Kolkata is lush, green and tropical, pleasantly less chaotic than Delhi. I realize that this information doesn’t make much sense, because statistically Kolkata’s population is as much, if not more than Delhi’s, but it seems more relaxed somehow. Maybe the warm sea air cools not only the temperature, but peoples’ temperament, too. It is also immediately obvious that Kolkata is more liberal than Delhi, as more women dress in western attire.
After checking into our hotel, we traveled post haste to meet the Carmelite Sisters at Carmel High School on Gariahat Road. The principal and vice principal, Sisters Nithika and Roshni respectively, greeted us warmly, serving us light refreshments in the school office. The school is comprised of a 4-story concrete building, the 3 lower floors for the school and the top floor for the convent where 8 Sisters live.
Our host teacher, Rita Banerjee, then took us to a beautiful club for dinner, where we realized another distinct difference between the two cities, and all Indian states, for that matter...the food. Bengali food is much lighter fare, coming from the sea and freshwater lakes and rivers that surround this tropical locale. Even the naan, an Indian flat bread, is lighter and a bit sweeter than that made in other states. (Correction from previous post: roti is the name of the other bread we learned to make. I mistakenly called it raga. I’m learning as I go along.)
Today the whole of Carmel High School greeted us respectfully and repeatedly with, “ Good morning, ma’am,” “Hope you are enjoying your visit, Miss,” “Is there anything I can do for you, Miss?” The girls, grades 5-8, are a confident and accommodating group, filled with a joy of learning and great pride in their school. The Sisters and staff have no issues with tardiness or absenteeism as the girls are all eager to spend as much time as possible in their wonderful school. All will go on to study at university and hope to become leaders in business, government and all manner of careers. They speak at least 2 languages, Bengali and English, and many speak a third, Hindi.
Tomorrow is a very special day in the school’s history, the 150th anniversary of its founding by the Carmelite nuns. Everyone is extremely excited about tomorrow’s festivities, so I will close for now to rest and prepare for the big event.