Jim Haynes newsletters

Newsletter No. 692
The 14th Kolkata Film Festival
A new President for the United States
2 to 23 November 2008
 
14th Kolkata Film Festival
   

Sunday, 2nd November: Antonia Hoogewerf cooks her Super Luxurious Fish Pie for 61 happy individuals (34 men and 27 women) tonight, Amanda Morrow makes a fruit cheese cake. Among the guests are such outstanding personalities as Rose Ann Padua (future Nobel Prize winner in Medicine), Alain Misson and Karen Moller (Alain will read from his new novel, The Theatre of Incest, tomorrow night at Shakespeare & Co and Karen gives me a copy of her new American edition of In Her Own Fashion), Elly Veitch (who has come to dinner tonight thanks to Frances Sutton and who has brought five friends from Edinburgh). It's another glorious dinner.

Monday, 3rd: Go to Shakespeare & Co at 19.00 hours to hear Alain Misson read from his new novel, but it is so crowded and I am so very far back, it is difficult to hear. Make my way up the front stairs and see Antonia sitting on the front row. Alain has finished and a young woman will read from her new novel. I signal for Antonia to come out and suggest to her that we have a quiet dinner in our favorite Italian restaurant, Caruso. She agrees and we speed in a taxi to the rue de Turenne. Aldo greets us warmly and we have our usual feast.

Tuesday, 4th: America votes today and the world holds its collective breath and wonders what will unfold. More of the same or a new young face and the promise of changes in the way America is run and deals with the rest of the world. I have cast my absentee ballot some time ago for Obama in a "red state", so suspect my vote is meaningless. In the evening, rush around like a fool, first to Varda Ducovny's, but it is too early and the television commentators only make blaa blaa blaa. Metro to Michael Muszlak's and get more of the same on a slightly bigger screen. Collect Antonia and Séamas McSwiney and we taxi to the Swan Bar and there Colin Gravois has set up his projection system and now we get it on a very large screen but do have a bowl of chili. Manage to talk briefly with Lionel Bloom about our proposed New Year's Eve party. Antonia agrees to help. At some point, slip out, find a taxi and head for my bed. Turn on the BBC World Service television, listen and sleep.

Wednesday, 5th: Sometime in the early hours, learn from BBC World television that Barrack Obama will be our new President. John McCain's concession speech is a thing of beauty as is Barrack's acceptance speech. Both bring tears of joy to my tired eyes. Kelly Miller, who is sleeping on a living room couch, asked me earlier to wake her when I knew the election results. Crawl out of bed, put on my robe, and go downstairs to give her the news. She smiles in disbelief. As long as I am downstairs, have a quick pee and return to my bed.
Tonight Antonia and I fly to Bangkok via Bahrain on Gulf Airways. Most of the morning is spent packing in a semi-shocked state. I cannot believe that Obama will be our next President. The expectations for him are exceedingly high, but I hope that he can bring about some positive results for America and the rest of the world. A taxi is called to collect me at 16.00 hours. Collect Antonia. We speed to Charles de Gaulle airport. At the check-in, I discover straight away we are living in a New World. When I present my passport to the Gulf Air counter, the fellow beams, shakes my hand and congratulates me. He is happy Obama has won. We go upstairs to await departure at 21.06. Alas we are a little late boarding.

Thursday, 6th: This morning we arrive two-hours late in Bahrain but because there is a lay-over for a few hours, we will not miss our connecting flight. Then we learn our flight to Bangkok is delayed. We leave for Bangkok at 09.30 instead of 07.30. We are in the air again headed East. It's a smooth flight. Antonia watches movies. I try to read. Soon it is dark outside. Smooth landing. We quickly clear passport control. Purchase a bottle of Cointreau and a box of chocolate for our hosts. Outside find a taxi and speed toward Yvan and Guk's home. They were expecting us earlier. The dinner table is filled with Guk's superb offerings which they are busy devouring. There is another guest, Seth Mydans, the New York Times' correspondent for South East Asia. Of course he knows Meg Bortin, he speaks fluent Russian and once was based in Moscow. Seth has to depart early because he flies early in the morning to Singapore (I think). We are also tired and are soon in bed and fast asleep.

