31 January, 2007


Well, here we are in Kolkata, but at the moment there is no Book Fair for us to take part in. The High Court has forbidden the Booksellers and Publishers Guild to hold the fair on the Maidan, the big parade ground in the middle of town, for the peculiar reason that when the fair is held, apparently the Respirable Particulate Matter in the air around the Maidan rises to unacceptable levels. The fact that Calcutta's air seems to be about, ooh, 70% Respirable Particulate Matter all the time seems to have escaped people's notice. This is front page news in all the Calcutta papers, and there is great glee on the part of environmentalists for what has to be an infinitesimal victory over RPM. The Times of India editorialises that Calcutta's culture will be richer for this victory. 'Scuse me while I retrieve my eyebrows from the ceiling.

Us Aussies are going ahead with a program anyway, but most of it will happen next week when I'll be Clarioning in Brisbane. I'll be visiting St John's Diocesan school and doing a reading and a panel before I go.

This morning was a free day, and our wonderful Asialink coordinator Barry Scott organised a tour of amazing places. Let's see if I can remember them all: the Kali Temple to buy some luck (it turned out quite expensive, so expect great things this year); the unbelievably huge Victoria Memorial; Mother Teresa's tomb; the Marble Palace stuffed to the gills with dusty treasures. As well, we had coffee at the coffee co-op's cafe, and a really nice Bengali lunch at the Peerless Inn. As well, every street we were driven through was full of too many marvels to describe or even list; colours and faces and horrors and wonders just pour into your eyes (and ears, and nose) here. This afternoon we spent recovering, me by being unconscious - tonight we've cried off the dinner outing, being still full of lunch and unable to cope with more stimulation! A quiet night in at the Taj Bengal - now, should we go down and listen to the quartet playing in the lobby, or stay in the room and empty the minibar in front of Indian television?


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