23 Jun Kolkata, City of Joy…
In 1985, Dominique Lapierre wrote the novel “City of Joy” about the unsung heroes of the Pilkhana slum in Kolkata. You probably wonder, as I did, why use City of JOY when describing the poorest of the poor? I was definitely not expecting to FEEL Joy last week as I entered the home of Mother Teresa in Kolkata.
First, you are totally taken by the 115F and 100% humidity of the first month of the monsoon. Immediately as the door of the plane opened, I felt & smelled the heat. Everything & everyone is hot. But everyone is covered up in Kolkata. Men & women. No short sleeves, no shorts, no tee shirts.
Then you cannot ignore the poverty. Dazzling. Millions of people living, eating, washing, sleeping, playing, and working on the side walk. I see men, women, children, babies – mainly bare foot, often half naked, often emaciated – living on a few square feet of pavement, barely protected from the rain by a few pieces of plastic or metal above their heads. Poverty is everywhere I look. Garbage, smell, animals, old cars, old & collapsing buildings. It is a total overload of the senses in a colorful & noisy organized chaos.
But immediately behind this first impression, I feel in my heart a strange feeling. It is not really pain or sadness, but a spark of Joy. I almost feel guilty as this feeling arises. I even try to “force” myself to THINK differently. Should I be feeling pain? Should I be feeling sadness? I just can’t. My heart is telling me something else. Why? What do I feel…?
I take a deep breath, close my eyes, and slowly re-open them. What do I see? I see men & women, living together. I see smiles, many smiles. I see bright eyes, very bright eyes. I see families, I see hugs and care. I see communities, I see support. I see respect, I see love. I see Joy… Joy? Yes Joy. The poorest of the poor as Mother Teresa called them, have nothing but Love. Nothing but Life. LIFE in capital as Dominique said. These people exude LIFE, transpire LIFE, are LIFE. I am shaken. I am amazed. I feel this strong presence. It sounds impossible to describe – you have to come to FEEL it.
So here are a few shots of my first days with the beautiful Bengali citizens of Kolkata. Here are the colors. Here are the textures. Here is to JOY & LIFE.
Water is a precious resource. Very polluted in Kolkata as many places in India, but still everyone who can’t afford bottled water has to drink the water from the street.
Everyone works hard in Kolkata and many skinny bodies push, lift, carry, and roll everything from potatoes to other people in rickshaws like below!
I have many other pictures – come discover them HERE, and tell me what do you FEEL?