Delhi to Kolkata
Who knew that a day of transit could be just as tiring as a full day of touring? We started with a delicious breakfast at the hotel then finished packing to be ready for our bus transfer to the airport bound for Kolkata, (formerly known as Calcutta, in the West Bengal region of India.) And just because I know all of you are worried sick about me and monkeys, I’m pleased to announce that I haven’t seen one yet. John saw one in a tree while we were on the bus, but clearly Little Baby Jesus heard my prayers and intervened.
We met our new local tour guide, Sumin (pronounced Shoemin,)as we boarded the bus bound for the Hooghly River, a tributary of the Ganges, about an hour and a half away. This is hometown for Sumin, and he is incredibly knowledgeable about the history and culture here. With a population of over 15 million people, Kolkata is the 13th most populous urban area in the world.
Just in case any of us were in the mood for an early Christmas, Kolkata obliged with a full on light show celebrating Diwali. Buildings draped in vertical strands of lights from roof to ground lined both sides of streets. Newly constructed temporary temples greeted Hindu faithful with flowers and candles. Street market vendors touted every day wares, street food and endless marigolds as customers made their way through busy markets.
Even though it was dark, we were able to see a little bit of Kolkata on the way to the boat. The area is very poor and it’s very humbling to see how different life is from what we might take for granted—-piles of garbage like municipal landfills right next to where people live, dilapidated buildings with or without glass on windows, laundry hanging outside to dry on busy, dusty streets.
The crew of the Ganges Voyager gave us a warm welcome and presented us each with a garland of marigold flowers. We settled into our beautiful British Colonial staterooms and explored this gorgeous ship as we headed toward the dining room for our first meal.
The most exciting thing that happened all day occurred at dinner. Apparently, I got over stimulated when serving myself lentil soup and poured at least half a ladle of boiling soup onto my left hand. It burnt like hell, but the staff was very helpful in providing me with burn cream and ice. Part of me was hoping it would leave me with a scar in the shape of India as a memento of the time I lived there, then I remembered that there are other ways to take home a souvenir.
It took all our fortitude, but we successfully completed dinner and attended the Welcome & Safety Briefing without falling asleep. We arrived back at our stateroom, and hung our marigold garlands on the sconces near the mirror, still not believing how lucky we are to explore this magical place in the world.