Ileke Travels: Kolkata Part I
Kolkata was the second stop on our India adventure and home to my mom's dear friend Dr. Suchandra Brahma. Suchandra and my mom completed their residency training together in Michigan and not too long after she decided to move back to her hometown of Kolkata with her family. Knowing that the city gets a bad reputation Suchandra was determined to show us a different view of Kolkata and give us a perspective on why she loves living there, which she definitely succeeded in doing!
After picking us up from the airport the first place we visited was A VIEW (A Village for Independent and Enterprising Women the nonprofit organization Suchandra founded in 2007. The village provides safe housing for homeless, mentally ill women. The women not only receive medical attention, food and safe drinking water but they are also taught vocational skills such as cooking, sewing, and craft work that help move them towards independent living.
The village is located in Bagan, a rural area about 30 minutes from Kolkata and we saw evidence of how the organization's goal to integrate the women into society is already at work. Many of the local villagers passed through during our visit and interacted with the women there. It was incredible to witness the amazing work that's being done but like many nonprofit organizations VIEW is always looking for help. The staff are basically volunteering their time and Suchandra covers many of the costs herself. You can find out more about VIEW here.
Rural Kolkata (VIEW)
Kolkata, formerly known as Calcutta, is the capital of the Indian state of West Bengal. The city which is part of India's third most populous metropolitan area is covered in a thick smog, which I will admit made breathing difficult, but despite all the pollution it is a beautiful city. Like many parts of India, evidence of the long British colonization is seen in the 19th century architecture of government buildings and the tree lined streets and avenues. Unlike other cities that we visited Kolkata has many high rise buildings and even some of the older parts of the city are characterized by tall apartment buildings.
While in Kolkata we visited some of Suchandra favorite spots, one of them being New Market or SS Hogg Market, which despite the name is over 100 years old. We shopped so much in India that we ended up buying three new suitcases! Most of the shopping that we did was in Kolkata. There were just too many beautiful fabrics and pieces of jewelry to pass up!