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hither/thither A journal of my travels in 2008 I will be traveling to: New Zealand Costa Rica India East Africa

Kolkata, My new more intense and dramatic love...

INDIA | Sunday, 6 April 2008 | Views [753]

I seem to never be sure where to begin when I sit down to write. Of course I'm always on the move and only have a bit of time at the computer when I get to use it. It's hard to convey not just the feelings of a place but also the effect of the place and how that theme translates to the journey.
At any rate I find myself at the computer again. So here goes:
Kolkata.
I'm not sure why, but I am in love with this place. This city is fantastical. Almost a representation of how I feel about India as a whole. It's strange to be in a place that conflicts so much of what I believe or feel about humanity as a whole. The streets reek of urine because people relieve them self wherever needed; people bathe in water jutting out from pipes in the side of busy roads or in dirty puddles next to food stalls or bookstores; people sleep on busy streets laying on pads made of posters pulled off the wall; families hollow out houses from piles of trash. I blow my nose and it's black. I feel like I've been smoking packs and packs of cigarettes.
Three of the four nights we have been here there have been insane lightning storms with crashes of lighting, power outages and rain. So much rain. We woke to our room flooded one night, my bag drenched and water pooling around the head of my bed. We just stacked our luggage on the dresser and went back to bed.
Mostly Carrie and I have been getting lost in the crevices and alleyways that crisscross through this labyrinthine puzzle of a city. No map ever seems to get us where we are going but we always end up somewhere interesting. It's hard to explain the things I love here. I have tried and I think the only way I can really sum it up is that humanity is played out here in the open. Life is a book. It may not be a necessarily happy one, but it's open.
The poverty here is extreme. To see beggars on the street dragging themselves. Kids with no clothes. Families living in garbage heaps. These are not things that make a good vacation. I know this. But something about it amazes me. How does this kind of poverty exist? How do we not live like this everywhere?
Why am I so lucky not to live this life?
I don't know the answer.
But with all this poverty there is a layer of kindness in the commotion. A layer of beauty beneath it all.
Why do I see that?
There is something this says about the resilience of humanity. There is deeper sense of culture here, a connectedness.
That said there is a lot that makes me angry here and a lot that makes me think. Think about community and the way I spend my money. Think about family and the connectedness of everything I love.
I want to be better.
And perhaps this is why I love this place so much!

Anyway, as I said, I've mostly been getting lost and wandering and trying strange food on the street. The city doesn't necessarily have a lot to offer as far as sight seeing goes, but we have been to some Jainist temples and walked through many night bazaars and tried to figure out what food is what and talked to a handful of strange but helpful people. We are a bit stuck here in the city right now as we had planned a trip to the Sunderbaans that fell through. Which means that we are here for two extra days before heading to the East again.
A few funny things:
We went to a mall the other day and I paid more for Gummy Bears than I have for any of the nights we've stayed in a hotel!
I Broke my glasses again just before we left Darjeeling. That's the sixth pair in the last three years. I think I am going to start making a tradition of it. Every time I travel a new pair!
Alright, Love your way. I hope everyone is doing well and full of life.
Heartrl

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