Friday, 7th: Get up and go downstairs early. Antonia makes a pot of coffee. Guk has gone to her office. Yvan, Antonia and I have a lazy breakfast. I read today's International Herald Tribune. Formally am introduced to the three cats: Dylan, Pushkin, and Coco. Yvan tells us their life story. One big worry has been how Antonia would react to the three cats. So far, so good. Yvan slips out to go to his office. We will meet him about noon or so for lunch.
Antonia and I take a 6 Bat ride to the Skytrain. We ride to the end of the line. Then retrace our steps. Get out and have a coffee at Starbucks. We walk about a bit and talk with Yvan and agree to meet him for lunch. We find a taxi and the driver is a semi-madman. But eventually we arrive. Needless to say, lunch is divine. Afterwards we walk the short distance to the British Club where I will read newspapers and Antonia will have a swim. She goes to change and when she is ready for her swim, a sudden tropical storm produces a heavy rain and she elects not to go into the water. Later we find another taxi and return to Yvan and Guk's home for Antonia to change. We get a small put-put to the Skytrain to meet Yvan. (Guk has a formal reception she has to attend tonight.) We take the Skytrain to the river. We are handed a free Thai newspaper with Obama on the cover.
We are to meet Nym (Korakot Punlopruksa) and ride up the river to have a drink at the Deck by the River. The river is dangerously high. Nym is a friend of Jesper's and also of Yvan's and Guk. She stayed in my atelier in Paris in 2006 and cooked a fantastic Thai feast for a Sunday night dinner. She is a journalist and travel writer who has produced a number of books and (to quote Yvan) "probably travels more than the American Secretary of State". She is bringing an American photographer with her named Alison Wright. We all meet at the dock, board a boat and speed up river. When we arrive, we climb up to a top deck, order drinks and have a spectacular view of the river and the Temple of the Dawn. Alison is a National Geographic photographer. She was in a terrible accident in Laos which she only just survived. She has written a book about all this entitled Learning to Breathe. Afterwards we wander about a temple, Wat Pho, which is almost empty. Antonia jokes that she is surprised to find me exploring a temple. Well if I must, it is better at night with no one around.
We taxi to a street restaurant called Jay Fai. This is one of the best street restaurants in Bangkok and the proprietor often cooks for the King. Bob Halliday, who is a legend in Bangkok, joins us. An American, he has lived almost 40 years in Bangkok, speaks fluent Thai, writes a food column for The Bangkok Post and seems to be a renaissance man with a vast knowledge of cinema and music. He hosts a Sunday cinema event every week in his home. I like him immediately and we discover a common love for Maurice Girodias, John Calder and Barney Rosset and the books they have published. We also like a lot of the same films. I tell him about the Kolkata Film Festival. Maybe he and Yvan will attend next year.
After dinner we go in two taxis to China Town for a bizarre dessert. Then someone suggests we go to Red Dog, an "underground" expatriate Bar. Again two cars to get us there. Meet lots of photographers and friends of Jesper's. Have a long talk with two fellows from Germany named Thomas (who has a Spanish girlfriend) and a Nick from Munchen. Nick thinks there might be a Civil War in Thailand if the current political turmoil is not solved...

Saturday, 8th: Another great night's sleep. This morning Guk, Yvan, Antonia and I have a big English breakfast: bacon, eggs, and toasts.
In the afternoon, Yvan, Antonia and I have lunch in a sweet place. Then we go to Ann's Sweet, a pastry shop, for some delicious cakes. Ann herself is Anshada Chaiyabutr. The place is small but very wonderful. We buy a cake to take to Peter's birthday party tonight.
In the evening we go to Yvan's partner, Peter Charlesworth's birthday party. Peter is the co-founder with Yvan Cohen of OnAsia, the photo agency specializing in images of Asia. Both Peter and Yvan are photographers. Peter used to shoot for Time and Newsweek and covered Lebanon in the 80s. Later he covered Tiananmen Square and the fall of Marcos in the Philippines for Time. Peter has a wonderful Thai wife, Tich. It's a superb party. Guk drives us home and we sit in the living room and have a good long discussion about the party.

Sunday, 9th: Both Antonia and I have a sleepless night. Finally I get up at 6. Coffee for Antonia and me. Guk and Yvan have tea.

Guk and Yvan, Bangkok, photograph©Antonia Hoogewerf 2008
Guk and Yvan Cohen

Yvan goes out and finds a taxi. We soon say goodbye to our wonderful hosts, load our bags into the taxi and speed to the airport. A quick check-in. Smooth Jet Airlines flight to Calcutta. We are met at the airport by two Film Festival officials, introduced to our car and driver, and speed in the warm sunshine towards Nanden. We meet a young film director from Malaysia, Saw Tiong Guan. He has a short film, his first film, in the festival. And we promise to see it. He comes with us as we look for Nilanjan Chatterjee, the Festival's director. Or for Sudeep Bhattacharyya, Nilanjan's assistant. No sign of them. Walk to Sumitra Mitra's office. One of his assistants telephones him and he and I chat. He welcomes me to Kolkata and says he will be in his office after 16.00 hours this afternoon. We leave Nanden for our home, The Bengal Club. Gilda Gomes gives us Room 1. We go up to the 2nd floor, greet all the lads who will look after us as in past years. This year R.D. Singh will look after us. It's our third year to be resident in the Bengal Club. It really feels good. Room 1 is superb. It's big and a corner room. Cool and lots of sunlight. We unpack and rest.

