Chris Wormald – A Photographer's travel blog.

India: Bottle Dance at the ****** Cafe

Images and text copyright Chris Wormald and may only be used with written permission

There were no tables taken at the ***** Cafe. What could this mean? Did they poison people? Is it only the occasional passing Troll such as myself who ever tastes the fare of the ***** Cafe?

I took my seat in the empty room and the proprietor who spoke no English brought the menu, paused and said what I thought was “Would you like a cold beer?”

Knowing some areas of India are dry (no alcohol) and thinking that I was in such an area, the word BEER was irresistible. “Yes Please, A Kingfisher?” Kali Ma! Was this guy risking his licence in this traditional dry town? For me?

The sideways nod of the head was my silent answer. Indicating that I should prefer the table across the room (hidden from the road by being in an L shaped extension from the main restaurant area). I got the message and moved table. After a short interval came a bottle of Kingfisher and the litre bottle of mineral water that I had also ordered plus the menu.

Man as God, Shantiniketan. © Chris Wormald 2010

Now I am a vegetarian, as are many Trolls in this age of Kali Yuga, that sees so much trouble and strife, and I had not only run out of veggie options but got slightly pissed off by the haphazard attitude and unpredictable nature of the dining room of the £5.70 per night hotel room that I had occupied for the last 5 nights. The electricity failed occasionally, the water was hot at the most unpredictable hours (well what do you expect for under six quid a night?) and every time I ordered a black spiced tea it was different, sometimes to die for, sometimes to die for but half the size, sometimes spiced with pepper and ginger, sometimes just plain boring. And sometimes completely beyond reach. No Tea! – what! Had they run out of water, of gas, of coal or wood or cow dung, or of those wonderful spirals of black firelighter thingies that I have photographed beautiful women in saris making by the side of the road with seductively grubby hands?

The Troll on the last night of his stay in lovely Shakeodobbredumdum, before heading back to face the rigours of Kolkata – Calcutta to you and your parents, – had decided to push the boat out at the restaurant he had noticed that very day a few hundred yards from the hotel (in the other direction from the way into town he had taken every day since he had arrived).

The Troll ordered veggie delights two subjis- mutter thingime whatknot and a veg masala with paneer and a paratha and no rice (and the aforementioned bottle of mineral water that is, distressingly, made by Coco Cola – have the Americans bought the total supply of the worlds’ water – and if they haven’t, how long is it until they do)?

It had been a week since the Troll had quaffed a beer; a small bottle of bitter on the overnight sleeper from Cornwall to Paddington and the Heathrow nightmare, and the Kingfisher was good. Cold fizzy, light brown yummyness.

The food arrived and was sublime, as Mrs Troll was not with me to give me her choice of dishes to write about, (Mrs Troll is indisposed); I will merely state that Bengali cuisine rocks. Not overspiced, hints of fruity niceness, not too little or too much and the best paratha I have had for aeons, indeed since dawn of time, or perhaps that era in middle earth where Trolls were so badly used by that nasty tyrant Lord Sauron in his bid for power.

Surprise! another customer entered the restaurant, young longish hair, fancy jacket, and on a mission to get the most complicated take away ever, for his well-to-do extended family.

The proprietor looked nervous as the young dude sat with his back to me in the empty dining room. Once again I got the message and hid the kingfisher bottle behind the mineral water, and emptied the glass refilling it with water. But the young man’s order was long, very long. Indeed it was almost an inquisition, every last detail was examined. The dude was totally engrossed as I drank the water, refilled the glass from what was left in the Kingfisher and hid the bottle on the seat beside me, drank the beer, refilled the glass with water before the inquisition ended. The dude left to account to Mummydaddy and await the food in middle class splendour.

I finished my food and paid the bill, implying that it had been wonderful and quite the best food in Shakeodobbredumdum. Oh yes to complete the review of a good meal in a restaurant I cannot name, in a town I cannot name, somewhere in West Bengal – the bill was 142Rs fractionally over £2.00 in Home Counties money.

Back to the Shantiniketan and Calcutta page –

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