Sheryl writes from India.

Part 1: Puri
Part 2: Kolkata
Part 3: Khalaigat
Part 4: Assam
Part 5: Trains
Part 6: Sikkim
Part 7: West Sikkim
Part 8: Darjeeling
Part 9: New Delhi

Home > Part 2: Kolkata

Greetings from Kolkata (Calcutta)!

This is definitely not the "black hole" of Calcutta. It's a fairly modern city that used to be the center of the British empire here. It's even got a clean, efficient subway and for 4 rupees or about 10 cents you can ride the central line. It's double the price to go further out.

We've splurged on an air-conditioned room and it was definitely the right decision. I drip sweat constantly from the minute I walk out the door in the morning until I get in the shower at night. But I haven't melted yet.

The city isn't swarming with beggars as one might have thought. There are plenty and they are dirty and ragged but it's not all-pervasive. There are still rickshaws pulled by men with bare feet, which must be an awful job but still a job. Other transportation options in increasing order of cost and status: trolly, crowded bus, auto rickshaw, subway, taxi. All inexpensive.

Last night we went to a concert/dance performance. It must have been a school recital type thing because there were lots of parents in the audience who ran up to take pictures when their daughter or family member was on stage. There were adult dancers - everyone in traditional fancy dress, and a chorus of singers and a storyteller. The AC was so cold inside the auditorium and being wet with sweat, we froze and only made it through part of the performance. Next door in the complex of several auditoriums was a film festival showing films about women's rights etc. A very upscale crowd was waiting in line to get in.

Visited the Victoria Monument, built by the British in colonial style and housing a very good collection of history about the British colonial period - East India Company and all, since the 1600s.

Women most all wear saris, though plenty of younger girls and upscale young adults wear jeans. The Sari is a work of art, coming in an infinite variety of fabric and designs, all of which are beautiful. There doesn't seem to be any worry amongst women here about their weight. They are generally "well fed" and it shows in their exposed midriff and back. It must be a sign of prosperity, like in the Arab countries. The saris reach the floor and wrap several times around. They are worn over a tight, short-sleeve blouse that comes just below the bra. Middle class men wear shirts and pants, others often wear a lunghi or length of fabrid wrapped like a skirt with an end brought up between the legs.

Internet cafe is closing so I’ll sign off.