During the period 5-12 May 2017, the NSAN editor Lars Eklund visited Bhutan on invitation from the Royal University of Bhutan (RUB) and more specifically by its College of Education in Samtse (SCE). The planning for the visit originated in Lars meeting Swedish musicologist Johan Westman working at the Lu-Rig Centre for Music Education and Research.
Samtse College of Education is one of eight Bhutanese colleges at different locations in the country, under the umbrella of RUB. It was established already in 1968 as the Teachers Training Institute.
Currently SCE has external linkages with a number of European, American and Australian universities, including TERI University in Delhi and Aalborg University in Denmark, but till now no Swedish universities, and that became the main purpose of Lars’ visit to broker more connections.
Lars was invited to hold a seminar (photo above) for the faculty and students on important research fields common to Sweden and Bhutan, presenting information about Nordic PhD theses and Swedish research projects related to Bhutan – mostly within natural and agricultural sciences, and providing concrete suggestions regarding specific Swedish university institutions in the fields of social science and humanities that might be of interest for SCE.
During his stay in Samtse he also held separate meetings with the professor at the different centres, and with the SCE President, Dr. Dorji Thinley. These meetings were fruitful and immediately a connection was made between the Dept. of Mathematics at SCE and a Matematics department at a Swedish university.
On his final day in Bhutan, in the capital Thimphu, Lars had a 45 minutes meeting with the Vice Chancellor of Royal University of Bhutan, Nidup Dorji.
Read Lars complete report from the Bhutan visit.
Wednesday 12 December 2018
Arrived Kolkata at 16.40 local time by Air India. Spent seven hours waiting at Delhi airport mostly sleeping, fortunately our luggage – four bags weighing 66 kg – came straight through from Copenhagen.
Picked up by Bubu’s sister Boni and her husband Rana, and don’t believe we headed for some relax, no instead we drove immediately to Nagerbazar by Jessore Road, where cousin Alok Deb, professor and also theatre director, well known to me since many years, living at Northern Avenue close to Tala Park. We were invited to the wedding of is daughter Chitrangada, to be married off to Asijit.
Bengali ladies are certainly the most attractive in the world, according to my judgement, not said only because I happen to be married to one. So many charming women with beautiful faces were here assembled, along with equally nice gentlemen. The bridal couple was of course the luckiest ones with amazing dresses and in focus constantly by photographers and relatives who all wished to be close to them.
If you have seen the film Monsoon Wedding with its depiction of a typical upper-class Punjabi wedding, you would be utterly surprised by watching a Bengali Hindu wedding, with its many rituals taking place during three days, and totally without any consumption of alcohol. Instead waiters go around and serve the guests a variety of non-alcoholic fruit drinks, whereas other waiters serve fried chicken and other delicious snacks before going to the buffet dinner – with lots of food, including several varieties of fish dishes (a must for every true Bengali) – served in an adjacent building. The mood is extraordinary.
Arriving at 6 PM we were surprised not seeing anyone else of my own Munshi family present at their cousins party, but after some hours they all turned out – important guests should always come late. Nice to see sister-in-law Buku with husband Mishtu, daughter Munjini and sweet grandchild Anindini; then the Tala Park residents Polly, Bampa, Banjul, Ivy and Irene, and at last from Salt Lake my brother-in-law Tutu with his wife Tuki. However, so tired after long travel I was only feeling exhausted and longed for my bed at our Sardar Sankar Road residence. Reached there at midnight.
Thursday 13 December 2018
Woke up early, enjoying the cool morning breeze and the rising sun. At 7 AM I was sitting by myself on the roof terrace with a cup of tea offered by my eminent brother-in-law Rana living just below us in he four-storyed building behind Lake mall.
A day to relax, reading my favourite website news channels Al Jazeera, The Hindu, and Sydsvenskan, plus reading Outlook and Times of India paper newspapers. The election results from five Indian states were presented today, and they bring a welcome relief to the more and more disturbing Hindutva orientation that Indian politics has been subjected to since the massive BJP victory in the 2014 parliamentary elections. Now a revitalized Congress party – that the BJP had predicted to be totally wiped out from the Indian political map – has instead won the state elections in two major North Indian states, namely Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan and also in small Chattisgarh. In the newly established Telengana state (Hyderabad being the Capital) in the South the elections were won by a regional party, and the same thing happened in the northeastern state of Mizoram with a Christian majority, bringing an end to speculations that the entire Northeast would be ruled by BJP.
In the evening nice guests arrived to my sister-in-laws flat, a nice couple with a daughter who just passed her BA in Fine Arts from Portland State University in the US. They were eager to inform me, who has spent nearly three years in Kolkata altogether from 1982 and onwards, and seen most interesting places in the city, what new attractions have come up. Most interesting I found the info that a reconverted Kolkata Tram has been set in traffic as a lunch and dinner restaurant. Run by a private company it serves Bengali traditional dishes while traveling in slow motion from Esplanade to Kidderpore. I will definitely try this tram car experience.
Friday 14 December 2018
The day our children arrived in the morning, Mattias and Daniel by Emirates from Stockholm-Dubai and Marie by Jet Airways from Berlin-Delhi. Such nice reunion, it was many years since we were all together in Kolkata. In the evening we went to our near-by South Indian restaurant, the Banana Leaf, and ordered giant masala dosas and delicious coffee.
However, earlier than that, before 7 AM, I woke up and had my breakfast out on the terrace in the mild morning sun, a true pleasure to drink tea and eat toasts with sliced cheese and peanut butter, juice and fruits, and remembering several mornings this style with my dear friend Lars Gerdmar eleven months ago, when we shared our breakfasts on this very terrace.
How to house five people in our small flat? Well, in India everything is possible. But for practicality we bought two thin mattresses to make an extra bed in the flat, and Mattias and Daniel decided to sleep downstairs in sisters house. Boni and Rana also provided us with wonderful lunch, with fish of course.
Saturday 15 December 2018
Another relaxing day, mostly staying in the flat, reading, doing Facebook entrances and nothing more. Well Marie took over my work room to do some internet work. We all borrowed internet capacity from Rana, but in the evening I received my own mobile internet device from the Reliance store in Lake Mall Shopping Centre. Quite a lot of bureaucratic hassle in order to get an Indian SIM card, but easier than a few years back when it was almost impossible. Now it was enough with copies of passport and OCI card plus a personal letter from a relative that I am known. Applied for the device on Friday evening and could collect it 24 hours later.
In the evening Bubu’s second younger sister Buku came for a visit along with daughter Munjini and of course granddaughter Anindini. Our children were happy to meet them again. And a second visitor also came, namely Ritayan who stayed in our house in Lund some years ago and whose Kolkata family are our close friends. We discussed organising a cultural programme on 28th January with music performances by Mattias on Clarinet and Daniel on Viola.
Sunday 16 December 2018
Visiting Tala Park, our previous home base in Kolkata, still a family Munshi home for Polly, wife of my late brother-in-law Manto, her two sons Bampa and Banjul, plus Banjul’s wife Ivy and daughter Irene. Downstairs on the signboard it is however still written that the flat owner is Kumkum Munshi.
Five people made it necessary to book two taxis, since new rules stipulates maximum four passengers to a taxi. Before it has not been unusual to see taxis filled with 6-7 people or even more. The price for the long journey from Lake Market to Paikpara is still very modest, 200 rupees (= 25 SEK).
At Tala Park we were offered a delicious lunch prepared by Polly, and in the afternoon before heading back to Lake Market we ate fresh singaras (samosas), the best of its kind to be found in Paikpara.
