The first one by Tammois from Melbourne, Australia. And it’s unspoilt by preconception. Knowing oneself through others’ eyes is akin to facing a mirror. I quote a small portion of her essay:
In the space of four short days, I went from a sort of brain cloud reaction to the chaos of Kolkata, to someone able to begin to make partial meaning. Some of that meaning is troubling for obvious reasons – how can a place have such a privileged middle class in the face of stark poverty and crumbling infrastructure? But many of those same people, the intelligentsia of Bengal, are passionate, revolutionary, feminist, often Marxist and always leftist, and are doing their ‘everyday’ bit to find meaning and work within the constraints of a very challenging environment. Their students adore them, and they, in turn, shower attention and respect on their students, who are arguably even more self-assured than Americans. The intellectual passion and comradery I encountered in my four days was breathtaking and refreshing. I’m going to keep arguing for knowledge as a way to engender belonging. [Link to Tammois’ post]
Compared to Tammois’, Julian Azzopardi’s experience in Kolkata is longer and varied. His story too is full of discovering ‘wonders’ that many well-heeled Kolkattans do not seem to aware of. Excerpt below:
I have been to wash village kids that live on the banks of disease infested ponds along the boundaries of Kolkata’s communal dump. Run by Rod, an Australian nurse for the past couple of years nearly, his NGO Calcutta Station Missions, provides medical assistance to the residents of Dhapa and Topsia communities.
It is situated within the confines of Calcutta’s communal dump site. A miniature version of Ayers rock or Table mountain, it is not as picturesquely drapped by a table cloth of clouds or surrounded by a clear expanse of open bush, but rather is encircled by a hefty cloud of intoxicating gases, ravaging vultures, and rag pickers homing in on every single opportunity for a bite to eat, piece of clothing or recoverable goods. Link to Julian’s post.