After travelling for over 40 hours via 4 airports, I finally landed in Kolkata for a whirlwind visit to see Indrajit Bhalotia and our Indian cadets, Anil and Subhash.
Because I was coming back through Kolkata Airport on my way to Australia, I wanted to leave a suitcase in storage, so I wandered up and down asking multiple people until I was finally at the correct place. I then had to negotiate my way to the basement to leave my bag and the oversized golf clubs made it difficult in the lift although people are not as pushy here as in China and were happy to ensure I got where I needed to be.
After being here last year I knew it was best to prepay for a taxi and as I was heading to do exactly that I was approached by numerous people wanting to know if I wanted a lift. I told them I was sorting that out and one particularly insistent driver told me that I should just go with him.
I asked him how much to where I was going. He as calculated then said 1250 rupees (USD $19). I burst out laughing much to his surprise. I had looked at my taxi receipt from last year and knew it should be around 500 rupees (USD $8). I told him so and he hung his head and slunk away knowing that his ridiculous overpricing would not now be negotiable with me. In the end, I caught an Uber as I came to their counter first and was quoted 400-570, traffic depending.
I was happy to be back in India. I note that as this was my second visit I was less focused on all the construction and instead was looking at the people and their smiles. I wasn’t even shocked by the driving as we weaved in and around cars, busses, tuk tuks and auto rickshaws... until we ran into the back of another car dead in the middle of a bridge.
The impact wasn’t great and I watched in a little amusement as both drivers and the wife of the driver in front got out and yelled and pointed and stomped their feet. After 5 minutes and a pile up of traffic behind us, they all got in their cars and drove away. For minor accidents, it's not worth the bother of suffering Indian bureaucracy to report them.
When I arrived my hotel, the fare was 440 rupees, so I tried to pay with a 500 rupee note I had left over from last year. The driver looked at it and shook his head. Apparently they had been removed from circulation, so was no longer legal tender and completely worthless.
I had 380 in smaller notes, but the driver still wouldn't accept it. I told him to wait and ran inside to ask Rupa (who I knew from last year) if I could borrow 100. I finally paid the driver, collected my clubs and retired to my room.
As soon as I was online I phoned Indrajit and arranged to head over to the Tollygunge Club and discuss Fairways, but first I needed to wash the travel off.
Feeling refreshed, I went to the office and found Indrajit's staff, Pramit and Dia, then went looking for Indrajit, who was teaching. I saw his son Udayjit, practicing on the range and had a brief chat with him. He wants to become a golf professional like his dad.
I found Indrajit teaching some small children on the putting green. He asked if I had seen Anil and Subhash on the range. I hadn't, so I ran back up the stairs and we were all smiles as we discussed playing together the following day. I still find it a little strange being called, "Ma’am," but I guess that is what I am here.
Anil thrust his club out and asked if I wanted to hit a ball. My feet were beyond swollen (think of sausages bursting out of their skin,) however I took the club and hit a pretty good ball considering I had not stopped (besides sitting on a plane) for days.
I went back to Indrajit and we chatted while we watched the smaller kids putt – I love their delight when they hole a good ball. They are so competitive. Indrajit wanted me to be interviewed for his Golftrade website, which is an online golf portal he has been building. I then headed back to the guesthouse to have a rest before dinner.
Later, Indrajit, his wife Ruby, and another friend collected me and we ate a delicious indian meal while catching up on the past 12 months. Indrajit is working on multiple things, both profit and nonprofit. He gives back to so many underprivileged in India. Over dinner, he told me that this year due to some business success, that our Indian cadets would be fully covered by funds raised locally, which is wonderful!
After a nice long sleep I was up, breakfasted and out the door with my clubs on my back by 8.30 AM. I am quite adept at weaving through indian traffic on foot and never hesitate. Walk with determination is my strategy. It was very hot, so by the time I got to the golf course, I was dripping sweat. I sat in Indrajit’s office to cool down in the air conditioning while I waited for Anil and Subhash to arrive.
We headed out to play, but were feeling tired and had two men behind us complaining that we were slow. We weren't, but the implied pressure made us all rush our shots and in the heat we decided after 9 holes, that we were done. My swollen feet had been jammed into my shoes so I was very happy to remove them while Dia asked me questions for the interview.
After talking about Fairways for a while, Dia asked me off the record if I had met "Superwoman" as I live in Canada. I looked puzzled, so she explained Superwoman is a Canadian-Indian YouTube sensation. I admitted I had never heard of her, but looked her up later and found she was very clever and funny.
I met with Indrajit one last time as a couple of the cadets we supported last year are no longer in the program. So we discussed Fairways going forward and we said our goodbyes as he was flying out that afternoon, while I was going to Nepal the next day.
It was a crazy whirlwind visit, but I did get to have lots of fun with Anil and Subhash out on the course.
Next year I will stay in India for longer.