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I got off the plane in Kolkata at 12:30 on Friday. Went to the VC’s Office around 2 PM, had a quick chat and tea with his admin staff, left my luggage there and went looking for a place to stay.

This bloody IPL – no rooms anywhere – finally this driver (airport taxi driver) phoned various guys and by 6 PM he found a good decent place some 12 KM from the VC’s Office. Scorching sweltering heat; I am almost dead after sleeping only 2 hours in some 30+ hours…

We went back and picked up the luggage and brought it to the lodge. I paid that good driver off… took a shower and had some badly needed sleep for three hours; went out, had superb dinner and slept until 5 AM on Saturday. (I had reactivated the phone during the 5 hour transit in Chennai)

I had 3 things to do on Saturday… get the Internet Modem going… go to HSBC and see if my Credit / Debit Cards work and the last thing I will hold in suspense for the moment.

When I applied to this Institute the VC suggested that I take the correspondence course like other foreign students. I declined. I said I need a teacher talking – this correspondence learning will not work with me anyway! (That is good for housewives…)

Then the Office advised me that I need to meet the VC in person on arrival… on Saturday at 2 PM. A bit worrying to me… what does he want to know? [Do I drink? Do I smoke? Do I eat beef? Am I holistic?] I struggled for answers – When you enter a University you just pay the money – The VC does not interview you – or rather you hardly ever see the VC!

His admin staff neither would give me clue on Friday… They said he will tell me the modalities.

I always prepare myself covering every corner of the field; I decided not to bullshit anything.

There was one thing I had not finished when I left Colombo… to get my 9-Page (16-chart) fancy horoscope printed in Colour… [I simply had not converted it into a PDF – now without the net connection I cannot do it the usual way… but I did it finally by 6:45 AM]

Kolkata is a strange City… well sprawled out (the taxi drivers ask other taxi drivers where to go.) Sleepy City, very laid back… people spend more time on their mobile phones rather than paying attention to any one… lots of talking, lots and lots… and lots to the last detail…

On the streets few people speak English; Hindi is widely spoken, and I understand everything. The common lingo is Bengali… though some words are same the pronunciation is fast and is tongue twisting.

But all in all they are very very nice people. (Even if one does not understand Bengali they will tell you where to go – often in Hindi)

No internet, No Google Maps… I don’t know where the hell I am in this vast place… fortunately, this lodge is run by Christians and they speak good English.

I sat down with them, asked for an A4 sheet put a cross in the middle, looked where the Sun is and drew the North. Now please tell me where is the City Centre from here – 4 Km NW; OK. Where is Lake Town? 12 Km to ENE. Where is Ultadanga? That you have to come back here… no I don’t need to.

Where is the High Court… and banks (HSBC)? Here… Dalhousie (City Centre) 4 Km from here. That is all I need to know…

Wherever there is a court house there are Xerox machines, digital printing, binding etc. I need to get this horoscope printed in colour, laminated and spiral bound before I see the VC in the afternoon.

They say go by bus… which bus? They don’t know the exact number but most busses here will take you to Dalhousie… Rs. 6 from here… Don’t take a taxi.

Ok… true enough.. . At that time this city is not fully awake… enough room in busses… Did my work with HSBC… Went to three separate places to get the horoscope done 1) Printing 2) They have laminating 3) They have binding. [There are no ‘one-stop shops’ here!]

Hungry… I noticed while passing, the Chinese preparing for steamed dumplings – what time would it be ready? In 30 minutes… I came back and tasted authentic Chinese Steamed dumplings with a super soup – street food (everybody eats street food here)… Those 8 dumplings would have set me back Rs. 800/- in Kinjou – no soup… it costs exactly 25/- Indian Rupees here… Happy as a pig…

Reliance now – After walking about a mile I found it... an office the size of 4 toilets… Reliance Communications do not rule the roost here in Kolkata… [or as I believe anywhere in India].

