Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Josh Z. - Kolkata, India - Fall 2009

It’s hard to believe that I have already been in India for two months. It seems like it was just yesterday that I stepped off the plane wondering what my time here would hold for me. Kolkata is a somewhat overwhelming place to be, especially given that I had never been outside the country before this trip. My first impressions were varied – the smells were pungent, the streets were dirty, the sun was scorching, and the city was crowded. At the same time, the food was great – not to mention cheap, a lunch of four samosas for 10 rupees, about US 0.20 – the people were friendly, the colonial British architecture was beautiful, and the city has a buzz to it which is indescribable. Everything was going well until I decided to be brave and try some street food. I didn’t eat a bite for a week after. I had recovered for only a few days when I fell ill again, this time worse than before. It’s funny how perception changes based on attitude. During those couple of weeks, I stopped seeing things as quaint and described them instead as backward, useless, archaic, etc. I felt almost disdainful toward conditions of squalor, because the enormity of the problem felt so beyond helping. After recovering from my illness, however, I began to take things more positively. The freedom of living here in India has given so much time to reflect on what I value and why. If for no other reason, this trip has been worth it. I also feel challenged on my most basic assumptions, going from a liberal minded and capitalist nation to a Maoist state with conservative values. All in all, I feel reaffirmed in my life’s direction having come to India. I fell in love with the city of Kolkata, even feeling “homesick” when we took a week’s vacation to Varanasi, Agra and Jaipur. The culture here is a mixture of things I love and things I hate, but altogether they form something captivating and beautiful.


Anonymous John Maher said...

Have you experienced culture shock? To what degree? If so how are you coping with it?

12:50 PM  
Blogger Maureen said...

Why did you fall sick when eating the food from the streets? Is eating from a street vender a known "no no" or do you just think you had back luck? What did your host family say about the ordeal?

10:46 PM  

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