We just returned from a four day visit to Calcutta (or, officially, Kolkata). We stayed with Indian friends that Libby met 10 years ago while working with street kids and recovering drug addicts. We met kids that have grown up, married, and have jobs at multi-national companies. And others who are still struggling to get by with three good meals a day.
It was refreshing. And exhausting. Although the flight is only two hours, traveling thru pushing/shoving crowds and multiple security checks with three small kids and pregnant wife...
But mostly, we enjoyed seeing the differences in Calcutta. The streets are narrow (a remnant of British planning, I'm told). There seems to be more of a bustle in the air. Cars are a bit older. And there are many other small differneces which catch your attention and excercise your senses.
I'll never forget the green, lazy, grand feeling of Chennai. The wild-west, dusty feel of Ahmedabad. The sophisticated but grid-locked feel of Bangalore (now renamed Bengaluru). The appearance of power, influence, and Western development in Delhi. And the humid chaos that is Mumbai.
India's diversity is amazing, but in the middle of all that it is the people that matter. Our boys can't stop talking about their new "didis" (sisters) who played with them in Calcutta for hours on a lovely patch of grass between high rise apartments. We're grateful for renewing old friendships and the gifts of hospitality that we can never repay.
(originally posted at Thursday, December 23, 2010 as "India's unique cities" at http://spottsfamily.blogspot.com/2010/12/indias-unique-cities.html)