News on the Ninth – India – #1 – October 2007

Bengali hospitality
We follow the man welcoming us in the arrival section of Kolkata with the signboard “Mr. Marcus and family, Germany” to a car without speaking a word. After almost an hour of “street fight” he stops in front of a four-storey building and leads us to the second floor. There he opens the door to a three-room appartment: our new home. Beds, table and chairs, a basic kitchen equipment, two bathrooms, fans on the ceilings are there, even a sitting group with a couch is available. Most of the things has been taken care of; it is like gliding into a bath-tube with pleasantly smelling, well-temperated water, where only candlelight is missing. In the case of our apartment neither a lack of light, nor of warmth is the problem, rather it is the missing drinking water. We distribute our remaining stock and lay down to sleep. After two hours a knock on the door – my colleagues are bringing a fridge.

Everything funny
Our four year old daughter has already gone through her first adulthood and has recently stopped her annoying “Why”-questions. Now, our new environment has coined a new favorite word: “Funny”. Rikhschas are funny bicycles, auto-rikhschas funny scooters, Dhal a funny form of lentile soup, the … funny pathways, not intended to walk on. The list could continue endlessly as basically everything is funny. Especially – and that appears most funny to her: All the people seem to accept this as normal. Slowly she is recognizing that she is the one, who is funny. All have darker skin, darker hair, darker eyes than she has. All speak to her, though they do not speak a single word of German. And then wonder why she does not respond. After two weeks, now her progress is remarkable: A honking car/bicycle/scooter and she obediently jumps to the street-side. Food is taken exclusively with the right hand. When entering a room, shoes are taken off etc. etc. Many things slowly become a routine and for our little one, they will probably become everyday life. That´s all the same, as long as she can go to kindergarten from next week on. Though no-one speaks German there.

Little Europe on the Ganges
Die Imambarah in HooghlyWe are – someone said so? – not the first Europeans around. Victorian architecture is omnipresent, the Britishers had built plenty of buildings in Kolkata. At last, the City was for a long time the second biggest agglomeration of the Empire. On Saturday during a day trip we have inhaled a packed dose of mainland Europe. Frankly speaking, not too much is left of the former colonial settlements. Several hundred years have taken their toll. Nevertheless, it was well worth doing the trip. A Dutch cemetary, a French church, a Portuguese basilica cum monastery, and – how else could it be – again leftovers of the British Raj. But as also some Zamindars, local landlords, left a palace and/or a temple the trip is far from being boring. The tour was spiced up with an exhaustive visit of the Imambarah in Hooghly. The Muslim complex with praying hall, guesthouse and religion school has seen better times, but the Archeological Society of India is just bringing back the old shine. The clock on the tower, a present from the British Queen, seems not to care too much about time. Every 15 minutes the bells, weighing several tons, toll.

The Scottish, the Danish and the Armenian settlements we had to omit for this time. They have to wait for another day-trip soon to come.

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