Traveling to Kolkata was far different from our previous travels as the distance from Delhi to Kolkata is the same flying distance from Chicago to New York (and actually, the same direction), therefore requiring an easy flight vs. a tumultuous 5-hour car ride. We arrived in Kolkata Monday afternoon to yet another sanctuary, the ITC Sonar, a Luxury Collection Hotel. ITC stands for Indian Tobacco Company and they are the owners of many of the Starwood hotels in India. My hat goes off to them as they do an incredible job at these hotels. Additionally, we were greeted by surprise by Anumeha’s dad with two trays of snacks and drinks as well as welcome gifts of handmade shawls and a purse (if you have been following these blogs, you will see this is yet another example of incredible hospitality!).
Anu (short for Anumeha) is the reason we were in India in the first place. I met her a couple years back in my bible study. A soft-spoken, incredibly intelligent, beautiful and graceful woman, Anu and I became friends and shared many of nights laughing, studying the bible, and talking about relationships and marriage and the complexity of it all. We couldn’t be more different as people, but again, such as life, my Indian travel experience and the awesomeness of God bringing us together as friends! Irony at its best 🙂 I was thrilled when Ryan had proposed to her and was honored and humbled to receive the invitation to her home in India for the wedding.
By the time we arrived in Kolkata, we had finally adjusted to India and felt some level of normalcy and peace. It was amazing! Despite Rick getting sick the first day and a half, and the small bug that stuck with me for the majority of the week in Kolkata, both Rick and I actually found Kolkata to be our favorite destination in India. Of course, it may have had to do with the fact that I wasn’t mentally insane there like I was in Jaipur. And it may have had to do with the fact the hotel served American food so we ate pizza and pasta 3 days in a row.
In all seriousness, the real reason we loved Kolkata was the overall experience it gave us. The people we met, including Anu’s parents, friends and other family members, as well as our friend Sonel (who worked at the hotel) and the rest of the hotel staff. Anu’s friends took us shopping, took us out and showed us an amazing time with many laughs, thanks to Tanvi, Deepu, Saloni, Sonam and Anchint, 🙂 We were able to meet and get to know some of the other Chicago and U.S. guests, which was fun. Our stomachs were more adjusted to the food so while I couldn’t have eaten Indian food every day, I was able to take in some of the local Indian food and wine. We worked out every day and I was able to experience Indian yoga which was rejuvenating and a refreshing way to start the day! Our favorite and most memorable part of our entire trip was in Kolkata and it actually came as a surprise to us when we found it was there: The home and tomb of the late Mother Theresa, formally named Mother House. Going to the convent (where nuns still live and work) where Mother Theresa spent 40+ years ministering to the local community, seeing her bedroom, the simplicity of her lifestyle and being able to learn more of her journey and love for Jesus was truly a once-in-a-lifetime experience. She was Albanian by blood. Indian by nationality. Catholic by faith. And her heart belonged to Jesus. She lived to serve Him and ultimately, save lives of so many by preaching the gospel and truly loving even the poorest and sickest of people.
And then, for us to be a part of an Indian wedding and immersed in the culture and family of Anu was truly a blessing. We laughed, we danced at the Sangeet, I wore a sari and mehndi (aka henna), Rick wore a kurta and a turban, and we witnessed Anu and Ryan’s Christian wedding at St. Paul’s Cathedral in the heart of Kolkata (a prominently Hindu city…again, Indian irony at its best!). By the time we had to leave Kolkata and say our goodbye’s, we were actually sad and in a way, didn’t want to leave! We had so much fun with Anu, Ryan, their friends and families that it really did make it hard for us to go home.
It’s now just humorous looking back at the first week we had in India and comparing it with our second week. While both experiences were unique and taught us a lot, they were polar opposite in a lot of ways. I am truly thankful and appreciative of my experience in India. I am honored to have met such warm, kindhearted people. India will always hold a special, special place in my heart 🙂