In the evening the kids, well can you call your children all above 30 years of age for kids?, offered a sweet surprise, namely ordering one delivery of excellent ice-cream with unusual tastes from a shop at Park Street. Daniel learnt to know of this business when he visited Bombay a few years ago, and now the business has spread to Kolkata.
Monday 17 December 2018
Spent the day with the kids, while Bubu remained at home with sister Boni. Marie has had some problem with her hair falling off, and has tried different treatments in Germany, but today she opted for homeopathic treatment by an Indian doctor at Minto Park in south-central part of town, where the rest of us, Mattias, Daniel and I had to wait for 2,5 hours while Marie had a first treatment. Passed the time with telling the boys of my early India and Asia adventures.
Finally, we were on the move, and had a quick walk northwards towards Park Street, longing for having lunch at Peter Cat restaurant, but found that this popular eatery had a queue for at least half an hour and we were already late for lunch. Instead we continued to my favourite lunch place ever since my first visit to Kolkata in 1982, namely Kwality restaurant located next door to Oxford Book Shop. I ordered as usual their excellent Cream of Tomato Soup, and added to that Paneer Butter Masala. Leaving my other standing favourite dish, Chicken Butter Masala with Nan to the children.
After completing our hunger for food we continued over to the Oxford store for some intellectual stimuli, strolling along the good selection of books available. Landed up buying two books, Amitava Ghosh’s ”The Hungry Tide”, an old book by him but which I did not read before, and also the eminent Shashi Tharoors brand new volume ”The Paradoxical Prime Minister. Narendra Modi and his India”. Ghosh is of special interest since I recently learned that some of his books finally will be translated into Swedish language, an initiative by Pernilla Ståhl in Lund. And Tharoor, a sharp analyst of Indian history, economics and politics (and an MP for the Congress), again proves his excellence in a book where he systematically discusses the five disastrous years of Modi government, naturally written with an intention to influence the coming 2019 general elections.
Tuesday 18 December 2018
One week since leaving Sweden, a rainy and cool day, forcing us to eat our breakfast indoors. On top of that, Bubu has caught a cold. I spent most of the day at home, relaxing and reading Tharoor. Whereas the rest of he family went to Gariahat and did some shopping at FabIndia. The boys are positively obsessed with making our flat cosy, and therefore buy new lamps, new tea cups, a sitting room table etc. And yes, it certainly becomes very cosy at home, but from a practical wievpoint it may be little wasteful, since we spend maximum two months a year in Kolkata. The rest of the year, all things have to be magazined, put in cupboards or in original packets because of the highly polluted air and the harmful effects of monsoon.
Boni and Rana plan to go to their summer house in Shantiniketan on 21st, but at least two of us won’t get room in their car but have to go by train. Tickets were however not bought in advance, so therefore we had to procure these today for Daniel and Mattias. We quickly found out that all trains from Kolkata to Bolpur on the 21st were fully booked, so instead Daniel searched the net and found a taxi service, offering the journey for 2 850 rupees, and made reservations for that.
For the return journey there were still tickets available, even though not for the most conveniant train, the Shantiniketan Express, but for other trains. We tried to make online reservations but failed to complete, so finally we went to a local travel agent on Lake Road, who made bookings as simple as that for an early morning passenger train Bolpur-Kolkata on 26h December.
In the evening I went with the kids to eat at one of my favourite restaurants, Padmaparer Rannaghar, a restaurant at the Gariahat/Rash Behari crossing specialised in genuine Bangladeshi dishes, that I discovered along with my visiting friend Lars Gerdmar when we roamed around in Kolkata earlier this year. It is a quite simple place and the menu only gives the Bengali names of all dishes, but the taste is super, extraordinary. Besides, the prices are really cheap compared to other Kolkata restaurants serving Bengali delicious specialities. Daniel who loves to surprise people with his good knowledge of spoken Bangla conversed fluently with the staff and made sure we got a full table with perfect spicy hot vegetable, fish and meat dishes typical for East Bengal. We became completely full, in spite of paying only 2000 rupees for the four of s together (260 SEK).
Wednesday 19 December 2018
Nice walk with Mattias and Daniel along the Rabindrar Sarovar (The Lakes) to Dakhinapan. A walk through blocks of charming old houses around Southern Avenue, sadly intermixed with torn-down ones giving space for terrible new 7-8 stories buildings under construction by unscrupulous developers.
With nice sunshine, a pleasant Swedish summer temperature and in good speed we entered the park with the two main water bodies forming Rabindra Sarovar or The Lakes, an oasis of fresh air in south Kolkata. Leaving the park we enjoyed fresh tea in clay cups in a simple tea stall before continuing our walk past the non-impressive Buddhist temple and climbing the stairs to the flyover over the railway tracks to reach our destination, Dakhinapan shopping complex. The boys enjoyed shopping in stores representing all Indian states.
From there we took a taxi back to Southern Avenue, because we liked to eat our lunch at another favourite of mine, discovered during my previous stay. Coastal Restaurant serving food from coastal regions around all India. But to our dismay, we found the restaurant was closed and a sign announced that it had moved to Hindustan Park. No time to go there, we searched the neighbourhood for an alterative eatery and ended up in a quite luxurious place named Marco Polo. Their menu was supposed to reflect Marco Polo’s 13thcentury travels and consisted of mixed European, Persian, Indian and Chinese dishes. In spite of the exclusive atmosphere the prices were not very high.
Thurday 20 December 2018
Visit to former Danish trading centre Serampore, north of Kolkata, along with dear old friends Miriya Juntunen and Dipak Malik studying the impressive restoration work made possible by the National Museum of Denmark. Details in my 2012 travel report. http://www.larseklund.in/resebrev/57_kolkata2012.pdf
Denmark had control over this charming small town on the Hooghly riverside for 200 years, and since 2012 Denmark has been involved in a project to restore some of the colonial building, a project now almost finished. The church, St Olavs kirke – named after the Norwegian saint (remember Norway share the colonial history since the country was united with Denmark till 1814) – has been fully restored, and work on the government house is in its final phase. Besides, another old building has been turned into restaurant, The Veranda, serving a few Danish dishes among a mixed menu of Indian and Western ones. It was formally inaugurated in February 2018 when all five Nordic ambassadors came to Serampore.
The town is also famous for its 200 years old college, founded by Christian missionaries who were given permission to do their missionary work here in Danish controlled territory, whereas the British refused them to work in Kolkata. William Carey was the most well-known of these missionaries. Serampore was also the place where the Bible was first translated and printed into several Indian languages. The efforts of the missionaries to convert people was however negligible except in certain places of India, for example in the northeast where three states have a Christian majority or a large minority, namely Meghalaya, Nagaland and Mizoram. And interestingly, a large group of the students at Serampore College come from the northeast and the three latest principals of the college have come from Mizoram.
We woke up in the morning at 6.30 and took a taxi to Howrah Station at 7.30. Funny thing with India is that the traffic rush hours are much later than in Europe since most offices and stores open at 10 o’clock. To travel as early as we did meant quick transport. Met our Varanasi friends Miriya and Dipak outside the Food Mall where Dipak was busy eating his morning masala dosa in one of the restaurants. We had decided to visit Serampore together, but I had also had mail contact with my friend Flemming Aalund, the chief architect on the Danish side in the Indo-Danish restoration project asking him about the present status.
Travelled by a local train – crowded but not extremely crowded – soon after 08.30, and reached Serampore 45 minutes. There we took an auto-riksha to the Danish quarters and made a tour around the buildings being renovated, and at 11 we went to the Taverna and had an excellent lunch.
