I don’t know from where should I start and where should I finish talking about the city that changed my entire philosophy about life! I was in India around 6 months totally, spending around 4 months doing an internship in a marketing company in Kolkata.
Kolkata, or Calcutta, is is the capital of the Indian state of West Bengal. The city and its suburbs is home to approximately 14.1 million of people (much more than the greek population!!), making Kolkata the third-most populous metropolitan area in India.
I will never forget the cultural shock of my first day in Kolkata (it was the first generally in India)! From the time I went out from the airport, I met an another world! While I was carrying my luggage, suddenly I was in the middle of around 10 ricksaw drivers that were conflicting about who will be the driver of the white person (who probably will give a good tip)! On the way to the apartment that I was supposed to stay, I saw so many shocking images.. cows on the road, people living in the streets, children playing without shoes and clothes, etc..
What surprise you more in that beautiful country is the people. It is very sad that you see so many poor people living in the streets without having the basics but the weird thing is that these people are smiling much more than all of us that we have everything! Unfortunately, money have changed our lifes and our relations, we always want more and more and we are never happy.
Kolkata is a huge city so you will need many days to explore the whole city! The magnificent Victoria Memorial built with white marble is the symbol of Kolkata, first thing to do when you arrive at the city! St Paul’s Cathedral, Science city, Writer’s building, Kalighat temple, Dakshineswar Kali Temple and Belur Math are another interesting spots of the city.
Volunteering in Mother Teresa’s Missionary of Charity is a famous activity especially for foreigners in Kolkata, so we didn’t miss the opportunity to spend some days playing with abandoned children and taking care of them. It was a wonderful emotion as you feel very nice helping children that really need love and care!
Indian food was a factor that scared me a little to be honest before I arrived there. Maybe because I never liked spicy food, maybe because of having heard many stories about stomach problems to most of the travelers, I was feeling anxious about food.
Finally I ended up trying so many traditional dishes, eating many times street food (even it is not recommended) because I wanted to feel native! I must admit that I entirely changed my food habits losing totally 17 kg after 6 months in India!!!
India, and especially Kolkata, is extremely cheap so don’t do the mistake to come with a full suitcase. When you see the prices you will go crazy and will want to buy everything! There are a couple of big shopping malls but I liked more the street markets where you can find so many things and of course bargain a lot!! Even fruits, vegetables and meat we were buying from there. Try to stay cool when you will ask for chicken and they will kill it at that moment in front of you!!!
Although India is a more conservative country than what we are used from Europe, in Kolkata you can find many bars and clubs and dance Indian hits with awesome Indian people.. amazing feeling,hehe! I was lucky to have a good company of international friends that they were also doing an internship in Kolkata, so we partied hard many times exploring Kolkata by night!
Another thing that surprised me in India was cricket! Ok, maybe not the sport itself, but the passion of Indians about cricket! Although I didn’t have any idea about this sport, I was forced to learn all the rules because these guys can talk all day about cricket! It can be compared with my love for beach tennis!!! But the highlight was that India with Bangladesh and Sri Lanka were the hosts of the Cricket World Cup 2011! Finally, India won the trophy defeating Sri Lanka and the Indians went really crazy! 14 millions of people took to the streets and Kolkata was on fire!!
In my opinion, Kolkata is a city where you can live and feel the original Indian culture. I feel so lucky that I was not just a tourist there, but I had enough time to think and learn so many things from this experience! I am proud to say that India, and especially Kolkata, will stay in my heart for ever. And for sure one day I will go back to live there for a period of my life!
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