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    All These Colors Tour: India Part 4

    Monday, September 17, 2012
    Kolkata, India

    Mocambo restaurant in Kolkata, India.

    For lunch, I chomped on a vegetable lasagna at Mocambo. Some might consider this dish a delightfully creamy and cheesy concoction that simply tickles the tastebuds into submission. I am one of those people. To my own surprise today, I discovered that Kolkata actually has a subway. Armed with that info, I wasted no time walking a half mile down to the nearest stop and jumped on a train bound a couple of miles South for the Kali temple. Luckily, signs displayed the route names in English as well as Hindi, or I may never have figured out my back from my elbow. The train was completely standing room only and sardine-packed, so I had to stand with my nose an inch away from the door. But, at least they had the air con cranked.

    A sardine-packed subway in Kolkata, India.

    As I emerged back up into the steaming hot city, I searched for the nearest main cross street, which was Hazra Road. Luckily, I found it first try. I glanced left down the first side street I came upon and noticed some super good-looking and colorful neighborhood Hindu shrines that were glowing in the late afternoon light. I checked them out for a few minutes and got some really good pics and vids. Back on Hazra Road, I asked a vendor for directions to the Kali temple. At the same time, a random man walking by overheard my request and told me to follow him, so off we went, winding through a bunch of back alleys that were stuffed with picturesque tiny shops and dwellings burrowed into grimy building fronts.

    A small neighborhood Hindu shrine in Kolkata, India.

    As we neared the temple neighborhood, I stopped to take a couple of photos of some regal horse-drawn carriages that looked fit for a king. At that point, my impromptu guide disappeared, so I followed the direction he was headed, around a curvy lane where I finally happened upon the temple complex. I wonder if I would have ever found my way here without him? After passing through the obligatory souvenir stalls, a smiling man greeted me at the entrance. As I stepped inside, he followed me and started explaining a shrine I stopped to look at. I told him I didn’t need a guide, but he said he was a member of the temple, not a guide. As I continued walking around, he kept following me and explaining sights.

    A regal horse drawn carriage near the Kali temple in Kolkata, India.

    After a couple of minutes of this behavior, I said, “You sure do sound a lot like a guide.” He got a little bit offended, then I walked fast away from him, back the way I entered, hoping to make it all the way around the temple, but it was blocked off on the other side. The guide encountered me again, but just smiled and told me to enjoy my visit. Then I found a place to check my shoes outside a gate so I could proceed inside the actual Kali temple. There was a line outside of it that snaked around railings just like Disneyland, on two sides of the building. Every once in a while, a couple of dozen people were allowed to proceed inside. After 10 or 15 minutes, it was my group’s turn to step into the inner white tiled chamber, where there sat a steel cage containing the Kali image. There was so much soot and grime on this cage, it would take a million maids a million years to scrub it off with steel wool.

    A blizzard of bright saris outside the Kali temple in Kolkata, India.

    The line slowly proceeded across the wet floor, which was littered with smashed red flowers, around the circumference of the room. At one point, an attendant scooped up some sacrificial goat’s blood from the floor and, without saying anything, smeared a third eye onto my forehead. I didn’t even flinch, or respond. I just stared at the dirty walls, soaking in all of the chaos and shouting that filled the hot and humid room. Finally, the two men who were in line in front of me stood before the strange and fierce orange-eyed Kali image and engaged in a two-minute ritual with a priest, who placed garlands around their necks. Then they waved around a flaming bowl and chanted. Too bad photography is prohibited!

    The Kali temple glows at dusk in Kolkata, India.

    When it was my turn, the priest just coated his thumb with goat’s blood, smeared a new eye onto my forehead over the old one, said “God bless you,” and asked me to donate 500 rupees. Who did he think I was? Bill Gates? I threw in 100 rupees instead and made my way outside, a little disappointed that I didn’t get the ritual treatment. As I put on my shoes, it started pouring rain, so I broke open the umbrella and squeezed through the sidewalk markets back to the subway for a ride back to Chowringhee, where dinner at the Blue Sky Cafe awaited me.

    A yummy cheese pizza at the Blue Sky Cafe in Kolkata, India.

    Roll over photos for captions.
    Words and photos ©2012 Arcane Candy.

    One response to “All These Colors Tour: India Part 4”

    1. amritaspeaks says:

      I am from Kolkata. I chanced upon this piece today. You are observations are very good. like reading them.

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