After three weeks in the north of India it was time to experience our final destination before winging our way down to see what the south of the country had to offer. It had been a whirlwind of sights, sounds, smells and experiences with each and every place we visited offering diversity far beyond our wildest dreams.
Kolkata was the last place on the northern itinerary and we had mixed feelings about saying goodbye to the north but were excited to see what the last hoorah would have to offer.
An innocent mid-afternoon walk to explore surroundings nearby to our hotel turned into one of those scenes from a movie where tourists walk into an area they probably shouldn’t be and get harassed, surrounded, followed and physically bombarded by people who don’t necessarily have their best intentions at heart.
Luckily, the beating we were privy to was from a gang of sub-10 year olds, so we deflected the kidney shots, jumped in a taxi and high tailed it over to a far more zen environment… On the must do list for Kolkata was Mother Teresa’s house. For even the most cynical and jaded of travellers, for those who have seen both the best and the absolute worst of humanity and for everyone in between its a place where you can’t help but be moved. Part museum, part missionary centre (and wholly both at the same time!) it provides a fascinating glimpse into the psyche of Mother Teresa and other such people who choose to give their lives to helping others. Whether you agree with her religious views or not, throwing yourself into the very depths of poverty and despair in a foreign country is a pretty full on effort, don’t you think? Nuns pray around Mother Teresa’s marble tomb regularly and must be pretty pap-savvy as they didn’t even flinch at the flashbulbs going off all around them. Man, we sound tacky, but we swear, we respected every minute and every centimetre of their space. H-J even got an invite to sit down and chill with them. She tried to blend in as inconspicuously as possible and, amazingly, didn’t even burst into flames! In terms of places to see in Kolkata, we can’t recommend it highly enough if you have even a minute piece of something resembling a soul. It would take a pretty cavernous, black nothingness to not be at least a little intrigued/interesting/moved by the centre and the smiling, welcoming nuns within.
The only other sight we managed to squeeze into our tight Kolkata itinerary was the Victoria Memorial Hall, a stunning building dedicated to the Empress of India.
However, not being as paparazzi-cool as the lovely nuns (or as peaceful, or forgiving) it was about this moment that H-J’s attitude toward being following around the tourist sites of North, jumped out at from behind trees and stalked with video cameras took a turn for the worse. Yes, its a very selfish problem to whine about but even dreadlocked, tattooed, privileged tourists need a break sometimes. Britney, we feel ya…
All in all, Kolkata truly came through for us as it summed up the North in one convenient nut shell. Or perhaps betel leaf would be more appropriate. There were the highs, the lows; the stunning, the depressing; the smiling faces, the hidden glances; gleaming marble alongside cows eating rubbish…so thank you Kolkata for giving us our last look at the breathtaking and eye-opening north of India.