Since there are no trains that departs from Serampore for Kolkata, only through trains that gives no chance for seats, Miriya had found out a perfect idea for the return journey, namely to take the ferry service over to military cantonment of Barackpur on the eastern side of Hooghly river and from there take a train for Dumdum station, and then continue with the Metro down to Kalighat, our nearest metro station. Everything went out fine even though we had to experience a long autoriksha drive from the ferry landing place to Barackpur station crossing the extremely busy BT Road (Barackpur Trunk Road).
We took farewell of Miriya and Dipak, who were supposed to fly to Pondicherry the coming day, but we will again meet in Varanasi in mid-January.
Friday 21 December 2018
Travelling to Shantiniketan by road is not a very pleasant experience due to constant stressful driving by all private car drivers and an intense traffic of lorries, and added to this comes frequent road repair works causing long and time-consuming queues. The trains cover the distance to Bolpur/Shantiniketan in three hours, but our journey today took almost six hours including a lunch break. I have not been car-sick since I was a child but today I again felt the same symptoms, headache and signs of vomiting. Besides I had a running nose, I had taken over the cold from Bubu.
We departed Kolkata at 09.30, the hired car arrived and Bubu, Mattias and Daniel went with that, whereas Marie and I went with Boni and Rana in their car. Halfway, Bubu and I however shifted.
Finally in Shantiniketan and the area of town called Andrews Palli, we could just relax and have a nice time. My Intetnet subscription by Jionet works superb even here and with VPN installed in my Ipad (thanks to Marie) I can even follow my favourite Swedish TV serials at SVT Play, right now the fourth season of the French serial The Bureau. We use approximately 5 GB data every day that means our prepaid 60 GB quickly will be gone and we have to recharge. Luckily, Jionet has a store in Bolpur.
Saturday 22 December 2018
Peaceful day in Shantiniketan, I cured my cold by staying at home whereas the rest of the family went to Amarkuthi and bought shirts and handicrafts. An evening ride with one of the many new electric rikshas – completely replacing the old cycle rikshas – down to the grocery shop in Shantiniketan had to do.
Sunday 23 December 2018
The winter festival, Poush Mela, started in Shantiniketan. Thousands of tourists mainly from Kolkata throng the campus areas and police redirect all traffic to park outside the main parts of town.We visited the mela ground in mid-day after travelling with two e-rikshas from our house. Similar to Kiviks marknad in Sweden but with only Indian locally produced goods for sale, and sugarcane juice, freshly pressed (Bubu’s favouriyte drink), being sold.
The day started however in much more serious manner. We went to attend the early morning ceremony at the Asrama, the prayer place opposite Tagore’s house, to celebrate Debendranath Tagore’s (Rabindranath’s father) initiation to the Brahmo faith in 1843. The Brahmo Samaj was a Hindu reform movement opposing several negative traits in the Hindu religion, for example the oppressive Caste system. We were not alone, when we arrived at 07.30 the place was filled with people and we sat down on the ground without seeing the choir singing Tagore songs but with a glimpse of the Vishwa Bharati University Vice Chancellor and other prominent persons holding speeches.
The highlight of day was otherwise our usual visit to Professor Asha Mukherjee and her husband Vijay, with whom Bubu and I have a special warm relation. She has been to Lund and has hosted me several times when coming here on official SASNET missions, and last January she organised a seminar for my friend Lars Gerdmar. However, she had not met our children, so that became a pleasant surprise for her, and for Mattias, Marie and Daniel it was at the same time a great time to discover the fantastic garden/forest with an enormous amount of different species of mango trees etc, that Vijay and Asha has made out of a formerly water-sick estate beside the Canal.
We were invited for tea at 16.30, but due to expected demand for rikshas due to the Mela we were advised to depart an hour earlier, which we did. It became a grand visit with several cups o tea and snacks, and nice talk with not only the hosts and their daughter (who has recently returned from one year’s studies in China, now searching for a scholarship for doing PhD in Chinese studies somewhere in the world – I suggested Lund University), but also a visiting couple, Gujarati poet Prabodh Parikh and his Bengali wife Mitra, settled in Bombay but currently staying for a month in Shantiniketan. It soon turned out that Prabodh was invited to Sweden in 1997, and had fond memories from that visit. He was part of the initial phase of the Indo-Swedish Translation project, launched by my friends and colleagues Tomas Löfström and Birgitta Wallin. Prabodh attended the Gothenburg book fair, which I also did that year, and he spent time with Swedish writer Göran Tunström on his island (Fårö). We immediately became good friends, and being a music lover he also invited our musician sons Mattias and Daniel to visit him and his wife in Bombay.
Monday 24 December 2018
Christmas Eve but none of our family missed the Swedish celebrations, but were instead so happy relaxing in the Shantiniketan sun. I read in Sydsvenskan on the net and received enthusiastic messages from Lund friends that the entire Skåne region was covered with snow. Nice photos, but I do not envy being there.
I took a lengthy walk – 17 700 steps it turned out to be, walking strange routes to Bolpur and the Jionet store there, where I recharged our data device with a plan, 28 days with 5 GB to use per day, costs 799 rupees. From there I continued to a seminar, the Debendranath Tagore Memorial Lecture at the Central Library Auditorium at 3 PM. Asha had invited me. I arrived there in good time and got a seat in the front row, which I came to regret since the seminar was all held in Bengali language by a professor from Chennai, I did not understand anything, still I could not leave early… Well, at least it was interesting to see a large group of professors in typical Bengali dhoti/punjabi dress.
Tuesday 25 December 2018/Christmas Day
A remarkable day indeed. We were kindly invited to participate in a Christmas Lunch at Asha’s and Bijoy’s place at Sonarjhuri Palli at 1 PM. A tradition they have since many years to invite all their friends on this public holiday. It should be noted that in India the most important festival days of all recognised Indian religions are celebrated, including Eid for muslims, and Christmas Day for Christians, but for those not being religious these public holidays are just days free from work, and in our Munshi family we often used to go for picnic in the nature on 25h December since the winter climate is so pleasant for such activity.
We travelled by e-riksha from our residence in Andrews Palli and arrived in time for the lunch preparations, Asha and her family and close friends making lots of delicious food, typical Bengali dishes almost like for a wedding dinner. While waiting we had nice chats with Bijoy; Prabodh Parikh and his wife Mitra Mukherjee-Parikh, and other guests. Then food was served on the bridge between the two houses, linen laid out in three rows for everybody, 30 people in all, to sit down on the floor, and being served food in the specific order that Bengali meals are always served, beginning with rice and ghee, then dal and vegetable dishes, followed by fish and meat dishes, to be concluded with a set of sweet dishes, including chutney, paesh (rice pudding), rosogolla etc. A wonderful lunch lasting a couple of hours.
On request from the hosts, Mattias and Daniel brought their instruments to the event and as a nice final activity, they performed in the garden playing Swedish folk songs together, Mattias on Clarinet and Daniel on Viola. A most appreciated performance by the audience. What a fantastic day!
Wednesday 26 December 2018
Time to take farewell of Shantiniketan and return to Kolkata. Mattias and Daniel were lucky to have train tickets and left by a passenger train at 06.29 (Bubu rose up at 04.45 to give them tea, and an e-riksha was ordered for 06.30). The rest of us – Boni and Rana, Bubu, Marie and myself spent the following hours packing and then departed by road at 0830. The boys arrived Howrah Station at 10, whereas we arrived Kolkata via the second Hooghly bridge at 13.45, more than five hours travelling on the busy highway full of lorries, And heavy queues while entering Kolkata. 20 years ago the traffic was very limited in mid-day, but now the car park is so large that there is a chaotic traffic situation all day long.
