Kolkata, The City

Our city tour,with our guide Aditi and driver Gopal, began at Mother Teresa’s House. Now Saint Teresa, her order of nuns which she founded is world wide. Mother Teresa is buried at her Mother House. Photos were allowed only at her grave site but not in the small museum or the rest of the convent. We saw nuns washing their saree habits with scrub brushes on concrete slabs.

When Mother Teresa started her mission, people were dying in the streets. Today that is no longer the case. Unfortunately, in the Western world that stereotype of India still exists. India, like China, is developing rapidly. Hospitals are everywhere. There still are homeless but not overwhelmingly so. Areas look like homeless encampments in Oakland  or San Francisco. The Sisters of Charity now focus more on orphanages.

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Our day continued to College Street, adjacent to the University of Calcutta.      (Calcutta is the English name for the city, Kolkata is the proper Bengali name). College Street and adjacent alleyways are lined with booksellers. Hundreds of stalls selling used books up to current new student text books. I treated Aditi, Gopal and Celeste to a cup of coffee at the famous College Street Coffee House, a cavernous two floor space filled mainly with laptop toting students. We all had espresso “Infusion”, which set me back 90 rupees ($1.25).

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Our journey continued to a part of the city where craftsmen fashion statuary from straw and then cover the straw with mud. When the mud is dry, they carve the most life like figures. People buy these statues and float them down the river during Hindu religious festivals.

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The traffic is chaotic. Two lanes of traffic are really four. Every driver is jockeying for position. They come within 2-3 inches of each other but never touch. Horns blare constantly but as is the case in all Asian countries, tempers never flare. Everyone stays calm but stands their ground.

In a few hours we leave Kolkata with fond memories. We embark on flight #5 of our 15 flight holiday. We are off to Varanasi. Stay tuned.

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