It is AirTel and VodaPhone. Everywhere you look see there is an AirTel sign not more that 50m away. (Tomorrow I will throw away my Reliance Modem – that is another story)

Now back in the hotel I changed and went to meet the VC. He is a tall very imposing soft-spoken handsome man. After a few pleasantries and as to where I stay he buzzed his senior aide (Abhijith, whom I had been in touch with from Colombo)

They went into a dialogue for the next 15 minutes in Bengali. I picked the gist of it. Now I know why the VC wanted to see me… There is a problem… I cannot speak Bengali and these classes are conducted in Bengali… Abhijith with whom I had conversed a bit in Hindi was saying that Hindi would be better for me… so I pick out that I have to be taught Hindi for 6 months first…

Finally after they finished I asked for a piece of paper and a pen… I wrote my name and my country in perfect stylish Hindi – the kind you see in newsprint – I developed this style long ago… instead of writing each individual letter with a bar I just write the elements below and just draw a single bar on top (leaving those spaces that should not have a bar… (I don’t think many Indians could write Hindi as stylishly as me)

Amazing to them… so the idea of 6 months of Hindi Language went out of the window… or rather I had it thrown out of the window.

Now it comes to arranging me a special teacher to cover up what I might have missed.

[If you ever go to meet someone overseas… just take our excellent Tea. I had a lot of tea and flavoured tea from Tea Tang… I did not pull out the tea. In there was that horoscope…]

I took it out… and went through 9 pages of 16-charts one-by-one and the professor was telling me the Indian terms (which are very similar to Sinhala) – I went through Dasha- Antar Dasha, Ashtottari, Yogini, Erashtaka, Yoga, Raja Yoga, and Rishi Parasara’s classification of planets on the Shahtamsha… by the end of it they realized that there is no point in teaching me calculations…

But Abhijith had a doubt… he asked if I could do this without a computer… I said I am the one who taught this computer how to do this… and everything I have programmed here have been manually calculated by me to test the program…

He asked can you do it with an Ephemeris? I said give me an Ephemeris, the birth details and a calculator… I will do all these charts and Dashas in just under 2 hours… No, no need he says…

I said I know nothing of Predictive Astrology, Palmistry, or Vastu and I intend changing from Traditional Parasara Doctrine to Krishnamurthi Paddhathi at the MA level

Now they have another problem… I don’t fit into the Diploma Class that is on-going either… They had another long exchange… Finally, Dr. Sastri telephoned someone to come. I picked up one phrase very clearly…

Studentका बहुत अच्चा हैं– “the student is very good…”

I was asked to sit down in the admin office... About an hour later the Admin of the Institute comes. Once again we sit there… and after another long jaw between them… they have come to a solution.

The new guy is pretty blunt… says Captain… you know only one fourth of the Diploma Class and more in BA MA level in calculations. But we have to teach you Palmistry, Predictive Astrology, Remedial Astrology and Basic Astronomy. I agree that though I could make good horoscopes my reading ability is virtually zero…

I said Sir… I was an officer on ships a long time before this GPS came… and we navigated with celestial objects… so you can leave that 'Basic Astronomy' out safely… (He says he was once in the Indian Navy and he had noticed my shirt… I was wearing a white uniform shirt without the epaulettes)

That broke a lot of ice… we both have been to sea… They spoke more… and more and more as Bengalis do… I try to pick up… impossible…

The final solution is that they will appoint a Professor solely for me who will take 4 days of classes a week not at the Institute but in a room upstairs at the VC’s office itself. I will have to do the same exam papers and the Orals (in English) as any other foreign student. (That not a problem – I am a fan of examinations!)

They will try to finish my Diploma in 6 months instead of a year and the BA in one year rather than two. That is a shaving of 1.5 years of 3. If I do a lot of work and am smart enough for this Professor I will finish both in One year and Three months flat!

They also explained that the cost will be a bit higher since these are individual classes; I said I certainly understand that; one does not need to be Einstein to figure out that In.Rs. 30,000 a month x 1.5 years is a huge saving which could be utilized in getting more education… Agreed…

As Bengalis they love to explain… I don’t need that… my calculations are very quick… here is a good opportunity to finish a Doctorate too… it all depends on how hard I work…

This also gives me enough free time to attend the Hindi Language Course at the Ramakrishna Centre for Languages… Open another door… Be a Hindi Teacher with Govt. of India Certification.

I have to move from here to a place closer to the VC’s Office in Lake Town… working on it… tomorrow I made some appointments and will see some places…

My friends here at the lodge office (Goan – Bengali) suggested I go to Jimmy’s Restaurant in the New Market if I need real good Chinese food (run by one old Mr. Chen) – They arranged a Rickshaw- Wallah to take me there and bring me back (as I don’t know the way back…)

It is the closest bloody experience one could have in a F1 racing car; sitting at the back without a helmet!

