Overpass Chess and Karom with Aplomb

Chameleons that we are we’d decided to get some Indian kit.

(Then no one could guess we’re ferengis…)

We were bargained-and-haggled-out so graciously our charming host, Rono took us round to his favourite local emporiums down Resh Behari way.

A government- run store and a tiny shop bursting with an excellent variety of anything you asked for – all unfurled with a theatrical flourish.

The cotton Kurta is light and relaxed, the pyjama trousers ideal for a man whose idea of heaven is to never again have to change out of any pyjama and longs to lounge languidly like a suave tropical version of William Powell forever. Of course a lungi was needed for more relaxed homewear matched with a soft cotton T-shirt.

I’d opted for the sherwani with white pyjama pants in a cotton so soft it hugged you.

Then our host suggested something completely different (a surprise).

We hopped into an auto – the Indian version of a tuktuk. Quite compact (think motor bike with a hood) and like a Parisian lift you hop in unmarried and get out engaged. We shared ours with two others making a total of six people.

(We all promised to get to the church on time)

Forget about Las Vegas – Gariahat by night is a whirling dervish of unexpected sights.

Of course there’s the technicolour display of multi-hued saris in the markets on the way. The traffic is packed, rushing, frenetic. Roads run in all directions.

We watusi across the street

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and finagle ourselves under the overpass and there we see earnest men (and a woman) all deep in chess moves. Horns beep constantly, headlights flash in their faces, there’s the constant thrum of the traffic, the pedestrians walk by with animated and loud conversation. These masters somehow manage to tune it all out and concentrate on their games – at speed.

In the next section are the Karom players.

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Imagine pool without the sticks, without the colours, crossed with marbles.  Throw in some checkers to replace the pool balls and marbles to replace the cues.

After such a buzz it was time to return home for dinner.

We’d noticed the Kolkata trams tinkling along and after a death-defying rush across the road (the tracks are in the middle of the road with no obvious stop) we hopped aboard one.

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We’re used to spanking new, soulless things in Australia , built for Scandinavian’s with bony arses and stultifryingly boring, with none of the charm that childhood memories evoked. Whilst charming might be too much of a push for the Kolkata version they’re a remarkably efficient means of transport in a city of over 14.3 million (if you include the suburbs). Heavy duty fans whir energetically if somewhat asthmatically, the windows are open too so you get a rush of of the night breeze. It’s all great fun.

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