| 'I believe any trip in search of wildlife can be coupled with physical activity and elements of cultural diversity to form a thrilling opportunity '
I arrived in Calcutta from Guwahati, a long way from the riverine wildlife of Kaziranga. The maroon colored mini-bus deposited me in a sea of humanity in what I hoped was downtown Calcutta . It was very hot. Calcutta has a poor reputation
in the West, yet it is Mother India's second largest city. I had come to see for myself. My guidebook noted a tourist information office at the train station, the train station! Somehow, it had not dawned on me to take the train from Guwahati. Getting onto
a tram, not wishing to go underground for transportation, and not sure I wanted to walk, I looked about to see many eager smiling faces. Conversation came easily. I was encouraged to see the museums, temples, visit Mother Teresa's facility, and spend an afternoon
at Eden Gardens watching cricket.
Once at the train station I easily found the tourist information booth and a smiling, young lady helped me with a map, lodging suggestions, and even an itinerary for my stay. I was most impressed. She was polite and very helpful. I was
not sure why I expected something else. I thanked her and wished her well. Her reply roused more curiosity, “please, welcome to the City of Joy .” I had never heard Calcutta referred to as the City of Joy . What I had heard of Calcutta was filth, poverty,
and dark confinements. My plan was to spend maybe two days and leave quickly, I spent a week there and upon leaving for Tamil Nadu, taking the train this time; I wished I had spent a month.
I walked along the river observing sacred funeral ghats. I visited temples and art museums. I spent an afternoon at Eden Gardens trying to understand cricket. I wandered the Sanskrit College and the many city parks. Everywhere I met
smiling gracious people eager to engage in conversation. I had expected a dark, dangerous city. I found a vibrant one rich in culture and progressive. Compared to Mumbai and Bollywood, Calcutta must be the intellectual capital of India . I found people as
proud of their colonial past as of their boundless future. In south Calcutta , I visited the Kali temple, Kali being the patron-goddess of Calcutta , and the Mother Teresa's Homes. On another day, I visited the Academy of Fine Arts on Cathedral Road and while
there I realized that in my own way, I had joined the millions of pilgrims who came here seeking enlightenment and understanding.
When I left, I realized I had found an inner adventure. There is as much varying diverse life and adventure, so much to see, and learn, and understand, in a city as there is near a river, desert, or mountains.AND
there is one thing more. In Calcutta I found a city filled with love, hope for the future. Indeed, I found a city of joy. The young girl at the information booth had shown me the way and I had come to understand it.
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