Greetings from Kolkata
Or, the city formerly known as Calcutta, West Bengal. I missed the chance to say greetings from Delhi, but I was there too. I can't really blog much now--we actually have work to do here, and still an army of relatives to see and be seen by--but I will say that the traffic situation is noticably better here than it was, say, 8 years ago. The streets--in my home neighborhood of Ballygunge, anyway--are mindbogglingly well-lit at night.
Our first morning in Bengal was somewhat amusing. We managed to make it through Hyder's Bad, the hometown of Tipu Sultan, and the land of the Mughals without really thinking much about the growth of Islam
in India. Only in a sleepy suburb of Kolkata called, ironically, Narayanpur (village of Narayana
could be one translation) did two or three very loud speakers remind us of this phenomena at 5:10 in the morning---and kept reminding us of it until well past the dawn. Apparently it was some kind of Eid and so the call to prayer was loud and long, but it sounded to me like the two Masjids were competing with each other. After about a half hour, the roosters decided to join in, and then the crows, and then just about everything else--cars, buses, goats, cows, you name it. Even so, it was a while before the Masjids stopped being the dominant sound. Having slept through many conch and drum equipped pre-dawn aratis
in monasteries over the years, I was amazed that a religion that some interpret as forbidding music could make so much
noise with just a couple guys' ululations. The combination of comprehensible Bengali and the Arabic name of God, and incomprehensible Bengali and Urdu made the broadcast sermon even more distracting--I could understand enough that my brain wanted to keep listening, but not enough to listen passively. To a lesser extent that's my general experience of language here--I can't quite tune out all the people, but I don't quite catch everything.
Also, banana trees are really pretty, and it's cool to see them in clusters of dozens again.