Travelling on Friday evening from Stuttgart to Villach, Austria, there were no seats free in any of the train carriages, so I joined a few other passengers on the floor. It wasn’t as bad as it sounds, really – the trains in Germany are fairly clean and the floor is carpeted, at least I didn’t have to worry about my derrière getting sore. An hour or so later, I realised, happily, that sitting on the floor was, in many ways, better than sitting up there on the seats. I could stretch out my long legs completely and adjust my sitting position to my liking. I could also observe my fellow passengers unobtrusively and from a different angle — how interesting it is to observe humans when they don’t know they are being watched!
Rain, lots of people and the Howrah bridge — that was my first glimpse of the City of Joy. I reached Calcutta on a summer evening late in April. Despite the rain, the heat and humidity levels were nowhere near bearable. The short walk from the air-conditioned cab to the air-conditioned hotel lobby had me sweating profusely. In my sweat-drenched kurta-salwar, with a rucksack on my back and a small sack and suitcase in hand, I must have looked a real sight. That night, as I lay in an unfamiliar bed some 2000 odd kilometres away from home, I thought I would never like this city; that it was just another city in India that I could add to my travels and forget. I couldn’t have been more wrong.