Namste India!

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July 10th 2008
Published: June 21st 2017
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Namaste means Hello in Hindi!

If I'm honest Kolkutta wasn't one of the places I was dreaming about seeing on this trip, but as a fluid traveler I am taking things as they go. The flight to Kolkutta was only B5000 and the flight straight to Delhi was B12000, so hello Kolkutta...I'll make my way over to Delhi somehow.
The taxi drive from the airport to the hotel was culture shock indeed. I've left the sub-continent and entered the middle east, and I can see it. This is not the Asia I have been in for the past 5 months, no flowers, no smiles, no lush vegetation, no palm trees or exotic animals running around. I saw dry dusty earth, and thin exhausted people with enormous brown eyes staring at my every move. I've heard tell that India is a planet unto itself, I think they may be right.
I'm planning to spend a few days here in Kolkutta and then pick my next destination somewhere on the way to Delhi. I've walked around the neighborhood, if you can call it that, of the hotel I chose from and I've just gotta get outta here. I can't describe how
Cardamom seeds coated in sugarCardamom seeds coated in sugarCardamom seeds coated in sugar

At the end of every meal in India you see some version of Cardamom seeds and sugar. This restaurant happens to have them coated, in others they are fresh with littel rock candy pieces of sugar. So yummy and breath refreshing and they really settle your stomach after spicy food! Who knew?
uncomfortable I felt. The stares are penetrating, harsh and the exact opposite of friendly. My Hindu phrasebook is useless, no one can understand even a little of what I'm trying to say. I've looked in my guide book at another neighborhood closer to the city's main sights, it's more expensive but I'm so going there.
I took a taxi ride, after walking back to my hotel in defeat and having them call one for me, to the new neighborhood (close to Mother Theresa's Museum). It's not cleaner, nice, or seemingly more friendly, but I did see two other westerners on the street and I admit it gave me a little comfort. I need a few more days buffer in this new culture before I can be the only one of my kind around. Just a little security blanket.
The poverty in Kolkutta is unlike anything I've ever seen. Not even close to anything, and I thought I'd been to some really desperate places. There are untended children, toddlers, orphaned and walking on the streets, in traffic, sleeping on the meridians next to the crazy chaos of the rickshaws. There are homeless everywhere begging, they are so thin and their eyes so big.

Additional photos below
Photos: 19, Displayed: 19


Sugar cane juice for sale on the streetSugar cane juice for sale on the street
Sugar cane juice for sale on the street

Far to the left you can see the manual grinder where each cane is passed through. I didn't try it =(
public bathspublic baths
public baths

These were on every street corner, just like the public toilets (men only) which also had no walls or doors - just more of a trough or cubby. I saw more men bathing in Calcutta in one morning than I've seen in every movie I've ever seen.
An old colonial buildingAn old colonial building
An old colonial building

that is pretty representative of the state of the buildings in Calcutta. It seems like the city was once really beautiful, but nothing has been done for maitenance since the British left.
staring is not a taboo in Indiastaring is not a taboo in India
staring is not a taboo in India

..and it takes a little getting used to, actually a lot.
Hand pulled rickshawsHand pulled rickshaws
Hand pulled rickshaws

One of the last cities in the world that still uses them.

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