I am in Kolkata. It’s a bit to take in. Firstly that I am actually here and secondly … Well, the ones of you who has been here probably understand already. In a way it is a lot to take in.
It was a bit of surprise to see so many resemblances between Kolkata and Yangon, Myanmar. More or less same sort of poverty, same intensity in the streets, same amount of vehicles honking but in bit different way, as dirty and as colourful, same mix between new and old and same sort of hustle and bustle. They even feed their children the same way, toddlers being laid on their back while being fed.
Yet big differences. In Yangon people were curious but always very polite, kind and always smiling. Here the politeness is a bit restrained, the kindness in the streets doesn’t come that easy, the curiosity is more of the staring type.
Women are not as present in the streets here as in Yangon. There, most of the street food stalls were operated by women. Here only by men. When walking the streets here I am stared at in a different way. In Yangon lots of men greeted me, asking where I am from, exchanging some pleasantries and wished me a nice stay. Women looking curiously but giving me a smile.
The biggest difference is that it is rougher here. I’m not sure how to explain it. I’ve only been here for two whole days and I’ve mostly been in the old parts of Kolkata. This is a city in the city. I can’t stop being fascinated and feeling the outmost respect for these hardworking people trying to make ends meet.
There are homeless people everywhere and they make any surface like their home. The pavement, a whole in a wall, underneath the rickshaw. Everywhere. And still I have a feeling this is not the worst place I will face. Of course the thing that bothered me the most is watching the children. The most vulnerable humans being the most exploited. Especially by their parents.
I talked to a lot of people about India before I came here. Some warned me, told me it is dangerous. Some said I would love it, that it is safe. You either love it or hate it.
And yes, they were all right. I soft of feel both. Probably because this is a complex society. Big country with lots of history, lots of traditions and great inheritance. There are so much to see, so many stories to listen to.
I’m looking forward to the coming days in Kolkata. I have a feeling they are going to be magical.