About 15.00 hours, we ride back to Nanden. Soumitra Mitra is in his office. We get our Special Delegate's Pass and the small Programme at a Glance. This will enable us to begin planning. We walk to the festival office and meet Nilanjan Chatterjee and Sudeep. Later two Americans from L.A. enter and we are introduced to Peter Rainer and Josef Linder. We also meet a fellow from the American Consulate named Nilanjan Hajra who seems to be looking after Peter and Josef.
We go to check email and learn that Antonia's daughter, who was supposed to be flying to Calcutta with her husband, Damien, has failed to board the flight. They forgot to get visas. Oh no.

Paul Holmes
Paul Holmes

We return to the Bengal Club to rest. In the evening, we dine in The Bengal Club and sit next to a table full of people from Edinburgh. I am more or less responsible for them being at the Festival. They are Robin MacPherson, Paul Holmes, Damian Wood, Hermann Karrison, Tim Langer, and Ruth Paxton.

Monday, 10th: It's so good to wake up to a big Bengal Club breakfast. We really like our room. We read the morning newspapers in the warm sun streaming in the windows.
Up to Nandan at 17.00 hours for the formal opening. The Festival lamp is lit by Mrinal Sen, an acclaimed film director, assisted by the beautiful actress, Nandita Das. Short and excellent speeches from the Mayor of Kolkata, Shri Bikash Ranjan Bhattacharyya. Mrinal Sen says a few words in favor of short speeches. The Chief Minister of West Bengal, Shri Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, says that 276 films from around 62 countries will be screened over the next week... Then he officially releases the Film Programme book. It is soon time for the opening film. I see Michal Kwiecinski and meet his daughter, Olga Kwiecinska. And Michal's companion, Anna Parandowska. He has produced Andrzej Wajda's film, Katyn, which will be screened in Nandan 1 on Friday morning. I do not want to miss it.

Nandita Das
Nandita Das

The Inaugural Film to open the 14th Kolkata Film Festival is Cristiano Boryone's Red Like the Sky, a film inspired by the true story of blind Mirco Mencacci, one of the most gifted Sound Editors working in Italy today.

Afterwards we cross the street to the Calcutta Club where Anamika Kala Sangam and Ms. Madhuchanda host a party. Lots of fun. One waiter "adopts" me and keeps bringing me onion bahji. Meet lots of delegates, including Marcy Goldberg from Canada but who now lives in Zurich, Barbara Lorey de Lacharriere from Paris, all the gang from Edinburgh, R.H. Kampani, Sudeep, Sumitra Mitra and his wife, Moonmoon, Chiru Sur, Golam Rabbany Biplob, a filmmaker from Bangladesh and a film festival Director and so many others.
Very late return to The Bengal Club. Another Kolkata Film Festival has started.

Tuesday, 11th: Once again J.D. Singh knocks on the door at 9 with our breakfast and morning newspapers.
At 11am, see Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter… and Spring, directed by Kim Ki Duk, with Antonia and Damien Wood. This is the first of six feature films by Kim Ki Duk to be presented under the category, Dicovery. It's slow, but incredibly beautiful.

 

Marcy Goldberg
Marcy Goldberg

There is a lunch afterwards across from the Nandan complex in The Calcutta Club. One of the first people I encounter is Aloke Kumar. I ask him about his son, Abhishek, who is a delightful young lad I met last year at a party. I ask that my best wishes be passed to him.
This is one of the first opportunities to meet the foreign delegates and the locals. Talk with Barbara Lorey de Lacharriere, who lives in Paris in the 13th arrondissement. She is also thanked, as I am, in the official programme as a Festival Consultant. She is talking to a Patrice, the French Consul in Mombai. We are introduced.

