There are so many famous places in India! Taj Mahal in Agra, Golden Temple in Amristar, Amer Fort in Jaipur, endless temples in Hampi… but forget the big sights for a moment. What about going to far away destination and getting a glimpse of everyday life? Watching people going about their daily business. Busy streets, full of people doing their jobs, seemingly unaware of a tourist. New things, new smells and sounds, all happening around you. People passing without paying any attention to you. Look around. Now you can take out your camera. Now is the right time to start your new adventure. Time to try to see things from different angle. Time to explore the small details about the new place. Read about my experience doing just this, being in Kolkata and watching the street life.
My first experience of India was on a photography tour on an early morning in Kolkata. Half asleep after long flight from Europe I trodden along the guide and the group. We walked around an old part of Kolkata, witnessing the daily routine of the place. We stopped many times taking pictures of people and buildings. We listened to stories about the place’s past and present. We enjoyed the moment.
But, it was more to the tour, than history and buildings only. There was food and drink involved too. It was then and there where I was introduced to Indian chai, my favourite drink of the journey. Indian chai is a flavoursome mix of hot milk, spices and loads of tea leaves. ”Poor man’s coffee’ said our guide. Chai is sold everywhere in India. Many times while waiting for my bus before sunrise I joined queue of local men and bought my caffeine fix. I brought back to Ireland chai mix to prepare at home, but there is no comparison to the real thing. But maybe it is because there is no hassle and bustle in my kitchen, so typical to Indian street.
During the tour we were able to try some of the local street food, all freshly prepared. Manjit gave us tips on how to buy street food to have the best experience. A great way to be introduced to local specialties.
Big part of the photography tour was visiting local temples and shrines. Our guide Manjit was very knowledgeable about history of the places. My favourite story was about Zoroastrians coming to the city and asking the ruler for permission to stay. He sent to them bowl filled with milk and said that the place is too full already. The leader of Zoroastrians added sugar to the milk and sent it back saying that they will make the place sweeter. No surprise, that they were granted permission to stay in Kolkata.
Summarizing, this type of tour might not be to everyone’s tastes. If you are only interested in big sights, you probably would be disappointed. But still give it a go, maybe you discover something new, a different way of traveling. A way of seeing real live of the locals, seeing them doing their daily chores, not only being your guide, driver or server. To see the lives they live when not working in the tourist industry, when they are back to their normal.
For the photography tour CalcuttaPhotoTours http://www.calcutaphototours.com
For tips how to organize independent trip to India click here.