Kolkata- are we in England or India?

24 Oct

Having just spent the past two days in Kolkata, I have to say that I am impressed.  Yes, it’s expensive, loud, polluted, etc.  But it is a REAL city!  But just when you get used to real taxis, good food, decent people, bookshops, and shopping malls, you turn a corner and run into a squalid slum and realize you are still in India.

That being said, Kolkata is a strange mix of British sensibilities and Indian sluggishness.  Having been the seat of British power in India for over 100 years, you see colonial architecture, well-paved avenues, wide sidewalks, green parks and all the other things that wealthy Brits needed to live in India.

At the same time the streets are lined with indigenous people who have no chance of acheiving any form of the oppulence that surrounds them. These are the same people that were marginalized by the British since they arrived in this land in the 1600’s. In fact at the Victoria Memorial yesterday evening, Astrid and I read that a group of four British Raj paperpushers had a total of 101 servants to everything from getting them dressed in the morning to serving them dinner and wiping their butts. We both realized then what it meant to “never lift a finger.” It is really quite disgusting.

It is difficult to be lower class in this city.  In fact just north of us in what used to be Chinatown (the Chinese have long since left) people are living in slums and lean-tos, or just digging themselves homes in the plentiful garbage heaps.  It is really quite humbling.

We’ll be here for about another week.  I’ll post some pictures later.



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