Soumitra Mitra introduces me to Jorge Echeverri, a Director from Bogotá, Colombia. He is with his young daughter, Sara. He will be presenting his film, La Voz de las Alas (The Voice of Wings) on Thursday. Jorge studied in the London International Film School and we talk about London. We decide to walk over to Nandan. We see Nilanjan on the way. He suggests we go and see Sudeep. We walk upstairs to the office in Nandan 1. Sudeep is in the office and it is so good to see him. He is an excellent fellow. I find him delightful in every way.
Go outside and purchase a T-shirt. Sign two autograph requests. Who do they think I am? Some think I am Gunther Grass. Am interviewed by a TV crew who ask me about the Film Festival and I give my usual effusive praise. Check email and discover I have over 100 messages. Begin to reply to some of them.

Sara and Jorge Echeverri Martinez
Sara and Jorge Echeverri

At 17.00 hours, go to Nandan 1 to see Jiri Menzel's I Served the King of England. It is an amazing film in many ways. The story of a waiter, Jan Dite, whose life story is the story of the Czech Republic from the 30s up to the present. The two actors who play Jan Dite, Ivan Barnev (young Jan Dite) and Oldrich Kaiser(the older Jan Dite), are very Charlie Chaplin-like, especially Ivan Barnev. It is a little jewel.
Taxi back to the Bengal Club and discover a package has been left for Antonia and myself. It contains a leather briefcase and a massive 352- page catalogue of all the films to be screened at the Festival.

Tonight there is a party in the Bengal Club. Our host is C.K. Dhanuka. Go downstairs with Damian Wood. He is a member of the Scottish Delegation. I sent a DVD of Damian's film, River Child. It was on a DVD with a number of other short films that were produced by the new Screen Academy Scotland and Napier University Film Department in Edinburgh.
Meet the German Consul, Juergen Fischer, and his wife, Anne. It was in this same room last year that we first met. He tells me he is soon to retire. He and Anne will spend time in Germany and in Perth, Australia. Juergen introduces me to the American Consul, Beth A. Payne and to the Nepal Consul, Suresh Man Shrestha.
Join the food queue and take my plate to a table outside. Sit with Barbara, Patrice, Chiru Sur, Abhijit Bose, Juergen & Anne Fischer, Antonia, Damian and Paul Holmes. I introduce Juergen to Patrice.

Damian Wood
Damian Wood

Wednesday, 12th: We have settled into a routine. Big breakfast at 08.30, read The Statesman (me) and The Telegraph (Antonia). Morning shower. Martin Lehberger arrives. He is an hour early. He misjudged the time, thinking it is 10.00. He has been in Madras visiting his daughter, Sarah, and has been traveling in South India for several months. We ride to Nandan. No Soumita Mitra. No Nilanjan Chatterjee. But Sudeep is in the office. Introduce him to Martin. Antonia suggests we go shopping in the Forum in Elgin Road. Antonia looks for shoes. Martin and I go upstairs. He gets some silk trousers and a bunch of CDs of Indian music. I purchase a box of After 8s for Gilda and the people at the front desk of the Bengal Club. We three have fresh fruit juice and then go to The Fairlawn Hotel where Sam changes $100 for me and I repay 2,000 rupees to Antonia. Martin and I walk around the corner to the pharmacy where we make some purchases. Then it is back to the Bengal Club.
Antonia and I return to Nandan 3 at 17.15 to see Saw Tiong Guan's G16 G17. We both enjoy the film. It is a very personal film about his terminally ill mother and her son's wish to make her last moments special. Next is a strange film from Israel, Homeland, directed by Dani Rosenberg. This is followed by an equally bizarre film from Ireland, Frankie, directed by Darren Thornton.
Go downstairs to Nandan 1 and see the end few minutes of Lemon Tree (in Edinburgh in June, I saw the beginning of the film.) Then we stay to see the Nandita Das film, Firaaq. This is her first feature film that she has co-written and directed. Firaaq means (in Hindi) both separation and quest. The story is set over a 24-hour period, one month after a carnage that took place in Gujarat, India in 2002. Nandita introduces her film and looks extremely lovely. It's a brave film that should be seen by lots of people in India. Hell, in the world, for that matter. Religious intolerance and the violence that it fosters. (I sit next to a fellow named Lal Hiranandani, who gives me his card and invites me to visit him at the India Book House.)
In the evening we ride to the Priya Cinema where Arijit Dutta hosts a delightful party. Part of the time, I sit in the cinema where an old black & white film can be seen on the screen. I am introduced to the film director, Goutan Ghose, and his wife (who he says is his muse). He and I talk about Derek Malcolm.

