One of the main attractions of having older children is being able to travel again without them. A very good friend of mine has recently taken on a new job with a charity focused in West Bengal called Shivia. She was lucky enough to get out there in March and below is her first blog post about the experience. She also happens to be a very good photographer, so I’m making the photos larger than usual so that you can enjoy all the vibrant colours:-
VISIONS OF INDIA
In December I started working for a charity called Shivia. Our work is in West Bengal, one of India’s poorest and most populous states. We work in livelihood development, helping poor families start small farming enterprises to earn a regular income and work their way out of poverty. In March, I travelled to Kolkata (Calcutta), the state capital to visit colleagues there and find out more about our operations in the rural villages on the outskirts of the city. I took my camera and came home with over 500 photos….here are a few to illustrate some of the highlights of an extraordinary trip, starting with some visions of Kolkata itself.
Kolkata lies on the banks of the Hooghly River, a distributary of the Ganges and on Sundays many of the city’s residents congregate on the shore for a weekly wash. In the background is the Howrah Bridge, one of Kolkata’s iconic landmarks and renowned for being the busiest bridge of its type in the world – it’s a cantilever bridge by the way.
Just before crossing the bridge you reach Kolkata’s Malik Ghat flower market (number 52 of 197 things to do in Kolkata according to Trip Advisor). The flower sellers bring their produce from the villages to sell wholesale to Kolkata’s shops and hotels. It’s very crowded as you can see here and this was quite late on a Sunday morning. I imagine first thing on Monday it would be chaos. It seemed that everyone was selling the same thing…..thousands of hand made garlands of yellow and orange carnations, typically bought for temple prayers and weddings/festivals. It was hard to believe that they would all be sold before they became dried and shrivelled. And as I walked over the bridge towards the Howrah side I could see more sellers arriving with enormous bags of garlands on the heads. I felt like warning them that it was too late – the market was already flooded.
At the end of the day, a hazy sunset over the Hooghly River…..
….to be continued.