As our amazing 4 month stay on Koh Yao Noi came to an end, it was with an equal mix of sadness and excitement that Leslie and I headed off for our flight to Kolkata. Thailand was the perfect place to relax, recharge after Korea, and dive fully into editing my novel. But like all stories, each chapter must end, and as we said goodbye to our island paradise, the next chapter of our nomadic lives began.
And the difference between the two places is almost unimaginable. Pace of life on Yao Noi island was slow at best. A busy day would be struggling out of the hammock and walking 3 minutes to the beach or the store. Yet the streets of Kolkata, teeming with almost 15,000,000 people, of whom I believe I met most of personally in my 3 days, is a teeming maelstrom of chaos and color. I visited India once before, many years ago, and remember vividly that to walk the streets is an assault on every sense;the sights and sounds, the smells and the tastes. But it’s the atmosphere that you can really feel, and it’s truly electrifying. Bycicles do battle with rickshaws and tuk-tuks, taxis dodge unyielding trucks…and the people! My word, the people. It’s hard to imagine so many, and yet there they are; beggars and businessmen, wallahs and holy men, street kids and beautiful sari wearing woman, policemen and bewildered tourists, all vying to breathe the choking polluted air.
The eclectic mix of religions is staggering; Hindus and Muslims, Sikhs and Jains, Christians and Buddhists. India has had it’s religious identity problems, and probably always will. But there was little evidence of it on the streets of Kolkata, as all went about their business with respect and a smile, and the intolerance we so often read about in the press was non-existent, at least through the eyes of a tourist like me. Amid the chaos it felt as though an invisible underlying calmness swamped the city, the mind boggling effervescence guided by an organic mystical presence, if you can just stand still long enough to feel it. But that can be difficult…never have I been to a more fast paced and relentless place.
It’s massive, it’s crazy, it’s dirty and it’s wild.
It’s Kolkata, and I love it.
Look out tomorrow for Part II of Kolkata: City of Color
All Images By The Nomad.