hospital 3 weeks – I asked him several questions – one about Catherine & he said she has not been getting along w/ her husband – that they will lead their own lives & that in 2 years Catherine will remarry. He said I will be married at about 33 years old, have 3 children & that the 1st will die at birth.  I asked him about Grandma – he said she will live at least 2 more years – have alot of pain & trouble w/ legs – but will be good mentally & physically (except for legs).  He said I will like India alot & will hate to leave, that I like to travel & meet new people.  His English was very good & I tried to write down everything he said when I got home – so we'll see how it all comes out.  [Can't say about Roberta's stomach operations but can add that Roberta got married at age 32, Catherine remarried in one year, correct about Grandma living at least 2 years – she lived an additional 18 years. Roberta's love for traveling and meeting new people seem obvious.]

I had only talked to Mr. Chakrabacki [the cousin?]  a short time last week before going to Darjeeling.  Next week I am to go out again for supper & also to see the Univ. & visit one of his classes.

The meal was really something – started off w/ soup – then tomatoes, cucumber, onions, & radishes, fried rice w/ prawns (like shrimp) a meat dish – w/ goat meat, potatoes, sweet & sour mangoes (excellent), and for dessert yogurt & 2 "sweets."  The yogurt was also delicious!

As to the Zakhani's [?] – they are still busy w/ after wedding festivities – I stopped by their office & got your letter yesterday Dad – written the 20th of Nov.  They said that there had been another letter but it got lost in all the excitement of the wedding.  Thanks anyway for the letter – I also enjoyed the articles – what a contrast – $4000 dinner vs pork & beans. I was glad to get the latest shop news – I know JB was happy to get home – was he in good or bad spirits about his safe?  What did he do with his stamps?

As to stamps – please send me lots of U.S. stamps to Bombay.  I made a BIG mistake as to bringing U.S. coins here – everyone is afraid to take them – they say that should their house be raided & the coins found they will be in serious trouble.  Right now what is called Emergency measures are happening in India.  I don't understand it too much but I know for a fact that there are uniformed police EVERYWHERE!  On every bus, every train car, every street corner – I don't mean just 1 – but several police together everywhere.  I also understand there are lots of un-uniformed police.  There is a terrible Black market here for $ – every time I walk down the street I am told I can get a good rate for my $ (much better than the Banks),  But I do stick with the banks – safe in the long run.  Also you must show your exchange slips from the bank at all hotels, and also I'm told when you make a purchase for any amount at all in a store.

I leave tonight at 8:00 pm for Puri – just 300 miles away but a 13 hour train ride.  I'll be going 2nd class – guess the main difference is in the bathrooms.  I have reserved a sleeper – that cost 3 Rupees extra – I do enjoy certain luxuries –

I'm actually beginning to like Calcutta – I find that hard to believe myself.  When I 1st got here –– I thought that the ghettos of NYC would look good to me!  But now I am meeting girls here at the hostel & have called upon several people I met at the wedding.  I'm learning the trams & am better located now than at the Y.W.C.A  I'm w/in 2 blocks of the Oberoi Grand Hotel – also near Dalhousie Square.  There is a tram stop right in front of the hostel – which by the way occupies the 2nd & 3rd floors of the building.  You know the 1st floor here is always 1 flight up!

I've even been thinking of cutting my time short in Puri to come back to Calcutta earlier.  As planned now I will be back in Calcutta the 7th to 11th of December.  I imagine I would not be able to get new reservations (as to changing sooner) to Calcutta from Puri.  Puri is suppose to be very nice – also alot of nice side trips – to Kanarak [Konark] & Bhubanershar [Bhubaneswar]. I'm leaving alot of my things here at the hostel – locked up – my heavy clothes, extra film, etc.  If I never wear my heavy underwear again – I'll still be glad I had it in Darjeeling – I had on 5 layers (minimum) of clothes on all the time there!

Tonight a family I met at the wedding will come after me at 4:00 – I'm to go to their house for dinner & then on to the R.R. station.  They have 5 children – boy 18 collects stamps – I gave him JB's address.

I have seen jacks here – called 5 stones – they are plastic – made here in India.  Sell for about 5 rupees (60¢)

I also met a lawyer & his family at the wedding – was over at their house (HA – flat!) yesterday.  His office is in his bedroom – or vice versa.  He is young – only been practicing for 5 years – He hopes to buy his wife a small stove someday.

I have not been to Zakhanis but once – as they ask me too many questions.  How much $ I have w/me, how much $ I have at home in the bank, how much my father makes, how much Dr. Zakhani makes, on & on & on.  They are NOT satisfied w/ a joke or a laugh for an answer – they want THE ANSWER!

I've had my breakfast now & am planning to go to Church services w/ some girls here.

Hope all of you are doing fine – Mary V –I'm sorry you were sick & what a shame to be sick when J.B. was at home – you missed out on alot of extra teasing.

Is it getting COLD – the Buick will have to be winterized.

I mailed the film yesterday – cost me enough $ – I just hope it gets there!  I wish I could be there to explain the pictures – but that will have to wait.  In Delhi – Banergee is the one in the suit at some of the tourist places.  He is lighter skin than Raja – from South Africa.  I'm being more careful now in making sure the settings are right on the camera.

Mother – have a nice Birthday – I'll be thinking about you & will be sending you something.  Eat a piece of cake for me – also some raw lettuce leaves – haven't had any since Marquis (sp?) Nov. 12th!  NO – TANDOOR – Nov. 13th.

This turned out to be LONG – my greetings to everyone.


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