Monday, March 28, 2005

Meanwhile, in Kolkata

So there are ironic t-shirt wearing Bengalis who call themselves global citizens and visit malls fetishizing "ethnic" Indian culture. But naturally there is a flip side.

It's Monday and Kolkata is bustling again. Today we saw the city's namesake temple, Kalighat, and our personal mecca, the railway station. The approach to Kalighat was predictably intense, even at 7:30am, with all the vendors hawking red flowers, glittery red handkerchefs, and tiny photos of the awesome Kali, who is Shiva's wife, the goddess of destruction. Every morning goats are sacrificed to appease her; I guess offering red trickets is better than nothing.

The rotting flower-draped statue inside the temple was crawling with cockroaches, so we left quickly, heading down the lane a bit to Kalighat, the holy stairs leading into a shit-clogged, stagnant sewage canal that is what remains of the Ganges River when it reaches Kolkata. People hold their nose and come to worship by the river. I only saw one man swimming, or rather sifting through the sludge with a metal sieve (did he lose something? his sanity?). But they were selling the holy water, yellowish in the morning sun, for just Rs. 10.

Across from the revered ghats there was a shanty town. We walked across the river on a three old row boats placed in a row as a makeshift bridge, praying that they wouldn't break. On the other side there were no touts here, just tiny homes, shops and a one room temple to Shiva, the god of creation.


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