Missionaries of Charity and Mamata Banerjee (India Blog 15)

Missionaries of Charity and Mamata Banerjee (India Blog 15)

Outside the Victoria Memorial, I got a taxi to Mother Terasa’s Missionaries of Charity, as it is called. I had no idea what I would see there, but I just wanted to get a picture from the outside.

I must say that the location was unlike anything that I had imagined before, being such a famous place.

When we arrived, I could only see the gate and the entrance inside a building. There were a couple of iron gates with the name and another small sign near the doorway. I had no desire to go inside. I don’t think they would have let me in, anyway. I don’t see why unless I wanted to contribute some money. And it was Sunday.

So I just took a couple of pictures and decided to head back to Sudder Street. However, on the way, we came across a political rally on the street of Mamata Banerjee’s All India Trinamool Congress Party. I had rather lost track of Bengali politics. I thought that I might get some interesting pictures there.

So I just asked the driver to drop me there. I figured that it was close enough that I could just walk back to Sudder Street. I took some pictures of the speaker and the crowd on the street, without understanding what was being said. Several people were up on the stage, mostly men, with one guy speaking into the “microbe phone” as Woodie Guthrie would say.

I walked on. I realized that it was a pretty poor area, but the shops and sidewalks were much cleaner and more sanitary, it seemed, than in those places on Chowringee where all the street vendors are. They have really made a mess of the city in that respect. But it is probably necessary to provide a livelihood for millions of people.

Some of the buildings in that area were very old and run-down, but it was much cleaner. I felt that I would not mind to eat in some of the small restaurants there. But I am being quite cautious, as getting a bad stomach will take one down. It is not worth the risk.

Along the way, I stopped and talked to a guy who was friendly. It was a conversation about how bad Trump is! He was a genuinely friendly guy not putting any trip on me. He told me the way back to Sudder Street, which was not far.

Along the way, another guy came up and said “hello.” This was a very suspicious guy and I wanted to just get away from him quickly. He started by asking me where I was from. That is generally the first question. I said something like: “New York, California, Los Angeles,” like that. I should have said Bangladesh, as I sometimes do.

They are not really interested in knowing, anyway, most of the time.

Then he started to try and flatter me. He said: “Great Country” and so on. I said, “Well yes, they have big problems.”

At that point, he started to show me small bottles of oil or ointment from his pockets. He said that he does massage. I told him that I was not interested.

Then he started to try to give me a demonstration. He took my left arm and started to rub my shoulder. I thought at once: “This guy is going to try to rob me with this shit.”

So, I pulled my arm back and kept control of my bag. I never carry anything in my pockets on the street. And any valuable money is inside a hidden pocket of the bag. My reserve dollars, passport and so on, are inside my clothes, where one would have to make me faint to get to them. When I took my arm back, he started again and said: “Are you going with me?” Then he took off walking rather fast. Maybe he saw that I was onto his game. I don’t know. I could only think that he wanted to pick my pockets and get my money. That was pretty obvious to me.

So I didn’t think he could rob me easily, but I don’t want any stranger putting their hands on me on the street. So I ended it quickly. The guy was trying to pull a stunt for sure. So I got away from him.

I saw a station on the way that compacts garbage. Then I walked a little farther and came to the row of shops selling Christmas decorations. Sure enough, these were the shops that I had seen before just off Sudder Street. So I came back to the hotel for a rest.

4:15 Afternoon. After today, I have four days left in Cal. (Kolkata) It is enough time to do some more street photography. So I will mostly be using the time for that. I still have one roll of black and white film per day for that time. It is not very much, actually. But maybe it will be enough. Actually, I am sure that it will not be. But nothing that I can do now.

Selma called. She says that it is cold and rainy in Izmir today.

8:15 Evening. In the morning, I could not get any hot water for a shower. It may be because a group of Australians had arrived in the hotel the day before. I saw them at breakfast. It seems that they are on a tour. Not a big group. I heard them talking about churches and missionaries. Apparently they are in the business of bagging souls in a foreign country. I thought that had mostly gone out of style. But I guess not. Heads are exceedingly thick in the realm of religion. No doubt about that.

If they are on their way to heaven, I probably ought to go in the opposite direction. And probably will.

There were some young teen-agers in the group, young guys about sixteen, high school age. One of them had bought an Indian pajama and kurta, a sort of Punjabi outfit. He wore it to breakfast. It was a long kurta that came down below his knees. He was wearing a sort of white sports shoes. It was a nice outfit, but it looked very strange on him, with that combination. He was a beautiful young guy. I could understand that they were from Australia from their accent.

The Victoria Memorial, Kolkata (India Blog 14)

 

The Victoria Memorial, Kolkata (India Blog 14)

9 December 2018. 5:50 Morning. It is Sunday. I slept good, from 11:00 last evening or so. I crapped out even though there was a lot of pounding going on. I woke up a couple of times, but had a good sleep.

