Thursday, 1 March 2012

India - Kolkata

It is difficult to explain quite how comprehensive the change was coming into India after 3 months in S.E Asia, but believe me it was pretty much all encompassing. You instantly notice that there is more colour, more noise (didn't think it was possible), more spirit and most of all, ALOT more mustaches. The food is different, the smells are different and even the people travelling here are different. They tend to have more facial hair and more loose fitting cotton garments  but the best way I can demonstrate the difference is that they are the kind of travelers who will be heard saying "during my time in India." People who went to Thailand would say "when I was in Thailand....". I think they feel that saying "during my time" makes whatever they were doing deeply profound. Anyway, lets have more on the colours.

There was a lively feel to Kolkata from the moment we landed in the airport and it seemed everybody was eager to get you involved in some sort of conversation, which after Vietnam was a welcome change. Another thing to note is that these conversations are conducted in nearly perfect English, proving that England's years as an Imperial power here have had a lasting impact. In fact, everywhere you look in Kolkata you can see remnants of England's rule, from the architecture, place names, tea and biscuits lining the road side through to the Victoria Memorial which we saw whilst we were there.

The memorial acts as a museum, covering the history of the Empire and its demise, and whilst I found this interesting there was just too much information to take in all at once.

Yes, unfortunately for Nat, I found a record stall just round the corner from our hostel and spent an afternoon trying to find Bollywood soundtracks that were in half decent nick whilst inhaling more than my fair share of dust. It was all worthwhile though as I found these gems.

Its all about the Hindi Saturday Night Fever vibes on the top left, just a shame I can't listen to em for months.

For Valentines day we took a walk round a graveyard where English dignitaries were buried. I know what your thinking, "good work Casanova" but I did get a Red Rose to up the romance ante. We were only a Barry White soundtrack away from nailing it.

Instead we got an eerie soundtrack of crows hovering and squawking all around us.

We also went to the planetarium but the dim lights and soothing talk about stars was all too much and we both dozed off about 5 minutes in. 

The last thing of note in Kolkata was our trip to the temple of Kali, the Hindu Goddess of time, change and sometimes violence. It is hard to get your head around Hindu deities as there are so many, they interchange and have different incarnations and characteristics. At the the temple you join a gathering crowd who wait until the door is opened, revealing the image you see above and rush to see it or provide an offering to it. After this visit we made our way to the train station where we would depart to Varanasi. Before the 14 hour overnight journey, I learnt a valuable lesson, which is not to trust meat everywhere you go. Nat had warned me as much and since arriving in India my diet had been heavy on the chickpeas and completely lacking in protein. I felt like my appetite wasn't being satisfied so I ignored the advice and ordered myself a chicken curry. Lets just say that a 14 hour train journey wasn't the place to find out the perils of eating meat and since then I have only tried it one more time, from a place that guaranteed the quality of its produce. As I write, i've been in India for almost 3 weeks and have eaten meat twice and not drank a drop of alcohol. I'm pretty much doing a veggie detox without ever signing up for it.

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