14 Nov

Hey folks —

I still have a post to finish from varanasi – with pictures but since I cannot find wifi anywhere in Kolkata, I am stuck without the pictures and not able to post yet.

Instead, I will tell you about Kolkata!

I was a little nervous about taking the train – as it was my first first experience with it — but when I got to the station, I had a seat and waited – I accidentally got there several hours too early – so I had some time to people watch.  Or should I say – I gave people time to watch me?

When I sat down on my pack, I noticed I had a group of about 15 women (little girls, their moms, and their moms!) watching me.  And by watching – I mean STARING!  I tried smiling, but they just kept staring.  It was slightly uncomfortable, but I just kept giving a little smile and then looking away until finally I got eye contact with one of the little girls.  I gave her a little wave, she gave me a little wave and they all started to giggle.  After exchanging some smiles and waves – they waved me over.  I pulled my bags over and they formed a half circle around me – just staring!  Then they started to speak to me – in Hindi.  Which I obviously did not understand…  I smiled, told them I did not understand, which made them respond to me, again, in Hindi.

Finally – a boy sitting near by translated for me = they wanted to know if I was traveling a lone.  I told them I was – which shocked them.  By this point, the boy who was translating for me – part of a group of art students who were at at the train station drawing – was sitting with me talking to me – as well as about 4 or 5 other guys.  I had a crowd of about 20!  Every time I spoke – they just stared.  wait, i didn’t even have to speak — they just stared.  We spent a lot of the time smiling and laughing…  Finally, it was time for them to go – at which point all the women wanted to shake my hand!

I was not able to get 3AC or 2 AC for my train down (which is a nice compartment) – so I was in sleeper — which is very open and dusty and loud.  My ride was suppose to be about 10 hours but was closer to 12 or so…  I won’t go into details – but did i mention that it was very dusty and loud?  not a whole lot of sleep happens there… and it was overnight, so I also did not sleep all that much!

I have spent the last couple of days exploring K9lkata = here are some highlights:

  • Victoria Memorial – big stately building with beautiful groups and an interesting historical museum inside
  • walking the street markets – where everything possible is sold
  • walking through the flower vendors – where they make the marigold garlands and all sorts of other flower arrangements (and this is evidently a place a lot of tourists do not go, as evidenced by the surprised looks I got)
  • walking the very cosmopolitan streets = past the apple store and the mcdonalds and the Bose and Reebok store.
  • sitting in a coffee shop and have a gaggle of beautiful school girls come in in their beautiful salwar kameezes but having them giggle and gossip and talk drama – just like an other 10th grade girl!
  • seeing the poverty of kids and women and women sleeping on the streets and begging
  • the Ambassador taxis (probably one of my favorite things!)
  • the sweet shops = Bengalis are known for their sweets
  • the street food — the kati roll – which is like a hot wrap – i had one with paneer and egg for lunch.  very good!
  • the buildings — you can definitely see the English influence in so many of the old buildings.  And it is a diverse city – everything from churches to temples to mosques.

I leave tomorrow afternoon and take a 26 hour train ride down to Chennai — I will spend a little time visiting Chennai, Pondicherry, and Mamallpuram before I take another train to the other coast, to Kochi, but I won’t be doing that until later in the month.  It will be good to get to smaller cities.  I like Kolkata – but it is definitely a large city!

Hope everyone is well!  take care — love – aurora

5 Responses to “Kolkata”

  1. jenna November 18, 2011 at 12:22 am #

    a-mazing 🙂

  2. Maria November 19, 2011 at 4:49 pm #

    I love that they were all staring at you! That is such a wonderful scene. I wish I had that on video, but you describe it so beautifully it’s as if I had seen it. Wonderful. I remember feeling a little like that in northern Thailand, where the locals stared at us and wanted to take pictures of themselves on the beach with Rami. They were fascinated with his body hair! Love this — you’re making cross-cultural connections without even speaking.

  3. Suzanne November 20, 2011 at 10:19 pm #

    WOW! Did you feel a bit like an animal in the zoo?? I am so amazed at how brave you are. I am really enjoying reading about your travels. Please be safe and have fun!!


  1. 8 months in review…. « planetaurora - May 13, 2012

    […] There was a large group of women who were staring intensely at me.  I tried to smile, but it was hard to crack their stares.  Eventually, I got one of the little girls to smile at me – which in turn got the whole family […]

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