Noam Chomsky has turned ninety years old. I think that there is not much that they can do to him at this point. Nothing, no matter what he says. Anyone who has not read him could learn a lot from him. Just a couple of his books would be enough if they understood them.

I will do some walking again today, but not so far as yesterday. I will go to that Victoria Memorial, which is to the south of here. After that, I am not sure. I will surely need my 28 mm lens to take pictures there.

I would also like to get a picture of Mother Teresa’s place, just to have a picture of it, since I am here. I do not know if what she has done is right or not. There is a lot of controversy about it at this time.

Travel always teaches one something and I think that I will learn something on this trip.

1:35 Afternoon. I started out about nine o’clock in the morning and walked to the Victoria Memorial. After that, I took a taxi to Mother Teresa’s. I didn’t see much there, just the front of the place. But I ran across a political rally for Mamata Banerjee’s political party, the All India Trinamool Congress, on the way back. She is the Chief Minister of West Bengal State.

So I stopped and got some pictures of that. I walked part of the way back, shooting some colour film.

Need to change money. Official rate is around 71 rupees to a dollar.

The walk in the morning was not bad. After a while, walking to the south, one gets away from most of those street vendors. They have taken up the sidewalks in so many areas. Now they are organized into unions and the government cannot dislodge them to send them somewhere else.

On the way, I crossed over to the west side of the big street. There was a large park across from the Tata building headquarters. I walked around that park and made a few pictures. There are signs forbidding almost everything. Not yet breathing, fortunately. There is even a sign that says that shooting film is prohibited. It seems that there are cameras everywhere. Presumably digital cameras and cell phones are fine. They just do not want one using film. What could this mean? By that time, I had already taken all the pictures that I wanted with film, so the sign came too late to do any good.

I walked past the Birla Planetarium. A little later, I came to an open area where there were some vending stands on both sides. I looked for signs that this might be the entrance to the Victoria Memorial. But there was not any mention of it anywhere, as far as I could tell. I could not tell exactly where I was according to the map I could find on my cell phone.

Finally, I went over and talked to a taxi driver. He said: “This is Victoria Memorial.”

I said: “Well, there is not a single sign anywhere saying that it is the Victoria Memorial. And there wasn’t. Amazing!

There should be a limit to nationalism.

It seems that they have become so nationalistic that they do not post the name of such a British monument, even though they are charging one to go in and see it.

I was quite early, so not many people were going in the gate. I lined up for the ticket. They had made it pretty stiff for foreigners. It is not important money, but it seems a little over the top. At least a couple of beers. The ticket is rupees 30 for Indians but rupees 500 for foreigners. They have made it some seventeen times as much for a foreigner.

Well, there they have it. They are actually putting themselves down, in my view, by doing that.

As I was walking in the morning, just down from the hotel, there was a huge throng of people. Obviously very poor. Some welfare organization was giving out free food. And the line was very long. It seems that the food was puris and channa.

Back to the Victoria Memorial. I went inside the gate and broke out my Minolta film camera (old SRT 101), because I needed the 28 mm lens to take pictures of the grounds and building. I sat down on a bench to rest for a while before going on up to the building.

A couple of people came up and wanted to make selfies with me. Why, I have no idea. But I don’t mind. A couple of times, it was attractive women, but with a man, of course.

After making some pictures, one must walk around to the back of the building which is the entrance. There is a security check set up there. I went through that and went inside. Several people were coming, but it was still not very crowded. But I noticed that it was quite noisy inside. Especially, people were shouting to each other while taking selfie photos. There were framed black and white photos along the walls from the late 1800s.

I made a few pictures inside, using my Leica M6 (F 2.5 at 1/15 second). I could do it without a flash, even though there was not a lot of light inside.

Inside, one is under a huge high dome. One can climb up to a walkway that goes all around the perimeter, about half-way to the top. I didn’t walk up there, but it could have been good for some pictures.

I made selfie pictures with several people when they asked me to. There were several people from Bangladesh. But the most interesting was this couple from Assam. It surprised me when they asked to make their picture with me. I stood with the woman and her husband.

Then, I felt her pressing her soft warm flesh against my body from the side. It was pleasant, but my inclination was to check my bag. But it was nothing like that. It seemed that she was just being friendly. Getting that close to a stranger of the opposite sex was certainly culturally different from the far more cold west. And surprising for me in India. Maybe Assam is different. I don’t know.

I took a few more pictures and got out of there. Out in the open air. Outside, I sat down on a bench and called Selma. She laughed about the huge discrepancy in the price for Indians and for foreigners.

It is a little over the top. Maybe four times the rate for foreigners would be slightly less vulgar and still make the point.

News from a Space Power.

I would head for Mother Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity.