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Hotel MariaAfter being in Bangkok and Singapore for eleven days each, it feelt good to be moving around again. I was in Kolkata just three nights, with only two full days of seeing the city. However, the Swedish girls were power-walkers, so we saw close to all the temples and markets we’d circled in our guidebooks.

Locals wait around tourist sights and practically latch themselves on to you upon arrival. They follow you around offering information in hopes for a tip at the end. I’m never quite sure if the information I’m being given is true or not, but I figure when it comes to religion, truth is pretty blurry anyway. When they are persistent enough and do a decent job, I’m usually fine with paying them.

Threading FlowersAt one particular temple, we found ourselves being led by a very knowledgeable guide who spoke decent English. He walked us around, pointing out the different sculptures and symbols and then showed us a place where goats are sacrificed every morning. It was afternoon then, so we saw no goats, but I did watch an old woman walk barefoot through a thick swarm of flies hovering over a bloody floor. Inside he gave us flowers and incense. He had me pray for my mother and father as I tossed flowers onto an altar, then gave me a bracelet, red my palm and told me I’d be getting married this year and that I’d live until I’m 94. We burned the incense and watched all my worries float into the air.

Andre the German had gone before me and was now sitting in the corner praying as directed. Another man came to me with a book and my guide pointed to it asking for a donation. The book was a list of names with dollar amounts next to them. Andre’s signature was above and to the right it said $50 USD. Neither of us were carrying that much money, so I knew something was up. They promised the money would go to the poor people and then we got into an argument which ended in me being frustrated and handing over one US dollar. I found out that Andre only gave them $5 and they added a zero on afterwards. I have been giving money out to beggars at times, but I wasn’t too happy to give money to someone who lied to me. However, it was only a buck and it got him off my back.

That was the first time I’ve been really frustrated in awhile. It felt like I was selling houses again and dealing with an impossible client. At times I also get fed up with the relentless taxi drivers and trickster beggars. They’ll follow me and ask the same questions over and over again, partly because they know persistence breaks people down and partly because the only English they understand is “Yes” or “OK”. It can become a serious test of patience. Although they’re an annoyance, stress from it is still very self-imposed. I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about how I can deal with this better. So far I’ve been using sarcasm as an outlet…

Tout – “Hey, where you come from?”
Me – “India! Where you come from?”

Tout – “Hey, Where you going?”
Me – “Oh, I’m just looking for a place where I can sit without 100 hawkers attacking me? Do you know of one?”

But making every tout the butt of my jokes can get annoying. Yesterday I distracted some taxi drivers from bugging me with a couple card tricks. From a distance it may sound like a trivial annoyance, but it’s utter harrasment by western standards. I’ll try to get some of these scenarios on video in the next couple weeks.

Friends & Family in Kolkata 2We visited a bridge that I read 100,000 people cross daily, making it the busiest bridge in the world. Photos aren’t aloud, but it wasn’t very impressive looking anyway. Lots of steel beams and not the biggest bridge I’ve seen. Beneath is a dirt road lined with hawkers selling bushels of flowers on strings. Buddhists and Hindu’s use these as religious offerings. The brown ground, dust covered train and all the old huts and shacks made for a perfect backdrop against the bright clothing and flowers. We spent a couple hours there taking pictures and video.

After two nights, the girls went north and Andre and I decided to do some traveling together. We have been getting along well and were heading the same way anyway. He’s been traveling for over two years at a pace of four or five countries per year, but his money will be running out soon, so he’s picking up the pace now. We decided to head south from Kolkata together, then part ways for a few days, meet up in Goa for a week, then head north to Rhajastan with a stop in Mumbai. Once we get to Rhajastan, we’ll likely hire a driver to take us around to see some ancient cities and maybe a camel ride in the desert near Pakistan’s border. I need to be in McLeod Ganj for the 20th, as I’ve signed up for a Introduction to Buddhism Retreat. Ten days of meditation, teachings, yoga and karma labor. No talking or swating misquitos too.

Kolkata 1 Smiles in Kolkata 1 Smiles in Kolkata 2
Two Sweeds and a German Smiles in Kolkata 3 Hands in Kolkata 1
Hands in Kolkata 2 Selling Flowers Flower Market
Taxi Driver in Kolkata 1 Kolkata Stare Friends & Family in Kolkata 1
Smiles in Kolkata 4 Smiles in Kolkata 5 Taxi Driver in Kolkata 2

2 Thoughts on “Kolkata”

  1. bianca Says:

    i had my palm read last week too. she told me that i would live until i was 89 and that i would be getting married in 4 years. THEN she said i would have 3 kids! 3?! 3 doesnt sound like zero to me. obviously, the bitch was a liar.

    i miss your card tricks!

  2. Diane Ferrara Says:

    Love, love, love these photos!!! Are those Marigolds? What are they being used for?

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