Day of relax and did some planning for our coming visit to Bangalore 29 December till 3 January. In the evening Budhu (Ranas sister) and her daughter Rikhia came to visit and then also Munjini with family back from Apollo Hospital in Chennai.
Thursday 27 December 2018
The children met their cousins at Tala Park, including Tutus daughters having arrived from Bombay and Delhi respectively.
I spent the whole day at home, reading Tharoor…. Took a walk past Deshapriya Park and the restaurant Burnt Garlic where I had suchnqie pizzas and Bira beer in January, but the restaurants s one closed down. Instead I landed at a boring Chineses restaurant near Gariahat, the old style India restaurant, dark, no windows, lousy service…
Friday 28 December 2018
Invited to Ritayan Chatterjee’s and his parents house in DumDum for lunch and concert by Mattias and Daniel. Bubu sang as well and a few other guests joined. Great day with many visitors to the family, and as usual a delicious lunch. 1,5 hours journey by sever taxi from Lake market, travelled the long flyover from Rabindra Sadan to EM Bypass, passed the airport and finally through the narrow and winding lanes of DumDum, impossible to navigate in without gps – that the Uber taxis have. Mridul Bose came for the concert, nice to meet my old friend from Jadavpur University, retired since only a month back, again.
At 6 PM we had to return to Lake Market, nw with two Uber taxis since we were going to Bangalore the following day and needed to pack our bags. First leaving Buku who also joined us for this one day excursion at Munjinis place near Chetla Bridge.
Unfortunately I have caught a severe cold.
Saturday 29 December 2018
Up at 05.30, and away by car, Rana‘s driver transported the five of us to the domestic airport, reaching there 07.15.
We were flying by Spicejet to Bangalore. Nice 2,5 hours experience since we had paid for additional services, Spicemax, that included nice seats in row No. 2 with extra leg space, also complimentary breakfast served for us, and speedy handling of our luggage..
We were in constant telephone contact with our Bangalore host Professor Gopal Karanth on how to travel from the airport. Since Marie was supposed to stay not with the rest of the family but with Sugandha Sukrutaraj (Sugii) – mother of our friend Deepak living in Lund, she took a separate taxi to Dollars Colony in north Bangalore, whereas the rest of us took a second taxi for the Majestic Metro Station in the city centre, and from there travelled by train to the southern end station of Yellachennah. There, Gopal met with his car to take us the short distance to their home in a house called Shankar’s Pride, located in J P Nagar Phase 8.
Warmly welcomed home by Gopal an this wife Raji, who spent one year in Lund 2011, Gopal being the second ICCR guest Professor at the Dept. of Sociology, Lund University – the ICCR programme organised by SASNET. We became good friends. The following year 2012, SASNET successfully organised a conference at the prestigious Institute for Social and Economic Change (ISEC), Gopal’s then home institution in Bangalore. That was the last time we met. Gopal has now left ISEC and is the Director for another institute, namely the Karnataka State Labour Institute.
While preparing for our Bangalore tour I had also contacted old-time SYDASIEN magazine friend Zac O’Yeah, working closely together with me and Katarina Sandström Blyme in the 1990s. SYDASIEN published his initiated articles on the Bollywood film industry already 1993, and we often had editorial meetings in Norrköping where Zac came from Stockholm, me from Lund and Katarina from Vadstena. Zac’s capacity was manifested in our20 years jubilee issue No 4/1997, when he spent half a night going through the 20 years of publication an excellent summary of it all. Unfortunately a few incidents led to a break in our relation, that took some years to heal, and again when I was working with SASNET in 2009 another incident happened again we lost contact. However, now that is forgotten, and we had agreed to meet on our first night in town. And at Koshys legendary restaurant in central Bangalore, a place where we also met in 2007.
We got transport by Gopal’s official car to Koshys reaching there at 18.15, and found that Marie already reached there. Zac arrived soon after, and we had a lovely time updating ourselves on our lives, and I had the same Mixed Grill I had last time, wheres Mattias and Daniel ordered Kerala Beef, a dish not mentioned in the menu, but still existing. So nice to revive our friendship, and for Marie it was extra exciting to get Zac’s autograph to her paperback copy of Guru that she currently reads.
I forget to mention that Gopa and Raji only has one guest room for Bubu and myself. For the boys, Gopal had made a booking for a hotel which we believed was quite close by, but in reality took 10-15 minutes to reach. They were left there in the evening but were not very happy with the standard, Ao instead they googled for a centrally located hotel and found one at Richmond Road, the Elanza Hotel. They moved there the following day.
Sunday 30 December 2018
Whole day tour by hired car to Belur temple town more that 4 hours journey toward Mangalore, Bubu and I, Matias and Daniel, Gopal and Raji. Departed Bangalore at 7 AM an returned exhausted at 8.30 PM. Had our breakfast and lunch at nice and clean motel-type restaurants and enjoyed the magnificent temple sculptures in Belur, dating back to the Hoysala kingdom of the 11th century AD, at the same time the Lund Cathedral was constructed. Once there, I discovered that Bubu and I already visited Belur in 2012, on our way from Bangalore to Mangalore. However for the boys i it was an extraordinary experience to see it. Besides tea wether was beautiful, pleasant Swedish summer weather.
We also visited the Halebib temple complex near to Belur, and that was a new place for Bubu and me.
Monday 31 December 2018/New Years Eve
Morning, watched from the balcony the military drill at Ennare School just beside Shankar’s Pride. I find it highly disturbing.
Gopal had to we went to work today since the budget for his institute has to be finalised and approved, instead Bubu and I plus Raji went by Uber taxi to downtown, first to the Elanza Hotel to meet the boys at 2 PM, and together with them we went to a fantastic traditional South Indian restaurant nearby, suggested by Gopa. Wonderful food served on banana leaves.
Then we took two autorikshas to the Commercial Street, the main shopping area in Bangalore, spending a few hours strolling around.
Back home at 7 PM, nice evening, Gopal, Bubu and wen to a liquor store and bought a bottle of imported white wine plus a small bottle Signature whiskey för 2 000 rupees. We had a relaxing new years eve, checked Facebook and sent greetings to friends all over the world. Finally, at midnight we went out on balcony to enjoy the cascade of fireworks over town.
Tuesday 1 January 2019
There seems to be a curse on me to fall ill while travelling in India nowadays. After having problem with a running nose, coughs and since I had pneumonia a couple of times a fear that the infection goes down into the lungs, getting diverse medicaments by Gopal and Raji, today I also got digestion problems. Gopal offered a special breakfast, a plate with some unidentified cereals. My body did not like it, I felt dizzy and tired with strained stomach. Still Bubu and I left by Uber taxi at 3 PM down to Elanza Hotel, meeting Mattias and Daniel in the foyer. Went to the toilet and could not stop vomiting, the entire breakfast plus the lunch.
Afterwards I felt a little relieved and we called for a new Uber taxi to take us to Dollars Colony and Sugii’s house. We had been invited to her place (where Marie stays) for dinner at 6 PM, and this visit was planned for already in the planning process, since Gopal had announced he had to work this day.
Dollars Colony is a ultra modern housing complex with exclusive flats för well to do Bangaloreans and some foreigners.