Thursday, 13th: Breakfast, newspapers, shower, dress again at 09.00. Lazy morning. Antonia decides to go for a swim. About Noon I decide to go to Nandan. See in front of The Bengal Club Paul Holmes, Damian Wood, Hermann Karlsson, and Samarjit "Sam" Guha, from the British Council. The Scottish delegation is moving to another hotel and will be departing for the airport and the UK in the early hours. They will be missed. Sam and I talk. What a sweetheart. A British Council car arrives and Sujata Sen exits. Sam introduces us. She and I talk about Edinburgh, Kolkata and Paris. Sam and the lads drive off. Sujata Sen invites me to join her for lunch inside The Bengal Club. I thank her and decline. I am just not hungry. Silly me. She is so nice. I kick myself for not joining her.
Give my room key to Gilda Gomes and she tells me one of her sons is seriously ill and in a clinic. This is so sad. (Her wonderful sister, Audrey, died just before last year's Festival.)
Go outside and hail a taxi and ride to Nandan. Check email. Meet a fellow from Madrid. His name is Qazi Abdur Rahim. He runs a Film Festival in Madrid devoted to Indian films. Walk to Nilanjan's office and bump into Jorge and Sara on the way. Meet Nilanjan and we discuss this year's festival, next year's festival and the possibility of his coming to Europe in the Spring. He says that he still wishes me to act as a consultant and appreciates all that I have done for this year's Festival.
Attend two press conferences in the Media Centre. Paul Holmes and the Scottish Delegation at 14.00 hours and Jorge Echevery at 14.30.
Barbara, Marcy and I decide to go to Fabindia. We all try on lots of things, but only Barbara and I select something. Marcy finds a blouse that looks great on her, but it is not a good fit. Barbara's credit cards do not function and I have forgotten my Visa Card. I have enough cash to cover the payment of some light cotton pants. But Barbara's blouse and my silk shirt are left with Fabindia and I will pass tomorrow to collect them.
In the evening, the party is at the Stadel Hotel. Antonia and I drive out. Martin is in bed feeling ill and needs to rest. We see so many people we know. Barbara and Marcy and the three from Warsaw, R.H. Kampani and his brother, Mahendra Kampani. The Scottish contingent fly off in the wee hours. They will be missed. We say warm goodbyes to Damian Wood and Paul Holmes. Soumitra Mitra is in top form. Antonia and I drive back to Bengal Club not too late.

The Statesman, 14 November 2008

Friday, 14th: When breakfast arrives this morning, Mr. Singh points out that my photo is on the front page of The Statesman. Inside there is another photograph and I am identified as Gunther Grass.
Today the Financial Officer is supposed to give me my expense money. After breakfast we ride to Nandan. I go upstairs to hand over my passport. See Michal Kwiecinski and his friend, Anna. They are waiting to see the Finance Officer as well. I am told to come back later. Head for Nandan 1. Find Antonia. We watch the Andrzej Wajda film, Katyn. It is a very moving and disturbing film. It is a sad portrait of man's inhumanity to man. The cream of young Polish society is taken to the wooded area outside the tiny village of Katyn and all shot in the head and dumped into a mass unmarked grave. Stalin said it was Hitler; Hitler said it was Stalin. After the war, with the Soviet Union controlling Poland, it was illegal and even dangerous to question the official line. Then with Poland getting its freedom in 1989, it is soon revealed that it was Stalin who was to blame. Will mass killings ever cease? (I am writing this on the 28th of November as the BBC World Service television reports the tragic events from Mumbai. Some 150 people have been killed and this number is sure to rise.)

The Statesman, /... /guides for guests

Rush to Fabindia, pay for Barbara's and my purchases and return to The Bengal Club.
Tonight the party is located in the Hotel Hindustan International. Antonia's daughter, Madeleine, and her son-in-law, Damien Cardozo, are staying here. The owner of the hotel, D.K.Jaiswal, is our host. The back of the hotel is beautifully lit. It turns out to be a superb party in every way. Madeleine looks beautiful and everyone is enchanted by her. R.H.Kampani welcomes us and we have a lot of photographs taken together. K.K. Khemka, who I met in 2007, and who is the Honorary Consul General of The Philippines, offers Madeleine and Damien his home in the foothills of the Himalayas. He seems to be sincere in his offer. An extremely nice man. Meet some young Australians who are shooting a movie in Calcutta and who are staying in the Hotel Hindustan. The food is delicious. I have some Italian and Japanese cuisine. Meet Heena Gorsia and her husband, Rajn. (They drove Séamas and me back from a Taj Bengal party in 2007.) Chiru Sur is in top form. So are Martin Lehberger and Antonia.

