We set off early to get the plane to Calcutta or Kolcatta as it’s now known, but had to fly to Bangalore first. I will miss Goa, I really liked it.
It takes a full day and when we finally arrive its dark and we are very hungry.
The streets here are like the others we have seen, busy, really busy. Our fixer Paris arrives and is very funny, complete with 10 gallon hat and Colonel Sanders goaty beard. We chat away and stop and start. It takes well over an hour to get to the hotel, but its well worth it the Oberoi, sister to the Delhi hotel.
The staff are amazing and so helpful, the manager George greets us and we settle in. It’s a superb building, quiet and peaceful, slap bang in the middle of mayhem.
Dinner is good, but we are all slightly jaded so could not really do it justice, coupled with the fact that due to festivities of Durga Puja, we cannot have any alcohol…Rich certainly not happy. But with a shower and visit to the mini bar he looks revived and smiley, funny that. I head off to bed, lovely room and really comfy bed; I sleep really well.
We rise early and breakfast, I’m first, and gradually everybody assembles. We have to be away early as we have lots to film. We wait in reception and wait and wait, nothing no bus no car no call. Christina starts to panic, after a couple of calls we find out Paris has been rushed into hospital. Oh dear poor chap, his son turns up to fill in and visibly shaken.
So quickly we decide to get the cooking sequence out of the way. Our chef is expert and setting up takes a few minutes. He explains the history of jalfrezi and how popular it is still in Kolcatta. We film a couple of times and get all the shots we need, of course Reza is in his element and is camper than usual.
We finally get away from the hotel and with another guide Jeannie. Its mayhem, manic and crazy busy as we head off to the city centre and the Victoria Monument. It’s so busy and very difficult to film. Police are everywhere and anybody who dare stop too long is swiftly dealt with. Taxis are hit with long wooden sticks as are tuk-tuk’s all a bit scary really. We are then told we cannot film in the monument site so have to film outside under the watchful eye of the old bill. It’s either the police or the large black crows eating someone’s vomit to look out for. Not sure which is worse. Its so loud it didn’t make the end film.
Reza gets me a bling carriage (see the film) I refuse to get in it, its way to camp for me; needless to say he LOVES it.
It’s getting dark so we head straight off to film the festival Durga Puja. This is a huge festival where over the space of a few days some 3000 effigy’s of the Durga are constructed. She is the goddess of divine power against all evils are lovingly built, painted and dressed in the most wonderful clothes. They are then transported from all over Kolcatta to the Ganges where they are slowly lowered in. The followers believe that the spirit will then be taken back to the Himalayas to start all over again. Luckily we just walk straight in as we have a camera. No one questions us and we get some brilliant footage. There are hundreds if not thousands of people all in a real frenzy. It’s a very moving sight indeed. A policeman asks us for our permit, Rhian goes through her bag. He gets more persistent and says we can have 5 more minutes. As like all cameraman we film more and get thrown out. Nevertheless we have some great footage and also have a good old dance with them!!! I will never forget it!
After that we head back to the hotel, completely knackered.
Up early and away to film the Ganges in its entire splendor. I photograph many people washing, shaving, and generally having a good time. The weather is glorious and Reza steers our boat, he’s so exited. As we sail up and down the Ganges I reflect on our trip, the food we have tasted and the people we have seen and met. All have been really interesting and nothing like I have expected.
We film in a local market and then head back to the hotel and those immortal words ‘it’s a wrap’.
We all pack and then have a dip in the pool and lunch. Quick sleep and just have time to buy a few trinkets for the family and at 5 head off to the airport.
I have learnt so much on this trip and can’t wait to get back to the UK and put it all into practice. Reza and I are now going to go head to head preparing and cooking the 3 dishes we have learn’t about in India for the great British public.
Jalfrezi in Brick Lane, London, chicken tikka masala in Glasgow, its spiritual home apparently and Newcastle where the hottest vindaloos are eaten and enjoyed.
My thanks to everybody who helped and contributed to the making of these 3 great films. There are too many to thank personally. As Reza would say, ‘How wonderful darling’.