In-between the 18 stories high houses a nice enormous courtyard with swimming pools is open for the residents and their guests, guards make sure no outsiders use the place. Mattias and Daniel looked forward to use the pool like Marie has done every day, and after some checking with Sugii they were allowed to swim. I was not feeling good, so I lay down in a resting chair.
We then took the lift to the 17th floor and Sugiis flat, warmly welcomed by Sugii and her mother. Bubu and I were here also in 2012, but for Mattias and Daniel the spectacular views from the balcony – the entire Bangalore seen from here – were great to photograph. I had to take rest in Maries room, slept an hour and not feeling even worse afterwards. Sad, because Sugii had prepared lots of wonderful food, including pork and chicken curries, served along with wine, I would have loved to take part but could not…
Taxi back to Elanza Hotel and Shankar’s Pride, home at 22.30.
Wednesday 2 January 2019
Home whole day, recovering from my bad health. Gopal’s theory I did not manage to digest yesterday’s breakfast, and that is probably true since my stomach otherwise is working fine. Bubu and Raji went out in the afternoon, with Raji’s yellow car. Alone in house for few hours.
Mattias and Daniel arrived along with Marie at 17.30, after the boys having done their Bangalore sightseeing – something I missed, however I have been in the city several times before. In the evening we ate and were given presents to bring back to Sweden.
The boys returned to their hotel whereas Marie stayed with us for this last night at the Karanth flat, so we could travek together to airport next morning.
Thursday 3 January 2019
Flight back to Kolkata, by Air India, departing Bangalore at 11.10, got up at 05.30 and seated in an Uber taxi at 06.45, reaching airport already at 08.00.
Our flight however delayed by two hours, reached Kolkata not at 13.30 but 15.30. At home by 5 PM. Long journey but still not boring, since it is such a great feeling that the entire family is united for such a long time. Already I miss that Mattias and Daniel leave back for Sweden on Monday morning.
My cough does not diminish, I fear that it will eventually lead to pneumonia. So tired in evening, to bed without brushing teeth.
Friday 4 January 2019
Cured my health by staying at home whole day, whereas Bubu and the children went to New Market in the morning – ending up only buying Bandel cheese, that Zac O’Yeah had spoken enthusiastically to us about. In the afternoon the family was invited to Tutu and Tuki, and again the rest of us went there but I remained at home. They got lovely food and met the daughters who are in Kolkata right now. Marie was promised housing in Mumbai with Mamburi in mid-February, she can do her translation work from there, after Bubu and I return to Sweden on 12h February.
I managed to produce an extensive travel report, Resebrev No. 74, on my stay at Tala Park in July 1982 and visit to Partha Munshi in Bastar, an important part of how Bubu and I became man and wife.
In the evening I met Mridul Bose and Asoke Bhattacharya, they should pick me up at 7 PM but came only at 8.15. We had a nice dinner at Coastal Macha at Hindusthan Park, recently moved from Southern Avenue. I had pork vindaloo. Discussed Asoke’s new position as Director, Institute for life-long Learning in Dhaka, and the sad thing that my newsletters are no more.
Saturday 5 January 2019
Visiting Munjini’s house. The boys played at Chai Walk Cafe in Tollygunge, nice photos posted on Facebook.
Sunday 6 January 2019
Tala Park visit. Mattias and Daniel stayed overnight.
Monday 7 January 2019
Boys returned to Sweden by Emirates flight.
Took a long walk to Ramakrishna Mission at Golpark and back via the Lakes, 10 800 steps, calculated by my Iphone health app.
In the evening, STAFFAN LINDBERG, my friend and colleague since 40 years passed away at hospital in Lund, heart stopped.
I make a break in this blog thing…
Tuesday 8 January 2019
Bharat Bandh announced by 10 trade unions supported by Congress and Left Front. Limited affect on city life, bank offices closed. Took a 11 km walk from Lake Market to Esplanade/entered Grand Hotel, onwards to Park Street, had lunch at Kwality and ice cream at Parallells, taxi home. 16668 steps, 11 km.
Info about Stafffan from Dan and Danielle Collberg, called them in evening.
At 19.00 met Christabel Royan, acting Director for the Nordic Centre in India (NCI) university consortium, at Banana Leaf close to our house. We had originally decided to meet at Flurys, Park Street at 11 AM but that was cancelled because of fear thta the bandh would make transports impossible.
We met last in January last year when Lars Gerdmar got assistance for his Indian study tour. Now we discussed critical issues regarding NCI – Stockholm University will also leave the consortium just like Uppsala did last year, and also my problems with Nordic South Asia Net, the web site out because of virus.
Wednesday 9 January 2019
Again visit to Tala Park, because Marie had problems with her computer, Banjul helped her to get it repaired.
Lunch at Romu’s place, excellent prepared. Cycle riksha from Tala Park, walking back.
Called Mattias Lindberg and could also talk to Karin, giving condolences.
Posted a collage with Staffan photos on Facebook.
Johanna Sommansson asked me for a text on Staffan’s life for SYDASIEN.
Thursday 10 January 2019
In the afternoon invited for tea and snacks at dear friend Champa’s flat on Broad Street. Bubu, Marie and myself went by Uber taxi, and had a great time with interesting discussions. Champas daughter (one of them) was also present and had a lot to tell abut her work in Nepal and most recently in Malaysia.
Friday 11 January 2019
Packed our bags for Varanasi trip tomorrow. Only hand luggage.
Saturday 12 January 2019
Spicejet flight to Varanasi, scheduled departure from Kolkata at 16.55, small propeller plane, in Varanasi 18.30. Boni and Rana with Bubu, Marie and myself. Rana’s eminent driver drove us to the airport in Kolkata.
Once in Varanasi we hired a large airport taxi for 1 000 rupees to take us to the fantastic heritage hotel Ganga View Hotel by Assi Ghat, the same hotel where I also stayed at my 2001 visit on recommendation from Karlstad researcher Marc Katz.
First class buffer dinner, and after that Bubu and I went out to experience Assi ghat by night. So many beggars, come specifically for the religious festibal Monday-Tuesday.
Sunday 13 January 2019
Varanasi. My sixth visit to this Hindu holy city of Kashi. First visit was in 1975, just an overnight stay in a cheap hotel om way from Delhi to Pokhara/Nepal. Then came a SASNET visit in 2001 when I had a chance to visit the ghats and see some sights, even though the main mission was to meet researchers at Banaras Hindu University (BHU) and also Karlstad University’s study centre in the Ganga Mahal palace at Assi ghat. Third visit in late 2010 as tour guide for a group of Swedish tourists on an all-India tour, that turned into a nighmare for me in the end. Fourth visit in 2012 again on a SASNET mission, and then a fifth visit in 2017 when I was joining the Centre for Indian Languages and Culture (INLANSO) to develop its web pages.
Bubu and Marie + Boni and Rana visited the Viswanath Temple and the Hanuman temple, I waited outrside witgh the long line of pilgrims to Viswanath temple, but stayed home at hotel for Hanuman temple.
Monday 14 January 2019
Sankar Makranti festival first day of two. Coinciding with the Kumbh Mela in Prayagraj – from January 2019 the new name for the city of Allahabad (the name change reflects the strong Hindutva policy the Uttar Pradesh BJP state government stands for. Everything connected to the Muslim rule in India they try to eradicate.
Up before 6 along with Bubu watching the amazing events at Assi ghat with many people taking bath. (Same day in Prayagraj 22 million people bathed during Kumb Mela according to newspaper report.)
Morning beautiful boat ride. Bubu and Boni sang, and Bubu and Marie offered flowers. Passed Munshighat… Nice photos posted on Facebook.
