Saturday, August 11, 2007

More of Kolkata

Kolkata is such a fascinating place. I think I'm getting the hang of everything but the pollution. (It's very smoggy here.) Walking in the streets, talking with people, navigation, and making purchases are all getting much easier.

Natalia and I have both bought some salwar kameez (salwar=pants, kameez=tunic/long shirt, a salwar kameez also has a dupatti, or scarf), which are being hand-tailored for us. The fabrics are exquisite! Similar garments would cost so much more in the US, and they wouldn't be custom-made. As someone with a textile design background and love for textiles, I am in heaven.

We tried some of the food and explored a bit. The local markets (which we visited yesterday, too) are now easily navigable. We checked out Park Street, ehich is a "cool" part of town. We tried some IndoChinese fusion cuisine (amazing, filling, and about $3 for the two of us--we had crispy fried tofu, spring rolls, gobi (cauliflower) Manchurian, vegetarian Thai curry, and jasmine tea) in a hidden-away, air-conditioned restaurant, then headed over to Flurry's ("Kolkata's only tearoom") to find that they are actually a restaurant. We bought some sweets (for which they are famous, we chose a dark chocolate torte slice and am almond cake "cube" (really a rectangular prism)) and headed over to Chinatown ("Tangra"), then explored the local market some more, and made friend with a few people in the para (neighborhood), including the chai wallah (tea vendor).

We had some more masala chai. It's still delicious! (You see, we have to check several times a day, just to make sure.) It comes in tiny, unfired, red clay cups, which you throw on the ground when you are done with your drink. If you live in the west, you are probably put off by that. (It seems like littering, right?) Don't worry-- the clay is smashed by pedestrians, rickshaws, jeeps, and taxis, then mixed back into the earth by the rain. If it's the dry season, then the chipped and broken cups become a temporary part of the sidewalk or road (which is often made up of stones, broken cement, and such). The local red clay deposits are later used to make the cups all over again. It's natural recycling.

I spoke with the owner of Makaibari Tea Estate today. I'm so excited about the visit! They were the first biodynamic (a step beyond organic) tea estate in the world, all the way back in the 70s (before it was trendy). There is so much to learn there. I can't wait!

More soon. Check back again.


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