Tuesday, February 8, 2011

North Kolkata

It is unlikely that I will have gotten over my [fairly severe] case of culture shock by the time we leave the country. From other Westerners who have been here much longer, I hear that it takes us a full year to get past the initial phase of shock. It lasts a lo-o-ong time.
I have had to accept the fact that India will no doubt continue to feel very foreign to me until the day we fly back to the US.

Today, while the kids and Jeremy stayed home and out of the heat, I joined in a walking tour of North Kolkata, where the lanes are too narrow for cars and there is little that is new there. That means it is quieter there, less congested and the air is cooler because the buildings are so close together and don't absorb so much of the sun's heat. Best of all, the air is noticeably cleaner without all of the exhaust fumes from passing cars to clog it up.

(an original water pump from the Victorian era)

The architecture there is old, too. We visited the house of the Maharaja at the time of the founding of the East India Company. It is still standing and, even more surprisingly, it is still occupied by his descendants. Other buildings from that era are still around, and although not all are in very good condition, I was loving seeing this part of the city. (And maybe I went a little camera crazy).

It just so happened that today was Saraswati Puja and many folks had the day off. It is traditional to dress to the nines and there are shrines to the goddess all over the city. In general, I avoid taking photos of people without their consent, so you'll just have to believe me that it was more colorful out there today, and that the ladies, especially, were more lovely than ever in their finest saris.

There was a moment today after I came around a corner. I don't know what it was, but standing there in the middle of that little street I found myself thinking, for the first time, "This is India. I am finally here." Obviously, something there seemed to fit with some idea I must have about India, although I can't say what it was.

The moment didn't last and tomorrow or the next day I will go back to my regular feeling of being out of place in this strange place. But it was nice anyway to have a good day in Kolkata.


leia said...

nice prayer.

Jeremy said...

One of my favorite posts yet.

Catherine said...

A beautiful photo essay. I loved it.

chirag ganguly said...

The blue house is mine