Saturday, l5th: Go to Nandan 3 and see 9 Scottish shorts with Antonia. Our favorite is River Child by Damian Wood. It is only 17 minutes, but it is superb in every way. I saw it in Edinburgh in June and it survives a second viewing easily. I think it is this film that made me send the DVD to Nilanjan Chatterjee, thus starting the chain that let to their invitation. It is also nice to have met Damian and to share the Festival with him and the others from Napier University in Edinburgh.
Go to the office and the Finance Officer gives me my expenses in euros. Antonia goes on to The Bengal Club. I have lunch and am interviewed by Nazmun Nesa. Go downstairs to the Media Centre and attend the press conference of Stefan Kitanova.
See two films in Nandan 1 this afternoon. First, at 15.00 hours the film, Tricks, by Andrej Jakimowski. It's OK. Then at 17.00 hours, the film, Children of Glory, by Krisztina Goda. This is her second feature film. (Her first was called Just Sex and Nothing Else.) I don't think this film will be invited to the Moscow Film Festival. To quote the Festival programme: "Budapest, 1956. A young water polo star, Karcsi, becomes embroiled in the anti-Soviet Revolution that is brewing in the streets. At first, he is only out for adventure, but a fiery student, Viki, catches Karcsi's eye…" A knock-out of a film.
Tonight, Pawan Kumar Ruia, the Chairman of the Ruia Group, hosts the party in The Oberoi Grand Hotel. Last year he hosted one of the best parties of the festival in the Taj Bengal and it was also his daughter's birthday party. Aloke Kumar, of Dunlop India, is a part of the Ruia Group. There is some confusion because our schedule says the party will be at the Taj Bengal, but Barbara has an invitation that says it is in the Oberoi Grand.
Needless to say, it is again a great party. Am greeted by Aloke Kumar who says his son is here. I spot Abhishek and walk over to say hello. He is with a class-mate. Maybe it is Suraj Sachlebbeb. Sit with them and we have a long and fun conversation. Also see Dhruba Nandi and his lovely wife, Subha. Someone takes me to meet Pawan Kumar Ruia and I thank him for hosting a wonderful party last year and again this year. I also ask him to send my greetings to his lovely daughter.
See Soumitra Mitra's wife, Moonmoon, and their son, Souparno. He and I talk about his studies in England.Barbara introduces me to a composer from Zurich named Marcel Vaid. Encounter Gaurav Dutt. We first met at the Kenilworth Hotel party in 2006 when he was with the West Bengal Police Academy. Now two years later, he is with the Intelligence Branch. We have a brief talk and he is surprised that I remember exactly when and where we first met.
Congratulate Stefan Kitanov on his film. I have not seen it yet, but have heard good reports. I will see its last screening on Monday at the New Empire Cinema.

Sunday, l6th: Antonia departs early after breakfast to meet her daughter, Madeleine, and son-in-law, Damien. She will use our car and driver to give them a tour of Kalkota. I decide to take a holiday from the cinema today. Call Rimi Chatterjee and she will come to The Bengal Club late afternoon and we will have tea together. I take a taxi to the Fairlawn and exchange some dollars and pounds with Sam and get a lot of rupees. See Gloria and Norman Hutchison and sit and talk with them. They introduce me to a gay couple from Croydon and to a woman named Rachel from Zurich. We also talk about Elsie Donald. They suggest we dine next week and I promise to call them after I have talked with Antonia.
Taxi to Flurys and order a vegetarian lasagna. Two fellows enter and sit next to me. They are from Cologne and both (David Lopez and Frank Methien) are half-Spanish, half-German. We have a fun conversation and I invite them to come one Sunday to Paris and dine.
Rimi comes to The Bengal Club and we walk back to Park Street to a place called The Tea Table for coffee and cake. And a long talk about the Edinburgh Festival and Kolkata. Give her a copy of White Washing Fences. And invite her to dine on Tuesday evening. As we are leaving, she spots a friend. He is with two Australians. Everyone is introduced. I give them all the Chicago Tribune article. Louise Edwards is with an NGO in Delhi and Jonathan Nash is a PhD candidate at the University of Adelaide. Rimi and I walk down the street to the Oxford Bookshop. I purchase her novel, Signal Red, and she purchases two novels she wants to read. I spot Peter Rainer buying about 20 Satyajit Ray DVDs. I introduce him to Rimi and we have a short chat. He says he sat next to Nadine Gordimer for breakfast this morning in the Oberoi Grand. Peter is the film critic for the Christian Science Monitor.
Back in my room and find Antonia about to go out to the opera with Marcy and Martin. They will take Marcy's car and driver. This means I can take our car to John and Susan Mantosh's party in the Royal Calcutta Golf Club. As usual, it is a fabulous party. John is a wonderful host. I ask him about Susan and she has not arrived yet. Sit at a round table and talk with lots of people. Chat briefly with the Israeli director, Doron Eran. Mention to him that the late Dahn Ben-Amotz was a friend of mine. He smiles when he hears Dahn's name. Barbara and I decide to return to The Bengal Club early. When we leave I look around to thank Susan and John, but do not see them. We are handed gift bags. They are so generous and so nice. Thank you, Susan and John!
Back at The Bengal Club, go to sleep right away.

