Thursday, 23 February 2012

It's the small things.

Gabs doing what interns do best - making fresh coffee, even on her last day in India. Legend.
This precious girl is only a couple of months old, and she was a premature baby - so she is so tiny! But so adorable. I thought Gabs was carrying a couple of blankets in her arms, until these tiny hands came out.
I have no idea what I ate, but it tasted amazing. It is some type of sweet, and it pretty much oozes syrup... mmm. By the way, this is the desk I have currently taken over, with a funky keyboard that confused me (and still does), when I first used it. And of course, can't forget coffee, and super handy Pantone colour charts!
Today as Gabs was heading off, we had mishti for morning tea, which is Bengali sweets - these looked like little balls of dough covered in flour, but had the texture of finely ground coconut, and had a sweet, milky taste. They were quite moist, and so delicious. They came in mini paper cases, and I was eating mine out of it instead of picking it up and putting the whole thing in my mouth, and all of the women around me began exclaiming, as they thought I was eating the paper, and tried to show me how to eat it properly! Hahahaha.
I am learning quickly that in India, people like to have their photos taken (in most situations). This guy really likes his photo to be taken.
Every day on our way to work, we pass these men (there are many more on both sides of the path, outside of the photo), who are busy constructing out of bamboo, paper mache, and polystyrene, different figurines. They are usually making them for a festival, or in some cases for a funeral (according to one source).
Walking home. The purple building in the distance is my marking point for home here, if I am travelling from another part of Kolkata at night in a taxi etc. and so I know where approximately to pull over.
A bit blurry, but there are many pavements constructed of tiles, and then cracks filled in with bricks.
Walking down the lane to our apartment.
I love looking up in India. So much of the time is spent looking at your feet so you don't step in anything not-so-nice, that you forget to look up. Up.
The door opposite from ours into our apartment. Many doorways have religious symbols or objects, but I think for this design, it might be a substitute for a sand painting; I know that in some parts of India, every morning a new 'painting' is created in coloured sand outside of a doorway. I could be wrong, but this is just my assumption.
Looking up at another apartment building from the bottom steps of ours.
And another. Most windows have some form of a grate over them (I think because of security), but some sorts make it look like jail cells. Some have amazing, intricate metal designs, and are not as intimidating to wonder who is behind them.
A face!
The entrance to our apartment building. I love the textures, and the worn look everything has here.
The entrance again. Those steps you see, we have to climb 6 or 7 flights to get to our apartment. Either that or take an elevator the size of two, small, up-standing fridges, in which you need to manually pull across the gates (not too dissimilar to the one in this image) - not a ride for the claustrophobic.
Looking down the lane to the main road.
How is this for security? Barbed wire, and broken glass. I really want to see the hands of the person who made this.
Gabs and I! I miss her already... but she'll be back 3 or 4 months!
Remember what I said. Look up.
These two gorgeous girls came to see what us white people were up to, and I then showed them this picture. Then we tried our very poor Bangla on them, but managed to find out their names.
There are a lot of small details in Kolkata, that are the things I will miss the most when I leave at the end of 12 months. Like how you can buy liquid milk in bags. And that the 'intercom' system at FS is to lean over the balcony and shout out the name of whoever you want, and continue to shout when you have their attention, to converse with them. It really is a joy to witness. Another, saying hello to the old woman in her white sari, a cataract in her eye, and her heart in her smile; we hold hands, smile, laugh, and then go on with our day. She lives about 50m from FS, so most days I will encounter this wonder of a human being.

Some not so great things that I won't forget, but are not the nicest memories, include: street animals too hungry to stand, so they just lie where they can; walking past someone who does not have a home and asks for money; the smell of human waste in the gutters, or under your shoe; the ache in your stomach when you know what you recently ate was a potential risk; or even the wave of emotion that hits you when you realise just how real the issue of forced sex labour is.

I love India, I really do. I even love some of the things that I find hard to see, hear, taste, or smell. I love it here - even though every day I am challenged with the contrasting sight of poverty, and of my own prosperity at home in NZ; it is beginning to change my outtake on life. Not that prosperity is a bad thing, it can just feels like something you could be guilty for here.

I really hope you enjoy looking through my photos, and of reading about my encounters, but I hope most of all that each time you leave this blog, you go away with the thought that there is so much more to life than the tiny worlds we tend to wrap ourselves up in in Western society. Materialism can be a blanket - here when we go to a Western food market, or a place that sells Western items, it feels almost 'safe', or familiar. As sad as this may seem, materialism here can sometimes become a sanctuary. I really hope that I walk away from this experience with a greater sense of security in God, in the unfamiliar, and in having 'enough'.

Bless you all.


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