Dec 30, 2012

The view from my window, #2

24 hours and 79 stops later my train had arrived in Kolkata (Calcutta) and I'd checked into a room in a Buddhist temple's guesthouse. I'd expected to see the smiling middle aged men in orange robes. What I hadn't expected was to have a room with a view of Christmas. A Christian church across the street from the Buddhist center is hosting a week long celebration. As I write this they're dancing in that street. A dozen women are doing the twist to an up tempo version of "Strangers in the Night".

The booth on the corner is a clothes ironing business. Customers are waiting while a man removes wrinkles with slow efficient movements of his coal-heated iron. The white-robed man sitting in the foreground has parked his hand-drawn rickshaw behind the booth and is waiting for a customer.

January 3rd I'll be heading south along the eastern coast of India to relatively undeveloped Orissa. There I hope against hope to find a relatively quick way through the government bureaucracy to a permit to visit some of the tribal villages. In any case the area has some of the great temples from India's golden age. Temples even grander than the famous temples further south in Tamil Nadu. These temples are also still in use. To paraphrase what Michael Wood said the BBC series The Story of India: if Athena were still worshipped at the Parthenon and wise men like Socrates still wandered the Acropolis in togas, then you'd have something in Greece to rival what still exists here. The last great classical civilization lives on in south east India.

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