Monday, 17th: Today Marcy Goldberg and Martin Lehberger are flying off very early in the morning. It is the last day of the Film Festival. There is a Slovak film, Facing the Enemy, by Patrick Lancaric in Nandan 1 at 09.00 and a Latvian film, Defender of Riga by Aigars Grauba, at 15.00 hours but I cannot get myself into action. I do see some of Moliere, directed by Laurent Tirard in Nandan 2. Have a lunch tray in Nandan 1.
At 17.00 hours head for the New Empire cinema and see The World Is Big and Salvation Lurks Around the Corner, directed by Stephan Komandarev. Antonia and Chiru also attend. It's a superb film.
The final party tonight is hosted by Sundeep Bhutoria in the ITC Sonar Kolkata Hotel. It is a very large affair. See upon arrival Juergen and Anne Fischer. Then meet three Americans from the U.S. Consulate. Talk with R. H. Kampani and his brother, Mahendra Kampani. R.H. invites Antonia and me to lunch in the Calcutta Club tomorrow. We accept.

Stephan Komandarev
Stephan Komandarev

We walk around a lake and join a food queue. And then sit at a table with Stefan Kitanov and his lovely wife, Iliana Kitanova. They are from Sofia, Bulgaria and he has produced the film, The World is Big and Salvation lucks around the Corner. It is, more or less, the true story of the writer, Ilya Troyanov, who I met last August at the Edinburgh Book Festival.

Chiru Sur sits at our table with Djin Sganzerla, the beautiful actress from San Paulo, Brazil. I ask her if she knows Ruth Escobar and she shakes her head that she does not. She is here with the film, My Name is Dindi. I missed its screening and she promises to send me a DVD. I give her the Chicago Tribune article. And Abhijil Bose is with us. Also Jorge Echeverri; he is going off tomorrow with his lovely daughter, Sara, to climb in the Himalayas.
Then a strange thing unfolds when I see a fellow walk past us. I am only able to see the back of his head, but I think it is Alyque Padamsee. Antonia chases after him and it is him. He joins our table briefly and we invite him to join us in the restaurant, Oh Calcutta, on Tuesday night. He says that he will try to make it.

Djin S'ganzerla
Djin S'ganzerla

Barbara wants to go back to The Bengal Club and I decide to go with her. On the way out, see Moonmoon and her son, Souparno. We chat briefly and I wish Souparno luck with his studies in England.
Smooth ride to Bengal Club, wish Barbara sweet dreams and am soon in bed.

Tuesday, 18th: After breakfast, begin to telephone people for our dinner party tonight in Oh, Calcutta. Antonia and I ride in a taxi to Nandan where we check email. Antonia books the Raj Ambassador in Delhi for Thursday night.
We go next door to see Soumitra Mitra, to say goodbye and to thank him once again.
Then Antonia and I cross over to the Calcutta Club to meet R.H Kampani for lunch. He is a sweetheart. We have a fun lunch.
We are four men and four women: Alyque Padamsee, Chiru Sur, Manasij Majumder, yours truly and Antonia, Barbara Lorey de Lacharrire, Rimi Chatterjee and Abanti Chakraborty for dinner. I introduce my circle game and it works its magic. It is superb to have Alyque with us. I tell him that I enjoyed his autobiography. Rimi gives me her novel, The City of Love, set five hundred years ago. We have to explain to Manasij how we met; he is a distinguished theatre critic. Abanti is a friend of Barbara's and a theatre director. Alyque is a theatre director and producer. All in all a wonderful mix and a great dinner.

Wednesday, 19th: This morning we must leave our wonderful room 1 and shift our bodies to room 5. This is fairly painless. Barbara is in room 4.
Antonia decides to go late morning to the Hotel Hindusthan International to have a swim. I go up to the Hotel Hindusthan International to have lunch. I have spaghetti aglio e olio. It is wonderful. Then walk to Fabindia a third time and purchase a shirt.
Tonight, Antonia and I have dinner in Mainland China restaurant with Gloria and Norman Hutchison. Just the four of us. It is one of my favorite restaurants in the world and tonight's meal is outstanding. To be with Gloria and Norman makes it even better. Give them a copy of White Washing Fences. Norman is impressed with the Susi Wyss drawings. He promises to send me a copy of one of his books.

