So Kolkata is everything that I expected Delhi to be, a city of complete contradictions. It is a somewhat modern city with downtown areas and modern conveniences with ramshackle slums and communities set up in parks or abandoned buildings right next to expensive condos; hundreds of people utilizing a broken water main in the street outside a BMW dealership to wash themselves and their clothing while people in suits and obvious wealth buy ridiculously expensive cars; insanely ornate and stylistic British Raj buildings next to urban slums, the list goes on and on. It was more what I had expected from a country whose economy was flourishing despite still being classified as “developing.”
It was in sharp contrast to Delhi which despite being the capital had no centralized downtown or even modern looking buildings. It was a city that despite its rich history remained both rural and antiquated not yet breaking ground on the modern era.
It’s interesting that now that I’m back and I’ve talked again with the few folks who have been they now share the confusion and angst about their travels with me that they held back before I went and the consensus is the same. We had fun, it was hard in a variety of ways, we learned a lot, we wouldn’t go back.
As someone who wants to spend a significant portion of my life traveling or working throughout around countries in Africa I find my lack of desire to return to India odd. I’ve been to poorer places with less amenities but after luxuriating in the ridiculous privilege and amazing wealth of resources here, I honestly think it has more to do with the hostility, edginess and anxiousness we felt either from the creepy staring, catcalls and overall uncomfortable machismo we felt absolutely everywhere or the ‘everyone is trying to take advantage of us because they think we have lots of american money’ phenomenon that also happened everywhere.
I don’t want anyone to mistake my feelings about the overall atmosphere as a knock against the people we encountered because we met so many fantastic, wonderful and caring folks who made our trip so much better for meeting them and who were kind, patient and understanding through our collective ignorance, confusion and possibly inappropriate behavior. It was just as there were wonderful people we met and got to know there were lots of other people who we didn’t get to know who skeeved us out due to creepiness or trying to fleece us.
Anyhow, after we got off the train in Kolkata, unsuccessfully tried to look for our ride, waited in line for a metered taxi only to have the dude take us in circles and bullshit us about the total cost, and checked in to our sub par (even for India) hotel, hired an extremely overpriced guide to drive us around the city and take us to hilarious places like the science museum or kolkata’s version of six flags amusement park and pther places, only to realize that my entire body broke out in a serious rash/hive/very very itchy situation that we aren’t sure if it came from insect bites on the train or in the hotel or the soap or the icky towels or what but I was definitely scratching myself into a bloody mess.
Kris for the second time on our trip took a journey to the pharmacy to pick up meds for me and I’m still surprised she didn’t come back with morphine after her previous awesome codine adventure while I took enough Benadryl to make me high, mellow and not scratchy.
We woke up the next day, packed our stuff, headed to Kolkata airport and started the 36 hour journey home.