DAY3:THE GREAT DIVIDE

13 February 2019

Another 5am start! All members of the group were up and eager for prayer and exercises, except for Liam… (he claims he was engaged in private prayer) and were beginning to settle into a routine at Udayan. However, that wasn’t to last for long as our city break to Kolkata was to come. With a surprisingly emotional goodbye to the students after Maddie and Sophia helped to serve breakfast, we set out at 10am on the Udayan bus, jamming to our Bollywood tunes and joined by some of the boys setting out to their three-hour English exam!

After another experience of the chaotically-organised Indian traffic system, we arrived at the Titagarh centre for leprosy sufferers, a moving and uplifting insight life in a leper colony. The centre, built between the train tracks and a ginormous land-fill site, was founded by Mother Teresa in the 1970s and provides a safe place for lepers to live, access to medical care and opportunity for work. Regardless of their physical disability, the group was in awe of the hard-working, joyous and hospitable people we met in there – a true example of why Kolkata is called the ‘City of Joy’. The centre looked glorious in the thirty-degree heat – a welcomed break from the freezing winter at home. After a short break of sweet-tea and biscuits, we headed out towards the legendary Fairlawn Hotel.

There aren’t many relevant photos of this day as the centre has a no photo policy but this one shows the huge waste pile that the Leprosy commune is built beside.

While we were living in the haven of Udayan, the group were somewhat sheltered from the poverty presented in Kolkata city, a poignant reminder of some of the harrowing living conditions experienced by many around the world.

For our readers who have visited Udayan in the past, they will remember the Fairlawn… mainly for its distinct hew of green and its devotion to Felicity Kendall. The Fairlawn has undergone a significant overhaul and is almost unrecognisable from the reception and dining room featured in the film ‘City of Joy’. After embracing the relative luxury of ‘The Fairlawn’, the group set out for the famous New Market. The overwhelming sights, smells and sounds of the city was a powerful introduction to life in Kolkata. Younous, our market attendant led us to ‘Saree Mahal’, where Martin and Co. presented us with beautiful fabrics of all colours, to tailor-make our sarees and a special ‘Bachchan’ Punjabi pyjama shirt for Liam. This was where Chris Mann took centre stage, with a performance of bartering worthy of the Dragon’s Den, leaving the group very happy with a great bargain on their Indian outfits!

The Marco-Polo restaurant provided a variety of meal choices, including some much needed ‘Western’ flavours for the delicate palates, however, the group did missed the home-grown simplicity of Udayan. After the meal we group set out for a trip along Park Street back to the hotel, (‘trip’ being the keyword for Sophia…) where we were again reminded of the great divide between poverty and wealth as we watched rickshaw wallers and market stall owners settle down to sleep on their stalls and in their cars after a long days work in the winter’s heat!

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