Part I (Thursday continued…)
In vibrant reds and blues the backs of trucks read: “Blow Horn Please.” The request is heeded by the vehicles sardined in, out, and between lanes; the call and response of the automobiles is the first language I have understood. Our days in Kolkata have been a barrage of sensory experiences too vast and new to process. “It smells like India,” one returning traveler remarked with great nostalgia and pride as we deplaned that first day.
A peer was asked to describe her experience thus far in a single word, and I have landed on synesthetic. On Thursday, I tasted color. During our Kolkata walking tour we stood patiently as the street vendor concocted masala chai tea for 8 rupees. The boiled milk infused with black tea and spices was stained a caramel brown that tasted smooth and familiar though nothing I have had before compares. I imagine that home will feel dull once I return, and that I will miss the sounds and colors of India.
“Sound and Color” By Brittany Howard
A new world hangs outside the window
Beautiful and strange
It must be I’ve fallen awake…
…Sound and color
With me in my mind
Sound and color
Try to keep yourself awake…. <– *shout out to jet lag*
Sound and Color
Part II (Friday)
This morning we rose in Kolkata and tonight we set in Delhi. Our arrival in Delhi was met with 40 C temperatures and a luxury bus equipped with air conditioning, motorized fans, and chilled water – it has become our sanctuary. The rave comments regarding The Park hotel have been verified as we were greeted in the lobby by a woman in a marigold-yellow sari and sweetened (yes, sweetened) sprite.
After a quick respite in our respective hotel rooms and hasty check-ins with mom and dad, we returned to our mobile paradise with fans at full speed. The first stop was the Tomb of Humayan, which bore a deceptive exterior of unimpressive, stained-stone walls. As we crossed under the first official gate our jaws dropped at the exquisite mausoleum that stood as if it were a painting in the sky. Impeccable symmetry, beautiful lattice work, red and white stones, fountains, and green gardens characterized the landscape. The Tomb of Humayan is known as a forerunner to the well-known Taj Mahal, however, the Taj, in contrast to the Tomb of Humayan, was commissioned by a husband in order to honor his deceased wife.
Following our visit to the Tomb and carrying 5 pounds each of our own sweat we headed for the Lotus Temple. The Baha’i temple has been the recipient of numerous architectural awards and is one of (I believe) 8 lotus temples around the globe. It was humbling to join locals inside of the holy space for a brief personal meditation. Many merchants approached us with personal wares and whet our appetite for our visit to Dilly Hat which came next.
As the bus pulled up to the Dilly Hat entrance we were met with chaotic dust clouds that momentarily cleared out the market space. Uma, Sanjukta, and Swathi served as our fearless guides in the bargaining process meeting the vendors with as much attitude and cunning as could be delivered. My haul consisted of a small blue and yellow scarf and a pair of bright pink, loose-fitting pants, but you should ask Baishakhi about her collection ;). It was thrilling to experience the art of bargaining and the interplay between the local vendors and our group members both Indian-American and otherwise.
Finally, with full bags and empty bellies we headed for Hauz Khas to meet up with nearby Duke Engagers for a delicious meal and wonderful company. As it is nearing 12 am and we depart at 6:30 for our next set of adventures, I will conclude my post by acknowledging the many challenges and triumphs experienced thus far and with an appreciation for the adventure that Duke has provided us. Thanks Bill and Melinda.
Part I (Thursday continued…)