Monday, February 11, 2008

Both the best and the worst

India is a country of contrast from great beauty to great suffering.

Today began with a lovely breakfast buffet. Then we went to the Kalighat, Hindu, temple http://www.indiantemples.com/Bengal/kalighat.html And today happens to be a festival "Saraswati Puja" http://www.bangalinet.com/saraswatipuja.htm so the temple was PACKED! I some how ended up on a tour junket where we were whisked through all of the things one is supposed to do at the temple. It was rather expensive in the end but it was the only way we would have actually made it through with out waiting hours in line. The guide was excited to tell me that he thinks I will soon have a son. Man did I ever stay away from that fertility cactus he showed me at the temple!!! He was also eager to show us the goat sacrifice which we quickly avoided. (However I did see some ones that had already been sacrificed in a side alley).

After this we went to New Market, which is a 7 block shopping district founded by the British in the 1800's. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/New_Market,_Calcutta We wandered around for a while and looked at the various shops; household items, fabric, souvenirs, and so on. I went to the pharmacy and picked up some antiseptic antihistamine creme for my WICKED mosquito bites. Seriously they are viscous biters. I now wear shoes and repellent.

We came back to the hotel and had a light dinner and then went for our spa treatments. The treatment was 2 hours with a salt scrub and massage and was lovely (and reasonably priced). It was so relaxing.

All around you see the vast economic divide among the very rich Indians and the very poor. The contrast of opulent saris and people in tattered clothing. I suppose this divide exists in Canada but here it is much wider.

In contrast to lovely food, friendly people, rich culture and amazing architecture we also witnessed much on the other side. We saw dogs eating the severed head of another dog (whom I just hope was killed in a car accident - we have only seen people being very kind to the dogs), sweet puppies - chewing on a dead piglet in the garbage heap, elderly women and mothers with infants begging for rupees and children digging through the miles of garbage piles to pull out bits of plastic. The level of poverty continues to break my heart.

"Let us rise up and be thankful, for if we didn't learn a lot today, at least we learned a little, and if we didn't learn a little, at least we didn't get sick, and if we got sick, at least we didn't die; so, let us all be thankful." - Buddha

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