Tursday, 20th: This is our last day in Kolkata (until next year!) We fly to New Delhi this evening at 17.30 and will meet Sanjeev Prakash and some of his friends for dinner.
Check-out goes smoothly. I will miss The Bengal Club. It is so nice to be staying here every Film Festival. Antonia and I shower rupees around to all the staff. I give an extra amount to Gilda to help with her son's medical expenses.
After we land in Delhi, we find a taxi and head into the city. Antonia gets a call from the Ambassador Hotel. They say there has been a mistake and they want to move us to another hotel in the Taj Group. We tell the woman that we are meeting friends in the Ambassador Hotel and that we are on our way there. As soon as we check into the hotel (with great difficulty), Antonia goes up to our room and I go to the bar. No sign of Sanjeev Prakash. But ask a couple if they are expecting Sanjeev. They are. Elizabeth de C. de V. Rogers and a fellow named David Madsen ask me to join their table. David is from L.A. and has just arrived in India, his first time. Elizabeth lives in Delhi. She says that Sanjeev is on his way. Soon Sanjeev arrives plus his friends, Aditya and Smita. And Antonia joins us.
After a drink, Elizabeth and David excuse themselves. They are off to visit some musicians. Aditya wants to go to a superb restaurant called Swagath in Defense Colony Market. We all agree. We get into Aditya's car and are soon installed in the restaurant. It is even better than Aditya said it would be. We have a feast and Aditya insists upon treating us all. He drives us back to the Ambassador Hotel and we thank Sanjeev and Aditya and Smita for a lovely evening.

Friday, 21st: We check out of the Raj Ambassador and load our bags into Harbinder Singh's taxi. It's my last day in India. It is my fifth trip to India. Last night we had a great dinner with Sanjeev and his friends, Aditya and Smita.
Harbinger drives us to the bus terminal, so Antonia can check the bus schedule. We continue to the Imperial Hotel. We ask Harbinder to come back and collect us at 14.00 hours. We go and sit on the terrace and have a coffee. We both think we should have stayed here last night. Antonia has a meeting with one of the hotel's staff to discuss her bringing a small party next October via The Wayfarers Company. After her meeting, we have small sandwiches. Then we go outside and meet Harbinder Singh. He drives Antonia to the bus terminal and she and I embrace and say farewell until she flies to Paris in early December.
Harbinder drives me to the International Airport. I pay Harbinder the agreed payment plus a big tip. Go inside and check into Gulf Air. Clear passport control and clear security. Then sit and read quietly until the flight is called. We take off on schedule about 19.10 and head for Bahrain. All is smooth until a young lad becomes ill. Fortunately there is a doctor on the plane. She recommends to the pilot that we make an emergency landing. He announces that we will land in Muscat for the sake of the child. The mother, father and lad leave the plane along with their luggage. We are soon in the air again on our way to Bahrain. It's a very smooth flight. We land in Bahrain just after midnight.

Saturday, 22nd: Very early in the morning, we board another Gulf Air plane. A long, and smooth, flight to Paris. We arrive at 07.20. Quickly out of the plane, clear passport control, collect my checked bag and go outside. Find a taxi. Speed into Paris and am soon at Tombe-Issoire. Walk up to my atelier, unlock my door and am inside. It is good to be home again. The minute I am back, I think I will never travel again. House guests include Amanda Morrow (from Sydney), Kaja Cencelj (from Ljubljana), Kelly Miller (Seattle), and the photographer, Gene Kiegel (Odessa and London).

Sunday, 23rd: Today we will celebrate Thanksgiving with Mary Bartlett leading a team to cook two 15 kilo turkeys. Tonight 58 happy individuals do what they are supposed to do on Thanksgiving: over-eat.

No sooner am I home and the tragic events unfold in Mumbai. We live in a crazy and dangerous world. Religious dogmatists and bigots kill others for reasons that only their twisted minds can understand. All religions proclaim respect for others and peaceful relations yet fundamentalists cannot accept this or understand this. I am a non-believer in any organized religion. I believe everything is sacred, all human and animal life. All Nature. We have a duty to live life to the fullest and to respect others. Violence is repugnant. As far as I am concerned, we only have one brief moment on Earth, so let's make it meaningful and let's make it fun.

Jim Haynes
December 2008

Atelier A-2,
83 rue de la tombe Issoire,
75014 Paris France

 

 

 

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