Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Calcutta - Durga Durga Durga

The Durga Puja
aka: Craziness In Calcutta

Meet Ritesh and Vivek. I stayed with them at their place for a week or so. They were too friendly with me and showed me how to enjoy Calcutta. We went out to see the craziness of the Durga Puja and had one of the greatest nights in India. Thanks guys!

The Durga Splash. All night, devotees of the Goddess Durga, or Mother Durga, the goddess of fearlessness and patience, representing the energy of the world. She is one of the representations of Shiva's wife, alluding energy to those to seek her power and wisdom. Weeks and even months before the festival, Hindus all around Calcutta gather to create a Puja for worship. Then on the last day of the Durga Puja, the devotees bring their puja statues to the River Ganga/ Ganges River, and push the puja/statue into the river. Sending Durga, and the other gods, to their freedom, noting that the River Ganga is a holy river. They are simply sending their gods back home.

We also partook in some authentic Calcutta side-street cuisine. Litti, or small doughy balls of grilled goodness, ended up in our stomachs as a mid-evening break before the craziness continued. Actually a Bihari style dish, this litti shop on the side of the Ganga River is one of the few places in Calcutta one can enjoy this small yet savory dish. I had two plates, if thats any surprise. Then we complimented this Litti with a "special" chai next door. Unable to gather what secret ingredient was actually put into the chai, I took it down with weary enjoyment and felt a little tipsy afterwards.

Now you see Durga, Now you don't. Enjoy the river, Durga.

The Durga Puja is a parade of the gods. Hundreds if not thousands of these statues built by the people would drive, slowly, their constructions to the Ganga to release the gods into the river. This means that if you had any other plans this night, and needed to get somewhere, you would have needed to leave several hours in advance to arrive. All through the streets, the many floats floating through the streets were shared by those viewing on the sides of the roads, as well as those drunk and dancing to the blaring music all through the night. As the people were heading to the river, Vivek, Ritesh and I went the opposite way, starting at the river and backtracking towards the center city. This led us to view all the floats heading to the river, partying or dancing with all the people in the street, and climbing aboard some of the floats and generating some pictures with Durga. What a beauty she is!!!

Hop aboard, one and all - Myself and a devotee floating with the God, Durga. Float on!

All the lovely people, where do they all come from? Where do they all belong?

Partying with red tikka on their faces - I too was graced with a red strip streaking through my forehead.

Women climbing up to pray to Durga, and receive her blessing.

Calcutta and an Ageless Time

Susmita, Beautiful Susmita
A smile that will outlive any other.
Hold her hand,
and maybe you will understand.

Poetry on the walls of the Metro.
They must have been writing this about the children at Mother Teresa's home.

The child ever dwells in the mystery of an ageless time
Unobscured by the dust of history.
There is a light laughter in the steps of creation
That carries it swiftly across time.
When peace is active swaping its dirt,
it is storm.
The breeze whispers to the lotus:
"What is thy secret?"
"It is myself," says the lotus,
"steal it and I disappear."

Good Job, Shipra, Good Job
For because of you, the world has flowers,
The World Has Flowers!

Hello Sister, and that must be Angel in the corner - does anyone see, Angel?

Inspection from the ageless time unto the baldness of an obscured history.
Cleaning off the dust of a barren landscape of past and future,
In order to view the everlasting smiles of those with the view.

To roam the places where only the ageless roam,
Searching for the secret no more,
The ageless laugh lightly as the truth unfolds itself,
like a lotus revealing itself to the unyielding world.
"Wake up, world, and see my truth,
For without my truth, there is no truth."
Says the Lotus, Says the Lotus!

Darjeeling - No Easy Way Up

The Darjeeling Crew.
Meet Phurbu, Sherab, and Tashi
For just over a week, I stayed with some friends from Nepal/Tibet. They rock! Their families are originally from Tibet, and my friends were born in Nepal and now study in Darjeeling, India. I met Phurbu in Marpha, Nepal, when I was teaching English. Across from the guest house I was staying at, there was a woman, Phurbu's mother, who owned a Tibetan shop. She introduced me to Phurbu, and about a month later I was in Darjeeling staying with him and his friends. They showed me around the town, introduced me to some high quality Darjeeling life and new foods from Tibet that I had never heard nor eaten in the past. Thanks for everything Phurbu and crew!

One cloudy and chilly morning, Arun (also part of the crew, below) and I woke up around 330am to hike to the top of Tiger Hill. We didn't see any tigers, but we definitely found a mighty big hill. There are no shortages of hills in Darjeeling, as Darjeeling is situated over 6700 feet above sea level. As we were walking up through clouds picking up a cold sweat, we noticed many cars and jeeps, which were taxi's, driving up to the sunrise spot where we, too, were headed. We noticed them noticing us, and we thought they were thinking that were were crazy for walking up in the cold and cloudy climate towards the famous sunrise destination. The drive would have been just over 20 minutes or so, while we hiked up for about 2 hours. As we approached the top, we noticed the same people who noticed us before, and they were now noticing us as they were driving down, but they had faces of disappointment. We knew why; the overcast of clouds had coated the sky preventing any anticipated glorious sunrise over the valley. We finally arrived - tired, sweaty, and now cold, but we didn't want to depart like everyone else, so we stayed for a little while. There was an indoor chai shop where we helped ourselves to two cups of chai and sweet sweet biscuits, and boy did it taste so good. We were now warm and our stomachs warm and happy, too. We stayed for just a little while longer, then proceeded back outside to figure something out. But we didn't need to figure anything out; when we went outside, not only were there no other tourists around, but the sky had cleared up. We could still see many clouds, but this time, the clouds were above and below the valley - allowing us to see Mt. Kanchanjunga, the third highest peak in the world. It was perfect. We had clouds, peaks, valleys and smiles. We chose not to take the easy way up, and sure enough, our hard work paid off.

A nice walk to some tea gardens where I enjoyed some internationally known locally grown tea.

Some festive attire as the Hindu's celebrated, well, being Hindu. Much of Darjeeling, however, is in fact Buddhist. People of Darjeeling speak Nepali as many migrated there for living and schooling. This was nice because I could continue using the little Nepali that I had learned while in Nepal.
Went to the Darjeeling Zoo and was pleasantly surprised at how well the zoo was maintained. Typically, zoo's in the developing world are not well kept, but the zoo in Darjeeling was clean. We saw some tigers, yak, turtles, and one nice treat was the Red Panda. They were so adorable and looked all fuzzy and fun to play with. Although, I don't want to imagine what they would do with their long and sharp claws if you did actually pick one up. Anyways, they looked fun to play with and were a good sight for the zoo.
This old man was sitting next to some prayer wheels and a local Buddhist Monastery, the oldest one in Darjeeling. I just thought this was a joyous picture, but don't tell him I took the picture, I'm not sure he knows he is now pasted on the internet. If one were to tell him he was online, I'm sure his wise Buddhist outlook would simply respond, "Is that so?" and turn away with a smile privy to those who only know.

Just a picture of some ugly ass bald guy in the midst of a number of Buddhist prayer flags.