Thursday, November 1, 2012

Kolkata: Places not to be missed

Among the places mentioned in the WB tour itinerary, I was interested more in Belur Mutt for its quietness and serenity. This was how I remember it from my childhood when I had visited it and thankfully not much has changed since then.
If you have no time to see any other place, the below two more than make up for everything that the city can offer to the tourist.

 'Boi Para' on College Street is not listed in any tour itinerary but I had short listed it and boy, was I glad?!
Any book-lover will drool over the thousands of books lining both sides of the street. You have around a 2-km stretch selling study books, fiction, non-fiction, old editions...every kind of book one wants, at throw-away prices. And yes, no pirated versions...only original, second-hand books. I picked up about eleven of them. I could hang on forever but had to drag myself away for paucity of time. It is a virtual feast for a book-lover and even if you spend all your allotted time here, you'd be left hungering for more!

Boi Para on College Street, Kokata

The Mother House  is listed as a tourist attraction. We were about to give it a miss but fortunately, we did not.

Entrance as humble as the place within
Even as you enter the street leading to the Missionaries of Charity, you have people helpfully pointing to the House. It is so easy to miss the simple building. Sisters who we met, humbly joined their hands in a gesture of greeting. The entrance has a sign showing that 'Mother' is 'IN.' When you step inside, a quietness and peace seems to engulf you. Immediately to the right, you have a hall housing the last remains of Mother Teresa. You need to only step into the room and you feel some connection with Mother. A feeling of spirituality encompasses you. Your eyes see the traffic just outside the windows with their old-fashioned half-curtains; yet, you are no longer a part of the world outside; you no longer hear the noises around, nothing seems to distract you as you allow the peace within to seep into your soul. Some ethereal experience as you kneel to speak to mother.
I had a sister talk to me and pray with me. I was gifted pendants with Mother's image on it. I was given quite a few and am willing to share with anyone who wants them.
We went upstairs and saw the room that Mother spent her days in. The room was the size of a prison cell: one tiny bed that was barely enough to accommodate her tiny frame, a box, a small cupboard, a table and chair. And NO FAN in the hot and humid Kokata weather! She never had a fan installed despite the fact that her room was directly over the kitchen where food in huge quantities gets cooked.
Photographs are forbidden here but how I wish I could share the picture of her room to inspire millions of people. Even otherwise, you feel somehow that you violate the sanctity if you take pictures. Something stirs deep within when you sit there to watch the room in awe. (found the photograph here.)
You are not required to remove your shoes inside, you are not required to queue there, you are not required to pay to get a faster 'darshan'; no one pushing you or jostling for place; whether you choose to donate or no, you are treated with respect. I got a special picture of Mother Teresa as I shared my memories of meeting her when she graced our school decades ago.

People who read this post and go there to experience what I did, may/may not feel the same way. I felt a deep, deep connection. Seeing the peace on the faces of the sisters working there so quietly, overwhelms you. Is it possible to give yourself so totally to a cause wanting nothing in return?!