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KOLKATA PHOTO STORY: India’s Kolkata leaves no one unmoved

Incredibly poor, but with stunning images all over, the great city of Kolkata is one of the greatest destinations of the world's largest democracy, writes Erik Bergin.

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KOLKATA, INDIA — Flags are all over town, and on a great lawn some kind of demonstration is gathering. Loudspeakers call out for action, and everyone seems to be out in the streets. The city is in a state of chaos.

That, on the other hand, is only what you’d expect in India.

 

However, it’s not just any demonstration or national flag day. Kolkata, we find out, is a communist stronghold – flags and banners bear the symbols that were once those of the Soviet Union. Now, in an attempt to muster power to improve the quality of life for the millions of poor in the region, people have turned to communism.

About 1/3 of India’s population is considered to live below the poverty line, and around 65–70 percent live on less than US$2 per day. New Delhi, we were told when we visited the city, has perhaps as many as 300,000 children living on the streets. [pullquote]And, for God’s sake, don’t miss out on the food.[/pullquote]

India’s huge income gaps is making it hard for the nation to develop into a modern society.

 

Kolkata in northeastern India might often be overlooked as a travel destination. No wonder. The city is mega-large, bustling, dirty, noisy – and incredibly colorful and exciting. You feel alive at this place, a theatre show rolling right before your eyes wherever you look.

If you dare, make your way down to the river Hooghly, were ferries leave, and the less fortunate of the city’s inhabitants often gather to wash or look for food. This is maybe not the safest of areas, but if you don’t go alone and in a group you should be OK. Be careful with your belongings.

 

Kolkata’s markets, as everywhere, are also a good place to suck in the atmosphere. As are the traditional Kolkata taxis, funny looking small yellow cars branded Ambassador and produced by Hindustan Motors.

And, for God’s sake, don’t miss out on the food. We’d argue India has the world’s best food, often found in the sloppiest places. That you get a bad stomach from it is a myth – choose the most populated restaurants and street corners, and you’re perfectly safe.

 

A market in Kolkata. Photo: TravelingReporter.com

A market in Kolkata. Photo: TravelingReporter.com

A classic Kolkata taxi cab. Photo: TravelingReporter.com

A classic Kolkata taxi cab. Photo: TravelingReporter.com

Poor citizens collect debris down at the river Hugli, Kolkata. Photo: TravelingReporter.com

Poor citizens collect debris down at the river Hooghly, Kolkata. Photo: TravelingReporter.com

The bridge is used both for vehicles and pedestrians. Photo: TravelingReporter.com

The bridge is used both by vehicles and pedestrians. Photo: TravelingReporter.com

The dirty river water is used for washing and bathing, too. There is no other way for these people to find water. Photo: TravelingReporter.com

The dirty river water is used for washing and bathing, too. There is no other way for these people to find water. Photo: TravelingReporter.com

The pool is run by Mother Theresa's helping center for the poor in central Kolkata. Photo: TravelingReporter.com

The pool is run by Mother Theresa’s helping center for the poor in central Kolkata. Photo: TravelingReporter.com

Visitors at Mother Theresa's cenyter for the poor. Photo: TravelingReporter.com

Visitors at Mother Theresa’s cenyter for the poor. Photo: TravelingReporter.com

The Theresa center. Photo: TravelingReporter.com

The Theresa center. Photo: TravelingReporter.com

Photo: TravelingReporter.com

Photo: TravelingReporter.com

Incredible Indian food. You just can't get enough of it.

The incredible Indian food. You just can’t get enough of it. Photo: TravelingReporter.com

 

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The editor of the Traveling Reporter works as a business news editor, and is a frequent traveler. When not doing any of that, he spends time on his boat and tries to figure out where to travel next. Two of his top destinations are the Philippines and San Francisco. Email Erik! Follow the Traveling Reporter at Stumbleupon, Tumblr, Chime In, Pinterest, Google+, Weibo, Storify, Facebook, Traveldudes, Myspace.