After we came back I told them… Look I am not going in that rickety rattling thing again… They laughed… “Hey just sit there and keep your eyes closed – these guys are very safe…”

About Jimmy’s Restaurant; oh boy, the food is superbly done… I figured out that I will not be able to eat all this… just one dish… Jimmy’s Special Fried Rice [What’s the cost? In. Rs. 230/-] – Bengal is Fish Country – I have never ever seen so many large succulent shrimp in a Chinese Fried Rice…

In Colombo we have to look for the odd prawn – Here they are staring at you – “Eat Me Now” – So much of Chinese migrants that sliced rosy Pork is authentic… I asked the waiter to serve me only half and parcel the rest… not for me to eat later… but for someone else…

That guy who was pulling the rickshaw with his spindly legs somehow seemed to be far fitter than me… It was for him…

After I paid him I asked him if he was a Muslim (contains Pork)… says no… So I gave him that parcel… delighted… poor fellow… brought me tea at six this morning…

These people are very nice… they have long jaws… a simple traffic altercation will continue between 3 traffic signals or until one branches… not violent… but they love to keep the long jaw going.

I am very observant and could assimilate things with all my five senses… that pretty fast too… In just two days I figured out the culture and the mood of this city. Without maps I might be lost in location, but I know the taxi is going the right way by comparing certain inconspicuous details to a map in mind…

This particularly is worth a mention – When I was 2nd Mate I was looking for a shop in Le Havre to buy a wristwatch (last minute, two hours prior to sailing – I had been there about 5 times before… It was next to the Stella Artois Pub – I located the Stella Artois Pub – but no shop next to it… running around like a bloody blue-assed fly I found another pub - but no shop next to it… Then I realized that Stella Artois is not a name of a pub but a popular French Beer… Idiotic 2nd Mates like me make good Captains eventually as we draw upon our own stupid experiences…

Therefore, don’t keep very prominent names as land marks – such as Lion Lager, MRF Tyres, Keells Super because they are everywhere. A small hand painted sign on a wall “A C Deb – Matrimony Consultant” is far easier to remember as you will muse as you sit there in the taxi – why, why not add another line below “A C Deb – Divorce Consultant” too – mix your signposts with some personal humour and you will never forget it… I don’t know where Mr. AC Deb is in Calcutta… But I know the taxi is going the right way if I happen to spot Mr. A C Deb’s Consultancy to the right side…

[Once I was assigned the Brother in Law of a company owner to drive me around the Emirates. That idiot had just got his license a month back… does not know a single intersection… Neither did I. We were supposed to go to Abu Dhabi from Sharjah… he made a mistake… I told him that we are going to Fujairah or Ras Al Kaimah if we go on this highway… He was indignant… I have been here for only some 20 days… How do you know Captain?

How I know? I told him, the last time we went to Abu Dhabi from Sharjah that tall Qatar Airways building below was on the right side (my side)… now we are passing it on the left side (your side) – have a look… simple logic… but a great Captain…]

Safe Navigation at sea is nothing but matching what one ought to see at the right time, and if not, why? That is navigation from me in just one sentence…

I am going to love this place… my style of living… laid back life… not for the busybodies… sometimes I wonder how this place became so different from Delhi, Mumbai or Chennai…

Now I understand what Capt H Subramaniam often used to say in Class… “I gave up sea life for two reasons… one is Port Said and the other is Calcutta”

Since I have given up sea-life this is the ideal place for me…

I will add this last… it is the norm as an astrology student to pay obeisance to your Guru. (That is going down on your knees to him…) we all do it to Dr. Rathuwithana after class in a single line… It does not matter if you are a Ship’s Captain, the Commander of the Navy or the President. If one is a student of Astrology then that is the tradition.

I was not sure of the practice here in West Bengal… that was soon sorted out to me… While we were having this meeting a lady entered the room, had a few words with Prof. Sastri and did the same as we do in Sri Lanka… before that he raised from his chair…

I followed suit an hour later… he was already on his feet even before I went around the desk… now I have a better clue of why he wanted to see me in person… these things do go a long way… take it from me

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