The Lester File

Saturday, July 08, 2006

Kolkata, India

Picture this (because right now i don't have real pictures to show you):
It's a Kolkata (Calcutta) mid-afternoon and it is HOT and humid. Walking outside is like walking into a sauna. The sun isn't completely out, but it wants to be. The rain clouds are creeping up in front of the monsoon thunderstorms hitting the west coast. The rain is coming, but your nose is bombarded by stewing garbage, street vendors, and stale polluted air. The sight laid out ahead is a dirty, pot-holed street with people coming and going and taxis honking and pushing through crowds of people. Note that there is no slowing for pedestrians here! The city wakes up right where it left off the night before. People and animals choose the coolest spot on the street to stretch out for the night. It's too hot to use a blanket and there are too few spaces indoors, so outside is the only choice. Around 6am, they arise and use the public water spout to wash off the night and previous day's filth and perhaps run a hand over their teeth, you know for good hygene.
One of the best activities for any tourist is to take a walking tour of the city being that the hostels are generally within walking distance of the best sights. Take a left on Sudder street until Chowringee Rd and then cross. There is another road that borders the Maidan park that stretches out before the Victora Memorial. This park and memorial was once the headquarters for the British presence in Calcutta. Imagine a huge bright white Victorian Mansion with crisp green gardens with lush flowers and perfect lawns where ladies in full ornamation would walk along with their Indian fan-wavers and other servants. Cricket and polo would be played on the Maidan all very posh and rigid. Native Indians were not allowed to enter this premises in those times, but now the building is a memorial where art from both India and Britain are displayed. A short history of Calcutta is also displayed bringing together Indian and British influences in the region.
On the Maidan today, you can still see groups playing cricket and soccer carelessly in the heat. You can also see grazing farm animals such as goat, cows, and horses. Some business-minded people will actually offer you a horse to ride on around the park with one of the numerous horses (big and teeny-tiny) lining the north end. People sit under the few trees along the borders to escape the heat and perhaps take a nap or an even longer rest. Buses and commuter trains blow past with people barely hanging on, arms and legs protruding, as the bus slows down, but does not stop, to let passengers on.
The colors are magnificent. Women clad in saris and other traditional dresses turn the ever present stream of people into a river of color streaming with every imaginable hue complete with accessories.
In short, there is much to discover in this place and 3 weeks simply cannot be enough to do so. Therefore, I am content to soak up as much as I can. Many foreigners in Calcutta The Lonely Planet is a godsend and no one should leave the US without one! Amen. Right now, Jennifer and I are in
Bombay until the 12th where we will then move north west to the desert for some amazing ancient architecture and camal tours. OOOH goody!

2 Comments:

Anonymous Kathy said...

Whow, don't know what else to say. You made me feel like I was there. Any chance stopping in KL on your way back or are you headed home the other way? Have safe travels and can't wait to see the pictures. In case you didn't know Harry will be in Dallas on 19 & 20 July.

9:38 PM  
Blogger Lindsey said...

Jess,
Sounds like you girls are having a great trip so far. Keep posting; I love reading them. Have fun and be safe!

9:08 AM  

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