|Women's cart on the train. Sardines, anyone?|
Monday, 5 September 2011
Once, our director Joel told us, that there is hardly anything to "like" about the city, but that there is so much to love about it. I never really understood what he meant by that until I left India.
Kolkata is not a pretty city.
There are some parts of it, to be sure, that are pleasing to the eye, pleasant to smell (though not often), and delicious to consume (Bengali cuisine is incredible. Seriously.), but I realized after I left that there is little that I actually "like" about the city. I didn't like how sweaty and crowded the women's cart was. I didn't like how I was virtually ignored in conversation whenever there was a man present. I didn't like the unwanted attention, the stares that I received as a foreigner. I didn't like how it rained every single day without fail (if it hasn't rained before 3pm, it WILL rain!).
There are lots of things I don't "like" about Kolkata.
But there are so many things I fiercely love about the city.
I love how, on the women's cart, I can walk-- or more like shoved-- on, and sit across an Indian woman and sit unnoticed for roughly 2 minutes before they actually realize I'm a foreigner. Due to my dark(ish) skin, dark hair/eyes, and the fact that all the women on my team wore saalwars, I didn't stick out as much as my fair-skinned and blue-eyed teammates (which, by the second day in Kolkata, certainly was an immense blessing).
I loved the fact that because I was ignored I could sit back and listen, truly listen, to what was being said. And when I did say something it meant more due to the fact that I'd thought about it more.
I loved that when it poured rain and I'd forgotten my umbrella, I could just enjoy the fact that it wasn't sweltering hot, and just enjoy the rain drenching my thin cotton saalwar top and hair.
You can't do anything half-heartedly in Kolkata.
It just isn't possible. You have to put everything into every step, every sentence, every movement, because if you don't, you'll be swept away (both figuratively and literally).
It's a city that is fierce, relentless, overpowering and determined.
You can't help but feel this never-ending energy that runs through the city.
At turns hospitable and rude, charming and shocking, jumbled, noisy and crowded...it is a city of paradox.
But Lord, it is Your city. Though so many things about it break Your heart, You still oversee and have a plan for each individual, each person in the teeming 18 million that make up Kolkata-- Lord You see each of them and love them with a love that we'll never understand or truly comprehend.