November 3, 1961 – Calcutta

Grand Hotel, Calcutta, India – Clear

     I woke up this morning a little sad because my first thought was for the family outside my window.  We’d seen so many beautiful things  and so much wealth but that contrasted to the tremendous poverty displayed all over.  I didn’t have the heart to look out our bedroom window today to check on the little family to see how they were doing. 

      We got up early to pack, have breakfast and get prepared to go to the airport for our flight to Nepal.  During breakfast in the dining room Curt informed us that we would have an unexpected nine hour wait till we could fly out.  Most of us made ourselves comfortable and played cards, read, took naps or wrote letters while we waited to leave for our flight.  Even though I enjoyed my time playing cards with Edith, Flo and Curt the waiting got very tiresome.  The only high point of the delay was that I was still there when a letter from Ramona arrived.  I was glad I hadn’t missed it.

      We traveled by motor coach to the airport where we were finally able to board an Indian Airway DC 3 for our flight to Kathmandu, the capital of Nepal.  We were excited about this leg of the trip because it meant that we would see Mt. Everest.  Since our plane wasn’t very large, we had to make one stop to refuel before flying into the mountains.  When our plane swooped down onto a small pasture near a little village it made me rather nervous so I was glad when we were back in the air and on our way.  My first glimpse of the Himalayans was hard to describe and the sight of the mountains took my breath away.  We were fortunate to have clear weather for a short time during our flight so I was able to take some pictures.  I was impressed on how much of the beautiful countryside I could see out the windows and how clear the rivers were.

      Kathmandu was on a high plateau at an elevation of 4,450 ft and Curt told us that the city has only been open to tourists for six years.  He mentioned to us that from his experience we would find the people there were very primitive and poor.  He said we would find that Nepal had taken in many refugees from Communist China and that had added to the disease and number of cripples found in Nepal.  He told us that we would even see women working on the roads here but Curt didn’t have any information for us on why the road crews weren’t just men.

      We arrived at the Royal Hotel at 4:45pm which allowed us plenty of time to check in, find our rooms and get settled before dinner.  I realized on the trip from the airport that I’d lost my earrings on the plane.  I had taken them off during the flight, put them in a cup holder on my seat but forgotten to pick them up when I got up to leave the plane.  I was sorry to have lost them because they were the ones I’d purchased in Bangkok. 

      The hotel was an antiquated but at one time it had been a palace.  When we got to see our rooms I was glad we would be staying for a couple of nights because our room was huge and had a significant amount of marble including a gigantic marble bath.  Although we’d seen a significant amount of marble in the lobby and hallways, I was still surprised to see so much marble in our room.  From our window we could see the snow covered mountains and I found that to be a real treat.  Our room had no heat and the lighting was poor but I still considered it a fabulous room.

      When I went to get a glass for some water to take aspirin I couldn’t find any.  Edith told me that she’d heard from Curt we wouldn’t be able to drink the water here so I had to take my aspirin without water and it was hard to choke them down. 

      I sat down at a table in our room and started a letter to Ramona while I waited for dinner time:

Nov 3, 1961 – Nepal

Dear Ramona and Everybody;

     We arrived here around 4:45pm.  This hotel is huge, our bathroom is bigger than our kitchen at home and all marble.  I received two letters from you in Saigon and one letter in Calcutta.  That is some city.  I’ll have to tell you about it, as it is unbelievable. 

     However, I bought a stole and a sari in Calcutta.  I couldn’t resist the bargain.  So get busy on your sewing lessons.  I’m not going to mail the sari until I reach Italy.  Mail is very uncertain here. 

     We went over the Himalaya Mountains today in a small plane with just two motors.  I took three pictures of Mt. Everest.  It was so exciting; we got such a clear view of it.  I will not send any more film home for awhile.  It costs too much. 

     I went shopping in Calcutta in the big market back of the hotel.  A little guide Ali got hold of me and started showing us around while I was with the Cloptons and Gertrude.  Ali kept calling me mother and Mr Clopton father.  Well I had to have the best seat or chair and every time I’d smile at him he would grin all over.  We got to be good friends.  Gertrude and the Cloptons left me at the store with Ali and they went back to the hotel.  I had to wait for my silk so it got dark and Ali took me 4 blocks back to the hotel through the darndest looking mob of dirty ragged people and with so many bulls and cows all over the street.  I would never do that in Los Angeles.  You would have thrown a fit if you had seen me. 

     Are you getting all my letters or have you missed the numbers I try to keep them straight?  We flew over 2900 ft high today.  If anyone says anything about my not writing tell them the postage is keeping me broke.  The cards cost from 15 to 25 cents apiece then the postage is another 25 to 50 cents apiece.

      Our tour group had dinner at our hotel tonight and it was okay but I ate mostly fruit.  There was a small fireplace in the dining room which made it nice because the air was quite chilly.  I was glad that they gave us bottled water to drink while we ate and I was appreciative when they gave me a small bottle to take back to my room in case I got thirsty later.  After dinner Edith and I returned to our room to get ready to tour the next day.  I checked my camera and found that I didn’t get most of the pictures I thought I had taken yesterday or and today going over Mt. Everest.  Not getting those pictures depressed me so I decided to finish my letter to Ramona and mail it out in the morning:

      Later.  I’m sick.  I don’t have the pictures I thought I took of Calcutta and of Mt Everest.  I didn’t get the film caught and it didn’t turn so when I thought it was through and wound up it all went back into the can unused.  Woe is me.  Well it could be worse. 

     We saw more humanity at its worse again this morning.  Love Mother

      As I sealed up my letter to Ramona I thought about how today hadn’t been the best for me with the lost earrings, the problem with the camera that made me miss pictures and, finally, I felt like I was coming down with a cold.  Just as I started to really feel sorry for myself I remembered the little family who had been sleeping outside our room on the sidewalk in Calcutta and realized my lot, even with today’s problems, was so much better than theirs.  So I decided I needed to appreciate my blessings rather than feel sorry for myself.

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