Postscript to yesterday. In honour of Republic Day all of the bars are closed and the restaurants are only serving soft drinks. Odd way to celebrate.
Moving on R toured the fruit sellers' stalls, inspecting their wares and, while D had his shoes polished, she constructed a plan of action. Bananas from stall A, a pomegranate from B and oranges from C. Like all plans it disintegrated on first contact with the enemy. "4 bananas please" "Madam five bananas 20 rupees" "OK" "You want nice pomegranate?" "Err" Into the bag it goes. "170 madam" "What! Too much. Take the pomegranate back." R cracks at 100 rupees. Does a pomegranate really cost a quid? The oranges are less hassle and we return with our bag of fruit to the Fairlawn.
Our precautions against rail-borne malnutrition also include an early lunch and we decide to get a take away parcel of pakoras for our journey.A quick online check of our reservation status tells us that we have been allocated the train's solitary 2 berth coupe. All too soon it is time for our taxi to Howrah, over the river from Kolkata proper. The Sunday traffic is pretty quiet and our driver drops us outside the South Eastern station. By now the sun is quite fierce but we find a bench in the shade for R and the luggage while D goes in search of information.
We are in the right place at the right time and our names are on the Reservation Charts. All we have to do now is wait. About 20 minutes before departure time our train ambles into the platform and our coach is at the near end. As we head towards it D spots Barry, one of the East of Scotland Garden Railway Group members. he has been in India since before Christmas and has just got back to Kolkata from Darjeeling. What a small world! He is helping a couple of people to find their berths on the train. We find our coupe without difficulty and fend off two young Indian women who want us to swop berths. They are only going about a third of the trip so tough.
Fewer flunkies and apparatchiks on this train but there is a fairly constant flow of vendors. One of them even offers sugar free chai which is even more disgusting than the sugar in stuff. Our compatment window leaves a little be desired on the cleanliness front so D gets tooled up to clean the outside at our first stop. sadly the platform turns out to be on the wrong side of the train when we get there. Another plan bites the dust.Eventually the TTE arrives - a man who clearly takes pride in his appearance. There is a short hiatus as D has mislaid the ticket but it is soon found. Once again we are able to reassure our chap that we fully understand why he is asking for extra dosh.
By six p.m. it is absolutely dark outside and we opt for supper and an early night. We learn that onion pakoras make better take aways than Paneer (cheese) pakoras. At midnight we awake frozen by the AC. Fortunately we are able to work out how to close the vents and soon get back to sleep.