"I'm going to speak my mind because I have nothing to lose."--S.I. Hayakawa

Sunday, February 1, 2015

The India Journals, Ch. 10, Later in the Kolkata Morning

Ch. 10, Later in the Kolkata Morning

You get educated by traveling.Solange Knowles

One of the things I love about traveling is running smack dab into history, even if—as is the case with India—my knowledge of that history is woefully inadequate.   

Whether is be Aryans (Indo/Iranian or Indo/European), Persians, Greeks, Chinese nomads, Arabs, Turks, Mongols (Mughals(, Portuguese, British, or other assorted raiders, India has been attacked, invaded, occupied, and/or conquered for most of its history.    Even the Dutch and French came to India to plunder its riches.

Shortly after the Missionaries of Charities Mother House, our bus drops us off at an Anglican church called St. Johns.

Ho, hum, I think as I pass the Doric columns of the stately portico and stop to read and photograph the informational plaques so I know where I am and where I took the photos.   Inside, a church is a church, even if this one is centuries old.   There are interior columns and I think these are Corinthian.   I'm showing off to myself, smug that I still remember from high school history classes the types of classical Greek columns, when it is actually a measure of how much trivia fills my brain.

On this particular day I can't remember the third type of column,  Ionic, so it's good the church doesn't have any.

Corinthian columns.  

The seats in the nave, some with their original woven backs, get my attention, as does the sanctuary—briefly.  I tend to dislike ornate and expansive religious buildings, thinking the money expended could have been put to better use for the people.    Whatever deity the congregation prays to can hear just as well in a humble church.

Old caning on the back, new plastic on the bottom.

So, I cross the transept, looking for a painting that is the church’s pride.   Painted by Johann Zoffany, it is a representation of Leonardo da Vinci’s Last Supper, but with an India twist.

For information on this painting, see:   http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/St._John%27s_Church,_Kolkata

As long as I’m on that side of the nave, I wander down the aisle towards the exit, passing several plaques on the wall before I bother to read one. And that’s when I run into history and images flood my mind.  I read another plaque, and another, and more.   I imagine the native sepoy soldiers in red and blue and khaki with camels and horses and lances and curved swords, and British soldiers in white with pith helmets. 

These are memorials to British soldiers and civil servants who died in service to the country during Britain’s long colonization of India.  ...killed by lightning…, ...died in 1857 during the Indian mutiny siege of Lucknow,   ...died in battle in the assault on the fortified heights of Malow and died leading the charge after killing the chief of the enemy.   

I am moved by these plaques, thinking of the unknown people who mourned these fallen soldiers, and the men who fought them on the other side. These battles were monumental in British and Indian history and I walk away from the church with a new appreciation for India’s history and a need to learn more, especially about the siege of Lucknow.  (See the above link to read about a memorial to James Pattle.)

And, as long as we’re talking about the history of the British in India, our next stop is the Victoria Museum, originally built as a monument to Britain’s colony and to Queen Victoria.   This is from the Cultural India site:

The Victoria Memorial blends the best of the British and Mughal architecture. The Victoria Memorial hall was built with white Makrana marble. The Prince of Wales laid the foundation stone of Victoria Memorial in 1906 and it was inaugurated in 1921 in memory of Queen Victoria. The Victoria Memorial is 338 by 228 feet and a height of 184 feet.

After World War II, a 16 foot tall bronze statue of victory was added to the top of the central dome.


The "fog" appears to be a constant in Kolkata.

A Hobbit House on the grounds?

The other end of the Hobbit House.

As I walk back through the immaculate grounds of the Victoria Museum,  I notice some restoration work occurring  on one side of the edifice.  A network of scaffolding is erected for the safety of the workers.

As I get closer, I notice that India has put its own stamp on worker safety.   Yes, the men are wearing safety belts attached to ropes, but....

Do I see bare feet?

Are those toes hanging over the edge of the 2x10" plank?

Note the worker at right sitting on that narrow ledge.

The Hindustan Ambassador taxi cab, modeled after the United Kingdom's Morris Oxford, is manufactured in Kolkata.  It has a five speed manual transmission, which must be a tiring car to drive in that traffic.    Apparently there are rules for cabs at the Victoria Museum as only one cab was allowed to park in front of the entrance gate at a time.   There are no discernible rules for cabs on the on the streets of Kolkata that I could detect.

Then, the bus begins to beep and battle its way back to the Hooghli River through the mid-day traffic of Kolkata, back to the Ganges Voyager for lunch and the start of our cruise up the holy Ganga River.    

Kolkata traffic.

And this is when the Hindu god of schedules and itineraries and timetables, assuming, of course, there is such a deity and it has a sense of humor, who heretofore had hidden its smile discreetly and smothered its giggles politely, has a great belly laugh at our expense.

A street-side cafe.

Sidewalk barber shop.

India, pure India!

Carriages for hire.


With the most uncomfortable seat ever.

Here comes another Muslin parade.

Cow in alley.

This cow is looking through trash for something to eat.

And, finally, a herd of goats, further snarling traffic.

Another cow.

This whole busload of women started waving at us!

Another cow in the trash.

Men bathing in the Ganga (Ganges).

Our country boat coming to get us.

Mary manuvering on the bamboo ramp.   That's Joanne from Vantage to the right of Mary.


  1. Another "glow" just seeing the street name "Chowringhee" there in Calcutta ... this is a major street for Cap and myself, used to orient ourselves to other locales and how to get there. The sleeping dogs made me smile ... they prowl for hours looking for food, and when they collapse, they are OUT! The children and adults and women waving from other buses is universal ... they LOVE to engage! YES, India DOES have a LOT of history. Love seeing your country boat come into view to transport you back to the main boat... hugs. Patti and Cap

  2. Interesting, very interesting. I bet you were glad to be on the bus just passing through many of the areas you saw.

  3. Starting at the top I used to attend services at St. John's with the children from the Lavinia House Sunday Mornings. It sure looks familiar. So too does the Victoria Memorial. I put up a post of my own showing the Victoria Memorial shortly after YOU established my own Google blogspot website an act of kindness and grace that I will forever appreciate. Love your comments about the bare footed construction workers .. Yes it is another world there. Ah yes the traffic in Calcutta.

    I MUST state this emphatically .. Your Tour Group certainly has given you a good taste of the .. call it .. raw sides of Calcutta. There is much beauty there also with lakes and nice quiet places right in the heart of downtown near the GPO (General Post Office). No sugar coating of raw Calcutta by your tour managers.

    It almost makes me homesick to be there and .. of course .. I plan to do exactly that later in my sojourn .. revisit Cacutta.

    As usual you do a superb job with history and research into your visits. You are .. in two words .. SOMETHING SPECIAL ..

    Smiles from Cap in Hong Kong and Patti in Anchorage ..

    1. Not sure Vantage tours could have avoided the poorer side of Kolkata. Our boat was in the Hooghli River and we had to go through many poor neighborhoods to get to and from. I'm glad, though. Many of those people waved as we went past.

    2. Did you ever read those plaques at St. John's?

  4. "beep and battle" -- neat phrase!

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