Sunday, August 12, 2007

Last Full Day in Kolkata (This Trip)

Today is my last full day in Kolkata. Well, for this trip, anyway! I hope to return again soon. The people are charming. (I'd heard so many bad things about the scams and the beggars, but it hasn't been a problem at all. Perhaps it helps that we're wearing local dress?) The city is completely overwhelming, in a good way. The food is delicious, as is the tea. The culture is rich and poetic. Perhaps I can visit again in two years...

Today, Natalia and I were taken under the wing of a local tea distributer. We were escorted to Kumar Tolli, a para (neighborhood) where artisans craft life-sized sculptures of Hindu gods and goddesses for an annual festival that's held each October. They wrap straw around wooden rods and bind it with twine to form a base for the sculpture. Then, they coat it with clay from the Ganges, which has been mixed with wood chips (to make it sturdy). The top layer of clay is not mixed with wood chips, so it makes for a smooth surface. After it dries, it is painted with bright colors, and carried to the Ganges, where it is returned to the river. Such a beautiful cycle! Ideas of time and work are so different here. More on that later (when I have time... ironic?).

Afterward, we were taken to Tangra, where we saw some sights and ate more Chinese food. (It's a local favorite here. Don't worry-- we're eating local cuisine, too! And it's quite good.) Then we went to the Victoria Memorial and Botanical Gardens, which made me think of Central Park. The only real reasons are that it's an oasis of green in the middle of the city and that it has very little smog compared to the surrounding area. The local marble used to build the memorial was lovely, and the handwork was very intricate. Seeing the local flora was a real treat, too. Oh, and we saw the chipmunks, which have stripes and are much more adorable than American chipmunks. (Historical tidbit--their tail hairs used to be used to make brushes for Indian miniature paintings.)

It was so kind of the tea distributor to show us around. We had a fantastic time!

Now we're around our hotel again. I am contemplating the purchase of a deep aqua sari with silver handwork. Natalia and I might get henna painted on our hands. I'm sure we'll have some more masala chai. We leave early tomorrow, so I think we'll take it easy tonight.

I'll post back as soon as I can. Later!


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