Sunday, January 23, 2011

Going back to Calcutta

To have returned to Calcutta is both strange and familiar.

It’s not the way I remember it, and I attribute it to four things.

One, the weather is so much more comfortable here in January and it affects everything: now young boys are out playing cricket; people are bustling about with less sluggishness; it no longer bothers me to see someone napping on a sidewalk when it’s so balmy out.

Two, Jacob and I have been in sub-Saharan Africa which is much lower on the scale of human development. Here in India, it is possible to live a posh lifestyle; not so in Accra.

Three, hope and optimism are in the air. People are working hard. There’s a lot going on…Calcutta is westernizing and developing at a fantastic rate. It seems less polluted, less trafficked, less crowded than I remember. Ghana is not changing at this kind of pace. India is supposed to surpass the USA in a few decades. Between China and India, Jacob and I are rooting for India. We think they’d make pretty excellent world rulers.

And finally, my views on poverty have changed.

To feel sorry for someone can mean you are putting them on a lower level than you. It’s slightly supercilious, and as these people don’t pity themselves, I don’t see what business I have pitying them. When I see people sleeping on sidewalks, I remember what Jacob told me about someone he met in Fiji: when given a choice between a bed and the floor, the man picked the floor--he preferred it.

Besides, I envy Calcuttans. Their city’s soul vibrates with mine, and maybe I will live here one day.



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