Afternoon lunch at INLANSO with Miriyam and Dipak. He came to pick us up at the hotel with his car.
First day of the spring semester at INLANSO, a group of new students had arrived from Uppsala, Oslo and Aarhus, including Per Eliasson from Uppsala, whom I last met at the ECSAS conference in Paris last year.
Bubu coughed blood, we were worried, Reba Dey at INLANSO took her to doctor.
Evening interesting visit to Kabir Math with Dipak who drove us there, had a chance to meet the mahant.
Tuesday 15 January 2019
Flight back to Kolkata with Air India.
Early morning up with Marie to see the festival events, many more bathing people today.
Wednesday 16 January 2019
Visited homeopatic medical clinic, Dr Batra’s at Minto Park, to discuss alternative/complimentary medication for my Parkinson.
Evening dinner at Marco Polo with Marie.
Thursday 17 January 2019
Klar med artikeln om mina år med Staffan, kände mig nöjd med resultatet. Publicerades på nätet på kvällen svensk tid
Friday 18 January 2019
Väntade på Venkateshs synpunkter på affischen för Chennai-seminariet. Oroande avhopp av deltagande talare.
Saturday 19 January 2019 Mamata Bannerjee invited representatives of 28 opposition parties in a giant manifestation against Prime Minister Modi’s anti-popular policy. At Brigade Ground near Fort William. Power gathering for the parliamentary elections to take place this spring.
I took the subway to the city center, bought the ticket to the Esplanade for 10 rps. The train moderately full from Kalighat but from the Rabindra Sadan station it poured people into the train, people who participated in the demonstrations, and even more at the Maidan, and at Park Street I tried to get out just but the pressure from those who wanted to enter was for big, totally impossible to get out. The esplanade station, if possible, even worse, we were pressed as herring in the carriage, extremely unpleasant. At Chandni Chowk I finally came out.
Met large groups on their way home along Chittaranjan Avenue, I took the opportunity to go to a full-fledged Indian Coffee House and drank a coffee for 20 rps, then I walked fast and in a lovely Swedish summer weather down to Park Street. For a beer, I found that the Park Hotel opened a small bar that serves draft beer, although old ordinary dreary lager Kingfischer, but still a bit more delicious to get it from barrels than from bottle, the price 299 rps for a small glass though took too expensive!
Then I went all the way home to Sardar Sankar Rd, came home just in the sunset, and looked at my health app that I walked 12,700 steps, 7.5km.
Boni and Rana were at the wedding party in Barackpur on the floor, we sat in their apartment. Munjini and Buku came and greeted me, and to my delight Munjini ordered china food – chowmein and chili chicken from the simple restaurant in the ground floor of our house (a restaurant I never used, something my friend Lars Gerdmar did when he borrowed our apartment in December 2017). The food was delivered to the door and it was very good. As I misjudged that jam until now!
Sunday 20 January 2019
Programmet för Chennai spikat och Venkatesh skickade korr på mitt affischförslag så jag gjorde det färdigt och lade ut på Facebook.
På kvällen tog jag en 4 km promenad til Systembolaget vid Gariahat och köpte två flaskor kingfisher öl.
Bubu är dålig. Fortsatt blod i slemmet när hon hostar. Oroväckande.
Monday 21 January 2019
Bubu has got a strange medical problem, something called Bell’s Pallsy (Bells pares), a partial paralysis of the face. Harmless, probably caused by a virus but a major problem till it subsides. She went to a doctor known to Rana and next day to a neurological specialist and got some medications. Affects one side of the mouth, looking worse than it is, and she cannot sing! Marie helps with keeping control of her intake of medicines, and Bonie took her a physiotherapist.
My prepaid Jio internet device needs recharge, after 28 days with 5 GB per day I went to the Reliance store and its Jionet office and bought a long-term subscription 125 GB valid for 6 months. It will last some time for us. Cost 2000 rps.
Evening concert at ICCR Tagore Cnere Ho Chi Min hSarani. Kul svenska inslag i konsert med Odissi-dans. Filip Magnusson – i Kolkata för att lära sig spela tabla – spelade här läckert fiol i orkestern och Ulrika Larsen stod som gästartist från Stockholm för en ypperlig Durga-dansuppvisning.
Metron till Maidan, promenad hem till Lake Market, 7,5 km enligt min hälso-app. Öl och crispy chicken på enkel bar i Bhowanipur på vägen.
Dansskola i stan arrangerade evenemanget med superduktiga tjejer I 15-årsåldern som var proffsiga in o minsta detalj när de dansade Odissi. På väg ut efter en timme hör lag någon ropa mitt namn. Av en händelse är min journalisten Abhijit Ganguly också på konserten. Vi pratar lite innan jag börjar min långpromenad.
Hela dagen därutöver var jag hemma. Läste klart Ghoshs spännande roman om Sundarbans som särskilt tilltalade mig då jag och Kumkum rest just på de bebodda platser där entreprenören och välgöraren Hamilton anlade kooperativ för inflyttade fattiga småbönder, åkt med cykelvagnar över öarna ovh vi har övernattat i Hamilton Lodge i Gosaba. Och med Johny och Eva har vi åkt med liten båt i mangrovedeltats vindlande kanaler och i fjol reste vårt kompisgäng med Mridul, Johan och Lars G med tåget till Canning precis som romanens huvudpersoner och sedan med hyrd båt spanande efter tigrar, krokodiler och fåglar i nationalparken.
Tuesday 22 January
Bought a new phone, replacing my 9 years old one. Now a Samsung J6 smart phone for 11 000 rps. At Reliance store. Learnt the new things with the phone but problem with downloading apps. Tried and tried in vain. On Internet common question how to solve this problem. No recommendations worked until I finally got hold of a youtube instruction film providing the one extra solution.
Evening, down to ground floor Chopstick restaurant and ate a delicious Indian pizza with chicken. Wow. 169 rps only.
Wednesday 24 January 2019
INA’s fighting songs are now sounding out loudspeakers on our street and all day long.
In the afternoon home to Bumbi (Abanti) and her husband at Salt Lake BH block, still a little peaceful area, like the whole of Salt Lake (Bidhan Nagar) was like in 1982. Excellent Bengali lunch and a relaxing afternoon, watching photos from their beautiful summer house in Himalayas. Boni and rana with us, Tutu and Tuki were also there.
Thursday 24 January
Friday 25 January
Oxford Book shop visit by Marie and me. Bought two books, Wlliam Dalrymple’s Return of a King. An Indian Army in Afghanistan, about the Anglo-Afghan war in 1839-40, and the second book Cory Taylor’s How Hitler Was Made, about the period 1914-1923.
Saturday 26 January
Republic Day. At 8 AM Republic Day celebrations at Loreto House Convent school in Kolkata. Marie and I went there on invitation by the proud dance teacher Munjini. The theme for the programme: Indian Army.
Rest of the day visiting relatives. Wonderful lunch at Munjini’s house and equally delicious dinner at Bouddhu’s house at Dhakuria, celebrating Rikhia’s birthday.
Sunday 27 January
Tata Steel Kolkata Literary Meet 2019. Six days of extraordinary events with leading Indian writers and intellectuals present, interesting book seminars, film shows, music concerts, most of it taking place around Victoria Memorial. And me ignorant fool did not know about it until today, last day…A few glimpses here.
The two brothers Nandy, Ashis and Pritish, in conversation with Rajdeep Sardesai.
