Kolkata felt instantly different from the first moments stepping off the plane. To start, I could actually see the luggage conveyor belt without standing on a trolly to peer over a mosh pit wrestling to reclaim their belongings, as had been the case during my 1am arrival into Lucknow almost exactly a month ago… Then on the way from the airport we were driving in LANES, there were big buildings, massive signs, and no cows… it actually made me miss Kanpur a bit…
Here I am working at the Saha Institute of Nuclear Physics, which is much smaller than the IIT in Kanpur, as it is only for research (no teaching) so there are no undergraduates or peacocks, but instead it is newly home to these little guys…
… and my home is in the guest house, about 100m away from the institute main gates.
I spent a large part of the first week or so with my head down, trying desperately to clutch hold of the new ideas thrown my way at work and feeling a bit overwhelmed and unsettled again. But my colleagues here have been amazingly warm, friendly and helpful and slowly I began to find my new rhythm and explore my new surroundings, strolling around the parks, taking exhausting yoga classes, wandering wide eyed around the maze of shopping malls, and visiting the glittering “Christmas” markets with stalls from people who have travelled from all over India (Kerala, Rajasthan, Kashmir etc) to sell their hand made gems (half of which are now in my room). And finally, last night I was invited to a (roof top) BAR and was introduced to “sula" (indian sparkling wine). So the natural order of things has been restored.
My new (academic) family, celebrating Atanu handing in his PhD thesis.
All this is taking place on the northeast outskirts of the city, in an area called Salt Lake, and even though there are a LOT of people everywhere, I’m told it is much less crowded and polluted than the inner city and easier to navigate for a newcomer. So once more I am sheltered from the “real india” somewhat… but perhaps it is a good thing, as last week I was given a bike, and I have no idea about the road rules (if there are any), yet I’m out there weaving in and out of lanes, going the wrong way around roundabouts and peddling up roads in the opposite direction to on-coming traffic (not dissimilar to my driving at home…), and no-one has lights, but everyone has a horn, and for once I am grateful!
Micha, my partner in crime, arrives tomorrow (just in time for Christmas!), so finally it will be time to explore the real Kolkata, and in a few days we have train tickets to whisk us up into the Himalayan mountains to visit Darjeeling and its surroundings. Fingers crossed for no cancellations, delays or food poisoning!