25 February 2008

Calcutta/Kolkata: Day Two

Last night, I was quite fortunate to meet up with friends of an Indian colleague from America. We had a long, serious chat--maybe the only kind of which I am capable--and then went out for pizza at the Kolkata branch of Fire and Ice. I'd mentioned my fondness for it in passing, and lo and behold the only other branch is here. I know it seems silly that I'm eating Western food in India, but remember that we go out for Indian food on occasion in America; we don't eat it every day. And I don't want to eat it every day. They invited me to stay at their apartment, and I intend to take them up on the offer before moving on to Bodhgaya.

This morning I spent practicing my Japanese (I still suck) with one of my dorm mates, an affable student from Nagoya. He just happened to have the latest Radiohead album on his iPod, and, since I hadn't heard it yet, he let me listen to the whole thing. Then we went out for cappuccinos, where I read in the local newspaper about the Academy Awards. I forgot about them and the writers' strike. Anyway, I was glad to see that Javier Bardem won for his role in "No Country for Old Men." More deserving acting in more deserving a film there has not been for as long as I can remember. But he's deadly sinister, so I have to warn the tame among you, my friends, away from it. I may even read the book. Michael Wood wrote about it and the film recently in the LRB. Good cred. BUT--I discovered a bookstall here that sells those lovely Routledge and Palgrave philosophy reprints (does anyone know what I'm talking about?) for, like, 30% of the normal price (for sale in the Indian subcontinent only). I already bought Foucault's "The Archaeology of Knowledge" for about $6, and I may just buy the whole collection and ship it home. I really hope I do not do that. Also in another bookstore--the luxurious "Oxford" bookstore--I found a clothbound, three-volume edition of "The Complete Calvin and Hobbes," which I must someday buy for my child: the best education of the wit one can have at a young age. Near that, I spotted a large-size album of the "wonders of the world" and became rueful, after flipping through it, because I've already seen most of them. What will be left for me after this trip? Timbuktu? So much for spreading the experience of the world over the entirety of a lifetime when the only novelty remaining for one's old age is the statue of Christ Reedemer.

I really have nothing interesting to say about Calcutta today. I mean, here I am talking about the Oscars and bookstores. After this, I have to find a place to buy sunblock and a clinic to get a rabies booster. See, not so exciting. There's not much to see in this city, and that's fine with me. I'm just "chilling" for the time being. I'll try to get myself into more trouble soon so I have more stories to tell. Until then, Happy Chinese New Year.

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