Market Day in Kolkata

Kolkota, India. Shopping always seems to perk me up, so am glad to report that my knee and I were ready for a productive day on the streets.

This has been an interesting city, but I’m glad this was not our trainer city in India. It’s very large and very crowded, but much more controlled in terms of traffic and actual traffic lights – with countdown clocks for pedestrians! And then there are the cabs – many now are the iconic Hindustan Ambassador cars, unchanged in design since 1958, and based on the English Morris Oxford. Now those are cute cars – just lacking A/C or heating.

But it’s still difficult to navigate the city, We can’t just hook up with a friendly English-fluent tuk-tuk driver who knows all the best shops for exactly what we want, and who will shepherd us around all day.

We have to rely in Uber here for several reasons. Even though tuk-tuks can be found, and the cabs are everywhere, language is such an issue that only Uber can be guaranteed to find your destination, even if the driver can’t speak English. Plus – for some reason that makes cab drivers crazy – they are at least a quarter of their price. We end up riding all over town for about 15 minutes for $1.50.

I think we’ve made it clear that India is a country of contrasts, but our hotel’s location is a real case in point. One of the most luxurious hotels in the city is surrounded by an unusually high level of street action, none of which would rate even one star in any guidebook, but all of which is highly entertaining and constantly in motion.

As we turned the corner from our front door, the shopkeepers and street food people were getting ready for the day. (Just a note about my pictures – whenever I can, I ask the person I want to shoot if it’s okay. This just involves pointing at my camera and looking questioningly.) Some great faces out there.

We managed to find some crafts and textiles that need a home in New York. Again, I have seen a better selection in other cities, and thought this place would have the best of all. It probably does – at the higher price points. But we are humble tourists and are not going home with piles of Pashminas. (Besides, it is so hot and humid here that I can’t even look at scarves without wanting to faint.)

We found a very sweet shop off a very off-putting alley that sells crafts of poor women with lovely needlework skills. I may be one of the few women in America who still uses cotton hankies, so I did find their selection irresistible – especially for about $.78 each.


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