Day 9: Mayapur - Chandernagore- Kolkata
It’s All About Color
I’ve been fascinated with the caste system in India ever since I read the book, A Fine Balance. It gave me a glimpse into a world unknown where one’s station in life is set forever just by virtue of your last name. Sumit’s lecture today expanded my understanding to include the history and the current status of this system only found in Hindu culture.
Arranged marriages are still very much a thing here although modern times do allow for an occasional love match. Sumit cracked himself up reading classified ads by parents looking for suitable brides or grooms for their sons or daughters. His favorite one involved a father looking for a bride for his son who listed some desirable attributes, but having good eyesight without glasses or lenses seemed to be the dealbreaker.
The designated stops of our afternoon excursion to Chandernagore didn’t hold a lot of interest for me. Sacred Heart church built by French settlers in 1875 was beautiful, but the best part was when John and I lit a candle in our mothers’ memory. I also wasn’t overly disappointed that the former French Governor’s residence, now a museum, was closed today for a religious festival.
The real attraction to me was walking along the grand promenade and seeing the village celebrate a festival to honor the mother goddess. Children laughing and playing in the parks, people stopping us to take a selfie with them, and smells of street food infusing the air like an invisible diffuser, all set the tone for celebration. Beautifully dressed women ignited an explosion of color as they carried baskets of fruit and other offerings to the water’s edge. This more than anything crystalized my fantasy as to what I’d see in India.
The color explosion continued that evening as our group celebrated our last night on board. Stylish kurtas, creative Indian fashion, and the occasional maharaja was the theme of the night.
Just in case we didn’t get our fill of the drag show a couple nights ago, the Dancing Queens returned for another “Cultural Dance.” More thrusting, more grinding, and more electric shimmy, but this time I figured it out. The “cultural” part was all about a tribute to Bollywood films. Apparently, it is a tradition to gyrate wildly while flailing one’s arms and hands and swiveling one’s head and hips like a dashboard hula dancer. Now that it made more sense, it gave me hope for John’s future. If this public health thing doesn’t work out for him, there’s always Bollywood.
We said goodbye to our favorite ship crew tonight as we got ready for tomorrow’s “disembarkation,” as we say in the cruise industry. It was a magical seven days, and we look forward to the sights, smells and especially the colors of the rest of our land journey.