Kishwar Desai’s book Jallianwala Bagh, 1919: The Real Story discussed by Professor Sugata Bose in conversation with Priyadarshanee Guha.Seminar held in front of Warren Hastings statue which gave a weird impression. Even if the statue tries to show that he was an enlightened colonial British administrator adviced by both Hindu and Muslim wise men his main mission as first Governor General was to secure British control over India.
Professor Rudrangshu Mukherjee, chancellor for Ashoka University, presented his new book Twilight Falls on Liberalism in a discussion with Ashis Nandy, moderated by Dr. Krishnan Srinivasan with Swedish connections – he has been research fellow at the Swedish Collegium for Advanced Study (SCAS) in Uppsala and in 2013 i invited him for a SASNET seminar in Lund.
Before that meeting with two Swedish friends currently in Kolkata. Susanne filmmaker from Malmö, working with Talat, and the violinist Filip .They both came to our house at 10 AM and we had tea with Bubu. Then I took them for a nice walk down to the lake, Rabindra Sarovar. Nice discussions. Finally lunch at Marco Polo restaurant at Sarat Bose Road.
Monday 28 January
Lunch visit at Suranjana Ghosh’s place in Patuli. First time I meet Suranjana, the well-known excellent Tabla performer based in Uppsala but with her roots here in Kolkata. Wintertime she often brings students from Sweden, and now it is Filip who gets a chance to learn the art of Tabla playing in a traditional manner in his guru’s house.
Taxi from home, but took the metro back since the station was only a few hudred meters from her house.
Also met her husband Kishore, and enjoyed a nice lunch.
Tuesday 29 January
Finally a chance to again meet my friend Sabyasachi Basu Ray Chaudhuri, Vice Chancellor at Rabindra Bharati University. Last year we organised a seminar for Lars Gerdmar on Iconic Art at the university’s BT Road campus, now we met at the original Jorasanko downtown campus, where Bubu once studied Music. Sabyasachhi had a wish to meet both me and Bubu and invited us to see the daily sound and light show outdoors the old Tagore family palace. The excellent show started at sunset after 17.45, but till then we were sitting in the VC’s office drinking tea from clay mugs and I was updated on the latest news regarding the university. Most interesting is the fact that a new campus will open in New Town.
Ritayan Chatterjee also came to Jorasanko, and after the show he followed us back to our home, took a Uber taxi from the congested area round Jorasanko.
Wednedsday 30 January
Flight Kolkata-Chennai at 15.05 by Spicejet and got some preferential treatment since we had paid a little extra for Spicemax service. Received by car belonging to M S Swaminathan Research Foundation Institute and were driven to its guest house in an area full of institutions. Including IIT Madras.
Venkatesh Athreya arrived after some time and since the guest house restaurant was closed he took us to the neighbouring UNESCO Madanjeet Singh Centre for South Asian Journalism 5 minutes away, where we were served South Indian vegetarian dinner.
Thursday 31 January
Met Sucha Singh Gill who arrived late last night, and being the only other Memorial invitee staying at the guest house. When Venkatesh arrived we jointly went to the same place as where we had dinner yesterday. Met a nice British journalist from BBC in London who is teaching at the Madanjeet Centre, coming to Chennai regularly.
Relaxed day before the event. Amala, Göran, Miriya and Dipak arrived shortly before the Memorial, came to see us in our room.
The Memorial took place in the Institute’s main building.
Staffan Memorial at M S Swaminathan research foundation at 15.00.
After an introduction by Venkatesh, first speaker was N Ram, editor-in-chief for the Hindu newspaper, and a long time admirer of Staffan’s research work in Tamil Nadu.
Then followed by Prof. Sucha Singh Gill from Centre for Research in Rural and Industrial Development, Chandigarh in Punjab, research colleague and a close friend of Staffan.
After him followed speeches by Staffan’s Tamil Nadu research colleagues, among then naturally Venkatesh but also R Vidyasagar, A Rajagopal and Dr. Kasturi who knew Staffan ever since the 1960s.
Venkatesh also read out written condolences from the Lindberg family in Lund, from Barbara Harriss-White in Oxford, Partha Mukherjee in Delhi, Göran Djurfeldt in Lund and Judith Heyer in Oxford
Prof Dipak Malik and Dr. Miriya Malik from Centre for the Study of Indian Languages and Society, Varanasi., also attended the event, and Dipak held an emotional speech on Staffans great personality.
I read out my article on Staffan’s life and our years of collaboration, focusing on Staffan’s great work with SYDASIEN magazine and Swedish South Asian Studies network (SASNET).
Our friends from Helsingborg, Amala and Göran Frankel also came for the memorial, from their winter house in Mamallapuram, south of Chennai. Göran held a speech on Staffan’s unending energy.
An emotional Tagore song performed by Bubu put an end to the great memorial meet.
Friday 1 February
Sucha left back for Punjab in the morning. We had breakfast all on our own and in our own guest house, since the kitchen opened today.
The Memorial was covered as a news article in today’s The Hindu, short but quite good.
After lunch we hired a car and went for a limited sightseeing tour of Chennai,, first to an amazing clothes supermarket in 12 floors, ground floor dedicated to ordinary sarees. Next floor exclusive wedding sarees. One floor for men’s shirts. Bought a few sarees and shirts, including a beautiful blue shirt for me.
Then to Marina Beach, Chennai’s pride. Nice as usual to dip our feet in the Ocean water.
Saturday 2 February
Return flight from Chennai to Kolkata 9.30-11.30. Stay at Tala Park overnight. Took an Uber taxi straight from airport and enjoyed good food, both lunch and dinner. Marie arrived from Lake Market.
Sunday 3 February
Slept in the main room at Tala Park like som many times before. Stayed till about 3 PM. Took a nice walk in the park.
Invited to a concert with Subrata Manna and Sudokshina in Behala, but declined to go.
Monday 4 February
Johan arrived from Samtse by train in morning. That time I had already been to blood test at Southern Avenue with Marie (as preparation for a CT scan on Thursday). I last met Johan in Gothenburg in the fall. Thereafter it turned out to be impossible for him to invite me, Bubu and Daniel for a visit to Bhutan during the national day celebrations/50 years anniversary of SCE in December, as originally planned for, due to the vist of the king and his entourage then. However, Johan promises to try for a new invitation in the coming year.
Because of the king’s visit and the great interest he put in Johan being a foreign music teacher speaking the language and knowing the Bhutanese folk songs, Johan’s position has been strenghtened.
I had to make a second blood test two hours after breakfast and this time Johan accompanied me. And we continued to walk along the Lakes, passing the Buddhist temple, crossing Dhakuria Bridge and all up to Jadavpur University and Professor Mridul Bose, my old friend ever since Staffans and my visit to Jadavpur in 2005, as part of a successful month-long SASNET contact journey to Northeast India, Bhutan, Nepal and Bangladesh.
Mridul invited us for lunch in the university restaurant, and took us for a tour around campus, well-known to me but first time experience for Johan. Mridul also demonstrated his plasma research at his office.
Tuesday 5 February
Expedition Colonial Towns in Hoogly district. 2019 friends tour to the colonial heritage towns along the Hooghly River + Bansberia Hindu Temple inspired by Russian architecture. Portuguese Bandel with church and Imambara; Danish Serampore; Dutch Chinsurah; and French Chandernagore. Staying at Aquatic Hotel in Kalyani. Train from Sealdah station at 08.30 (Johan and I arrived three minutes before the train was supposed to depart, due to congestion in traffic, but Mridul and Ritayan had bought tickets and reserved seats), and at destination after one hour continued by electric scoter 2 km to the hotel, and enjoyed a light lunch before we went on Hooghly tour.
