November 2, 1961 – Calcutta

Grand Hotel, Calcutta, India – Clear

     Today Edith and I both got up early and were anxious were ready to see more of what India looked like.  While I got ready to go downstairs for breakfast I thought of the family I’d seen outside on the street yesterday and wondered if they were still there so I looked out the window.  It seemed the woman I assumed to be the mother was missing but I did see the father washing some clothes and the children were still asleep.  While I was watching the mother came back, shook the kids and gave them food that she had carried back.  I wondered what she had found and where it had come from.  I felt nosey to be spying on them but I couldn’t help myself.  I noticed along the sidewalk there were numerous water pumps people were getting water from.  In addition looking farther along the sidewalk I could see many 3 by 3 foot square reservoirs that people seemed to be using to wash their dishes in.  The water didn’t look clean and I worried about them getting diseases from using it.

      Breakfast was nice and I enjoyed the food very much although I felt guilty because I had so much to eat when I knew the little family outside my hotel window had so little.

      On our tour during the morning I didn’t realize a big city could be so crowded and dirty and have so many poor people.  Cows wandered all over the streets and they left manure.  I saw one woman pick up some cow manure in front of her home and pat cakes of it on the walls.  Watching her handle the manure that way made me cringe.  As we drove around I saw people of all ages asleep on the street.  They were rolled up in blanket even though it was the middle of the day. 

      As we traveled Ali, our guide for India, told us the people we saw working on the roads were Communists.  We watched as they were handled roughly by the police who were their guards.  Another sad thing and I kept seeing so many sad things here in India.

      We drove along the Ganges River to see their famous Botanical Gardens and saw numerous people bathing in the sacred river.  I noticed the Ganges had considerable boat traffic on it but I thought it might be normal because it was an industrial city.  Calcutta’s Botanical Gardens covered 270 acres and fronted on the Highly River.  We saw the largest Banyan tree in the world.  It covered an area of 1,328 feet, had 1,000 roots and stood 51 feet high.  Ali told us the Banyan tree was reportedly 200 years old.  He also mentioned that the garden had an enormous collection of orchids, bamboos, palms and some pine plants.

      I noticed in driving around that this was the only large city we’d visited where we didn’t see signs that the government had built or was building apartments for the poor people. Ali told us that there were 50,000 homeless people in Calcutta that had to abide on the streets.  He shook his head in dismay as he said you will find beggars everywhere unless the police drive them off.  His comments made me think of the obviously homeless family I’d seen outside our hotel room.

      We lunched back at the hotel and then had the afternoon to ourselves.  After eating I took a couple of pictures of Calcutta from the hotel and then Gertrude said she wanted to go shopping so we decided to go together. Ali took the Cloptons, Gertrude and I around to some shops that he thought we would like the most.  The stores we found were all under one roof and sold everything.  I found one store and bought a shawl for $6 and a Sari for $14 American dollars which seemed very cheap.  The Sari was white and gold, quite delicate.  I hoped Ramona would like it.

      I found out that Gertrude wasn’t a really good shopper because she was too fearful of going into shops or buying anything so she got bored looking around easily.  I hadn’t finished shopping so Ali stayed with me when Gertrude and the Cloptons decided to return to the hotel.  By the time I was ready to leave it was dark so Ali walked me back to the hotel so I wouldn’t be alone.  He was very cautious and urged me to hurry through the streets since it was getting late.  We had to pass several groups of people and wandering cows so I could see why Ali was concerned about getting me back to the hotel as soon as possible.

      I noticed when we got ready for dinner that I had a headache and a little cough so I took a couple of aspirin to stave off the symptoms in case I had gotten a cold.   

     Dinner was good but there was no entertainment so afterward I returned to my room to rest and go to sleep.  Edith opted to go to Flo’s room where she played cards with Gertrude, Curt and Flo.  It felt good to have the room to myself for a few minutes to think.  I must have drifted off soon after I went to bed because I didn’t hear Edith come back to our room.


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