5/10/2011

The Broadway Hotel, Kolkata



Yellow shutters and soot-crusted screens. In the bar, curtains, the warm beige of dim lightbulbs and eighteen ceiling fans on full; their whirring rush of air dulls the incessant honking outside on Ganesh Chandra Avenue. (Calcuttans simplify life by using the horn in lieu of brakes, clutch and turn signals). The dark wood-wainscotted walls of the Broadway Hotel saloon are made of primeval hardwoods no longer available at any price. Smoking is prohibited these days. A sign announces that it "is an offense,” but the tall walls are a suspicious dingy ochre, as if they had had the chance to collect smoke for many long-passed decades. This hotel does not have a faded grandeur; it has whatever it has always had, unchanged.





The waiters wear wrinkled burgundy Nehru smocks with black embroidered patches above their hearts, reading: Broadway Hotel. Oh, how I wish there remained such a place on Broadway! Squat red leatherette chairs crowd against brown formica tabletops buffed almost white in places; there is little left of the original faux-burl woodgrain pattern. Mildew specked mirrors along one wall double the already ample space, which has soaring ceilings. The soap at the men's handwashing station is dispensed from a swinging tin bottle that pivots on a mount, bolted to the wall above the sinks. If it ain't broke please Lord don't fix it.




When I alight from the elevator cage the children of the manager are laughing and howling in their adolescent Sikh turbans, playing narrow soccer on the polished red cement floor of the fourth floor corridor. Moments after I have dropped my bags on the single bed, the half-deflated miniature basketball is kicked through my still-open door. On purpose, I am certain. It rolls about the room, and within seconds the curious duo are peering through the curtain at the door, sticking their noses right into my room, demanding to know how tall I am. I've been here ten minutes, and I could live here forever.







 The hotel's website (they are not out of date) almost proudly announces that none of the rooms are air-conditioned. The bed, edged away from the wall, better to be under yet another churning ceiling fan, has no top sheet. This saves everyone time and bother. You would be no more likely to require a top sheet than to walk out into Calcutta wearing a sweater.

It is 11am. I stretch out under the helicopter downdraft, close my eyes, and lean into the single pillow. I have flown all night from Africa, with a 2am to 6am layover in Mumbai. I couldn't be more tired, but I am ecstatic to find myself in the most splendid ten dollar hotel in all of Asia.




12 comments:

John V. Fleming said...

Beautiful post.
Your mother's hiking through northern Spain; your brother's in Florida; your sister, I think, in Florence.
But you can count on me. Dad's home alone, where the rate is ten dollars less than your place.

Melanie said...

So they are already poking their noses into your room. Love it. Looks like India is treating you well!

Broadway Hotel said...

Just wanted to say thank you from all of us at Broadway Hotel - your labour of love has been much appreciated

They say it's a cold world said...

I dream of returning to your splendid hotel!

Anonymous said...

You've convinced me. Will definitely be staying here in November.

Nirmal Travelmasti said...

Your words sometimes echo in my mind and during my leisure time, i read your write ups again and again.For Kolkata Hotels booking , packages & information you can visit here: Travelmasti

They say it's a cold world said...

Dear Nirmal
You take blog comment spammery to a whole new level of sycophancy. I'm not fooled for even an instant, but I've published your comment in the interests of steering business in the direction of the glorious Broadway Hotel. Proving that flattery does indeed get results.

Anonymous said...

"Dear Nirmal
You take blog comment spammery to a whole new level of sycophancy. I'm not fooled for even an instant, "

--jesus, what a righteous prick you are.

You don't see these blokes calling you out for being a hipster d-bag from brooklyn living out his western guilt in foreign locales.

They say it's a cold world said...

Wsstern guilt? Hipster d-bag? Righteous prick? Do you have any textual support for these violent ad hominem attacks?

Anonymous said...

love to spend my next trip at the Broadway.

snickersnee said...

What a great post! I was a regular at broadway when I was a student in Kolkata.

Could I use your first picture for the header in my twitter profile please?

They say it's a cold world said...

@snickersee Help yourself to the photo, and thanks for asking! Most don't.