Participants: Professor Mridul Bose, Dept. of Physics, Jadavpur University, Dr. Johan Westman, Samtse College of Education, Bhutan, Dr. Ritayan Chatterjee, Heritage Institute of Technology, Kolkata, and myself ex-Lund University employee.
First stop Bansberia town close to Hooghly river with the impressive Hanseshwari Kali Temple from 1818 reminding of a Russian Orthodox church, and beside this the Ananta Basudeba terracotta temple reminding of a Georgian church.
Second stop: The Basilica of the Holy Rosary commonly known as Bandel Church from 1599, built by the Portugese. In 1988, Pope John Paul II declared the sanctuary a minor basilica. Around the middle of the 16th century, the Portuguese began using Bandel as a port. During or around 1571, they were given permission by Akbar, the Mughal emperor, to build a town in Hooghly.
The legend then tells of the siege of Hooghly, how the resident Portugese were taken prisoners by Mughal emperor Shah Jahan and they were supposed to be killed by elephants, but how they miraculously survived and were allowed to return to Bandel.
Third stop: The spectacular Hooghly Imambara close to Bandel, a Shia Muslim congregation hall and mosque from 1861, located just by the riverside.
Fourth stop: A Dutch monument in Chinsurah. In 1656 the Dutch erected a factory here, used as a base for the Dutch intra-Asian trade in commodities such as saltpetre, spices, cotton and indigo. In 1825, the Dutch ceded Chinsurah and other possession in India to the British, in exchange for the British possessions in Sumatra.
Fifth stop: Chandernagore. French East India Company bought this place from the Mughal subahdar in 1688 to build a factory. It was a French colony administered from Pondicherry till 1951 when the charming city was officially ceded to India, and de jure transferred into the state of West Bengal in 1954. With a broad riverfront footpath so typical of the French Riviera.
Final stop: Serampore or Srirampur, part of Danish India under the name Frederiksnagore from 1755 to 1845. Famous for Serampore College. I was here with Bubu, Miriya and Dipak in December but it was nice to revisit. And have some food at the the Danish Taverna. Unfortunately St Olavs church, renovated by a team of Indian and Danish architects, was not open today.
From Serampore quick return by our hired car (3 200 rupees for a day) to our Aquatic Palace Hotel in Kalyani after seven hours of sightseeing tour along the Hooghly Time for beer, dinner and nice evening together. I showed the others photos from m previous visits to Bandel in 1988, and to Serampore in December 2018. All among my collection of 70 000 photos lying in the Cloud.
Wednesday 6 February Back to Kolkata. Uber taxi from Kalyani to Kolkata Book Fair at Central Park in Salt Lake, 825 rupees. Ritayan jumped off when we were near to DumDum, whereas Mridul joined me and Johan for a walk around the book fair. As usual a wide mix of exhibitors from ultra left Marxist-Leninists to HIndutva forces in the shape go Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP). Johan was happy to find books on Lepcha culture both at the Sahitya Akademi’s stall and in a separate stall manned by ethnic Lepchas (which is a people living in northeastern India and in Bhutan. I bought a new English-Bengali dictionary for 245 rupees. Yellow taxi to Sardar Sankar Road. Quite hot today, the northern cold wind has been replaced by southern winds from the Indian Ocean. Johan went to Lake Mall to do some shopping, he bought a toaster and some other things to bring back too Samtse, as a well as vegetables and spices. Johan took a night train back to Bhutan, leaving Sardar Sankar Rd at 7 PM.
Thurday 7 February Staffan’s funeral in Allhelgonakyrkan in Lund. Sad to miss. But I have re-edited the English translation of my article in SYDASIEN, and made a page on my private web site. CT brain X-ray in Kolkata at 09.10. Marie had made this appointment, for Dr. Batra’s doctors. Took the metro to Rabindra Sadan and walked five minutes to the Eko X-Ray enterprise. One and half hours waiting before I was admitted to the scan room, and got contrast fluid injected in my right hand. The results to be collected tomorrow. After completed scan Marie and I went to Haldiram close by and had some snacks (phutshka for Marie, cheese pizza for me), and then metro back to Kalighat. Amazingly low price for metro ride, 5 rupees (same price also for daily newspapers).
Friday 8 February Collected the CT scan photos and then reported to Dr. Batra clinic at Minto Park. The scan photos showed no damages at all, my brain is totally normal, which is good considering my Parkinson. Went along with Marie with metro at 4 PM and returned home at 8 PM. That time Tutu and Tuki were there at Bonis flat, bringing some readymade food for us. Very hot day, spent most time starting to read Dalrymple’s book on the Anglo-Afghan war of 1839-42, very good reading.
Saturday 9 February Pleasant mild weather because of another change in weather. Took a walk in the morning, and sent out some Kolkata photos from december–february on Facebook. Otherwise as usual I woke up at 5.30, downloading today‘s Sydsvenskan and checked my mail and Facebook plus Datorbanken. Breakfast on the verandah at 8 AM. Marie does her yoga and meditation before. Thinking about our return journey on Tuesday, on how to pack. Marie will fly to Mumbai same morning and she she wants Bubu and me to travel together to the airport even though our Delhi/Copenhagen flight are 2,5 hours later than her. Time is 22.10, time to sleep, it has rained during the evening if only for a short time. Now the hot watcher gradually comes back, I reflect upon the coming difference, 29-30 degrees here to 6-8 in Lund on Tuesday. After waiting for relatives to visit, in vain it turned out, Marie and i went by metro at 5 PM to Esplanade and the tram depot, because I wanted to see the tram museum, in a converted carriage from 1938. Interesting to read about the history, first horse-drawn tram in 1873, and first electric one ran i 1902. After this we again went by metro to Rabindra Sadan, and from there walk to Minto Park and Dr Batra. As always in the metro nowadays i always is given a seat in the senior citizens department in the front of every carriage. At Dr Batra, Marie was given her medicine to cure her loss of hair, and I got Parkinson medicine for the coming 12 month. Uber taxi back home, at 8 PM, dinner prepared by Rana anGHood food (prasad) was served agterwaurds.d Bonnie..
Sunday 10 February Visiting Sudipta Bhattacharya, ICCR guest professor at Copenhagen Business School (CBS) 2011, invited to Lund for SASNET seminar and inspired us to ask Government of India for a ICCR professorship also at Lund, which we were given for four years. Uber taxi there at 6 PM with a reckless driver who dropped us at wrong address, that made us have to walk extra distance. Once there we had a nice evening with delicious food and intellectual talk on politics. Sudipta is still working as professor in Economics at Vishwa Bharati University in Shantiniketan, and his sweet wife works as a teacher in Jhargram whereas their daughter studies English at Presidency Universitity. The day was Saraswati puja, the yearly feast to the goddess of learning and culture, therefore extremely popular in Bengal. I bought an image last year, and that Rana used for a ceremony on the terrace outside our flat. In late morning,. Then we went by yellow taxi to Munjinis place near Hazra bridge, and experienced a communal puja organised by the neighbours. Lot of good food was served as prasad. home at 3 and after a vie whose we entertained guests, first an old friend of Bubu, and then Koka and his wife, from village Bagnan. Long time since we met last time. I created good mood by finding photos from their wedding in 1991 in my Cloud collection, and also photos of Koka at picnics during the 1990s.
Monday 11 February Final full day in Kolkata
Tuesday 12 February Air India flight Kolkata-Delhi at 10.25