Due to a nasty head cold, I ended up taking Tuesday off from volunteering and I used the day instead, as a field trip day to just walk around and see some more unchartered areas of Kolkata. Although in a lot of places around here it’s hard to assess what streets you’ve walked on in the past and what you haven’t, I knew taking a left off Sudder St. and on to Chowringhee Rd. would lead to something different and so I headed in that direction.
While walking on this street I ended up stumbling into a cathedral by the name of St. Paul Cathedral (refer to pictures), which I’d say was more beautiful on the outside than the inside. In the cathedral’s defense though, I’ve had the opportunity to see the Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore in Florence, Italy and so I’m trying to compare a Ferrari with a Cadillac. St. Paul’s Cathedral is a nice church, but it’s just no Ferrari. Since I’m currently still trying to arrange more long-term accommodations somewhere, I’ve been making a point of mentioning the topic with any local Indian I find myself in a conversation with in hopes that they can point me in the right direction. In my time at the cathedral and also walking around later in the afternoon, I found myself talking with 3 Indian men, 2 of whom were security guards at St. James and 1 that was a local shop owner. Although none of the Indian men I spoke with knew where I could make such arrangements, the 2 security guards offered their own homes to me and the local shop owner gave me some chai “on the house” and also did what he could to point me in the right direction to some cheaper hotels. While talking with these guys, I was already excited to bring these stories back to everyone and title my blog something like, “The Kolkatan people...poor on the streets, but rich in the heart” or “Kolkata...a city that CARES MORE.” Sadly, I’m not in a position to do that anymore because as my conversations with these guys matured, they always led to the same topic and it wasn’t about what they could do for me, but instead, what I could do for them. As for the security guards...they wanted a better job in America. As for the local shop owner...he wanted me to buy something from his shop and bring my friends too.
The very next day, I was again confronted with a British Indian who for a period of time, I would have said was one of the nicest guys I’ve ever met and I’d say that even if he didn’t call me a “sweetheart” or kissed my hand like he did, but that relationship yet again, ended with Norman with his hand out asking for more as if the dinner and 3 beers I bought him wasn’t enough. The whole time here I thought I was meeting people that shared just as much interest in me as I had in them, but as it turns out, all they were interested in was the $ sign that every American or Westerner wears on their forehead. Shame on me I suppose for believing in a CARE MORE world where strangers would help strangers and kindness was an end in itself. I’m not giving up hope that this world isn’t out there or that it doesn’t exist in Kolkata, but until I find it, my wall is up and I regretfully, can’t trust any local Indian who is too friendly.
Just to revisit Norman again, it’s probably worth mentioning as well that 3 King Fisher beers is too much for him and him grabbing my hand on the way back to Sudder St. had everything to do with Indian culture than it did anything else you’d like to try and entertain as a reason. That kind of thing might be normal here and I can respect that, but it definitely doesn’t FEEL NORMAL so if any of you back home expect me to display my affection to you in this way, you’re going to be sadly disappointed.
P.S. All of you reading this I’d consider to be friends of mine so THANK YOU for your friendship and for just being YOU. Consider this my hand holding moment with all of you.