Having missed out on the flower market yesterday, I made an early start and along the way found a streetside tea and toast man. I was delighted for two reasons, the tea and toast was absolutely delicious and the price was 15p, at this early stage on my Indian adventure I'm quite sure this will turn out to be the cheapest place I've travelled around.
It seems the closer you get to the river in Kolkata, the poorer it is, and the flower market proved to be no exception, but I felt neither threatened or hassled. If India is colourful, then a flower market in India is like like looking inside Austin Powers' wardrobe on acid. The flower market exists purely because of the Hindu faith and the peoples desire to make an offering of flowers when visiting a temple. I think for this reason alone many thousands of Indians are able to eat each day. The flower market itself gets a bit overwhelming and it was a welcome sight to see an escape up onto the H Bridge, said to be the busiest in the world. As far as vehicle traffic goes I'm sure its no busier than any other city bridge, but pedestrians, well thats a different matter. I crossed the bridge going against the flow and from start to finish there were crowds of people crossing and all eyes were on me. On both sides of the river there are ghats, which are steps leading down to the river, where locals bath in the filthy brown water. Like the advert says, India really is incredible and Kolkata is at the heart of what India is about, both good and bad. It has an energy that just picks you up and carries you to somewhere new, a new stage where you can buy a cup of hot fresh chai and watch the show. During the interval follow your nose and discover the tastes of India and beyond. It doesn't matter if you cannot find your way back to your old seat because a new drama is unfolding before your very eyes and sometimes, you are the main character.
The day before I arrived in Kolkata, Monday, was Holi, a Hindu festival involving throwing powder bombs of colour around. Well now on the Saturday after this event, its funny to still see people and dogs still stained by the red dye. Its not just the odd person either, it seems like one in fifty. Another thing I have noticed is the amount of men here in comparison to women. I'd guess for every woman I have seen, I have seen a hundred men. Some of these men walk holding hands or arm in arm, a strange sight to see where homosexuality is both illegal and generally not accepted by society, so why? This I'm not sure of yet but endeavour to find out. Sadly, Kolkata is home to many homeless, an alarming amount. Even sadder to see is the amount of street children and babies that sleep on the streets. In a place where it costs so little to eat it is truely heart breaking to see. On my travels I have seen a huge amount of money being given to the church, wats, mosques, temples etc and cannot help but wonder if this money was given to those in need, then maybe it would go along way to solving this problem. Afterall, surely God would rather help the poor.
I caught a taxi to Sealdah train station, boarded the Darjeeling Mail and said farewell to this amazing city. I felt like a little boy on Xmas eve, tomorrow I would see the Himalayas, the greatest mountain range on the planet.