To finish up the North: Calcutta
I have long since loved reading a novel set in India, or at least partially set in India. It seems many authors choose Calcutta as a backdrop for their stories. With their help I’d developed a very clear visual image of Calcutta – one that was not at all reality!
I was looking forward to having Calcutta as the ending point for our tour, even if only for a quick day stop. Pulling into the train station, I immediately could see that the image I’d created in my mind for Calcutta was very antiquated. The train station was brightly lit and while extremely busy, still seemed orderly. It was early morning so traffic was very light but the roads were well taken care of, well marked and vehicles kept to their side of the road. I’ve since found this article in the Telegraph that helped me understand why my vision for what I’d find was off. “Indian fiction writers in English, when writing about Calcutta, are interested in the city’s past but not in its present.”
Kolkata, as it is now called, surprised me as being incredibly modern, clean and cultural. Granted, I was only there for about 36 hours and it was challenging to really get out and explore as it was either raining, or difficult to move around due to a transportation strike. But the portions of the city I saw, mostly in the old city center, made me wonder if I shouldn’t have planned for more time in this city.
Working traffic lights! Sidewalks actually exist and can even be walked on! I didn’t see nearly as many men urinating wherever the urge struck. There were loads of book stores and the parks were clean. All in all, a grand place to end what has been a remarkable tour. My tour mates were leaving at staggering times but we were able to make one final group visit, to Mother Theresa’s Home where she lived, worked and is buried. An afternoon walk to the Victoria Monument was a nice way to round out the few hours of the afternoon that weren’t rainy and our dinner out and visit to a nearby bar gave a fun view of the nightlife that I hadn’t yet experienced.
I hardly took any photos in Kolkata, as there are just days when I want to be camera free but I can share a couple.
From here, a quick flight south!