“How was it like going back to Kolkata?”, you ask. It was difficult to answer. To quote the book, I needed some time to think about how to express it linguistically, and also it’s complicated.
Firstly it was interesting bringing someone new along. Someone who has never been there, never travelled with us for work, and has probably heard some idea about Kolkata, and India, and my India self, but now needs to put it to test. It was more fun this way I guess, rather than going with other familiar jaded souls, but maybe it’s the same either way.
Secondly, it felt really familiar. Of course it would, this be after all my >50th visit, and so many many days that I could count and it would be tiring. The airport (albeit the newer airport) is familiar, the air, the weather, the drivers, the roads, the sights, the hotel, the rooms, the toiletries, the bed, the TV (changed slightly), the traffic, the buildings (changed slightly), the office (albeit the newer one), the lab, the people (albeit changed slightly), were all terribly familiar, in a good and bad way I guess.
It was good to be familiar. It felt like I belonged there, or maybe rather it felt like friends and family, rather than just formal work and formal touristy relations. It was good like that. Keeps you at peace, knowing what to expect, knowing how much you need to do and how much you can do and etc. It’s an incredible difference the second time you see something, more so when it is the 50th time and you are recognised by some. Maybe it was a little disappointing that not everyone recognised me, but then people change, maybe it was a little disappointing that some service standards are as high as before, but then corners need to be trimmed and costs reduced. Maybe I was way more frustrated with the internet than before, but I am so much used to 1 Gbps home fibre broadband and 4G mobile and faster phones than before.
On one hand it was fun to have somewhere to go to, but it also felt like this is so ephemeral and won’t be something that will be there when I grow old. After all these are all people in jobs and people move, after some time.
I loved meeting the hotel staff again, the waiters now restaurant managers, the concierge. There are probably many other guests that they know well, but it is nice to be one of them.
The roads are a little better paved now. Some other new highways are up. The driver took a slightly different route. A familiar junction sported a new flyover. I wouldn’t know the best route to direct a driver right now, whereas previously I was so familiar I could exactly state which road names and which way I preferred to take. Yeah.
A new Marriot hotel opened, a new outdoor theatre opened which looks super silly, some old markets are still exactly totally the same, malls the same, restaurant makeovers, new waiters who are incompetent, etc.
A few new eateries, too many same old places that I eat at.
Similar old flights.
Fairly fun work.
All in all, not too bad as work trips go.
Sometimes it also feels like I haven’t changed at all, and still doing the same thing travelling to the same place. 🙁
Flipping through the same TV channels (actually probably upgraded to better), and on the same crappy internet.