“Where do you want to go?” my friend Santanu asked me, hoping to steer me to the right places in my last few days here in Calcutta. “Wherever you think will give me an idea of what it is like for a resident of this crazy, vibrant city!” I answered. I had been reading Lonely Planet’s Guide to India, but didn’t want to go to the biggest tourist draws.
We got a taxi and headed to Dakshineswar, a temple complex in true Bengali style. Because it’s out from the center of town, there are no other buildings competing with this fantastic, castle-like set of domes. The whole temple complex is painted in pastel yellow with dark red trim. It is impossible to describe the detail in the arches and patterns. Photos to follow. I bought a stuffed toy Ganesh.
Next was the Fine Arts Academy, and we looked at work by artists: famous and not, accomplished or amateur, five big galleries. Many people were in attendance and walked freely between the galleries, the theater,a movie theater and the outside spaces, cooled by huge, sprawling trees and water fountains.
We left there and walked across the road to Maidan Park. It was dusk, and as we walked towards the center of the open field, I noticed that the traffic noise was disappearing, even though honking horns and buses made a complete ring around the park. Bats flew over our heads,couples and families passed us as we sat on the grass and watched the daylight disappear.
Outside the park, vendors sold local refreshments, many of which I have been told not to sample, as one can pick up the dreaded…well, you know. Santanu bought us a small bag of peanuts (pouch of folded newspaper, very cool). They were freshly roasted, and were safe for me to eat. We walked all the way home, which felt very normal and really relaxing. I slept very well.