|Kolkata's earthy chai cups|
And that's how I remember it now, because I fell hard for this city of 14 million on the Ganges in far eastern India. It was a brief affair, just two days.
That's how it is with some places (and people). That's all you need.
I loved Kolkata's friendliness, its big-crowded-city-but-everyone-just-gets-on-with-it buzz and its bookishness: there are bookshops everywhere, even booksellers on trains. I went to the world's largest book market, where you can buy anything from a doorstopper on anatomy to the latest shade of grey at a roadside stall; I bought a book about Kolkata's writer-hero, Rabindranath Tagore, the first non-European to win the Nobel Prize in literature, in 1913.
|Brightness at the Indian Museum|
There's more in this Three-minute guide to Kolkata, the first of four (!) stories I've now written about the city.
But my three favourite things about the city were:
|Taxi driver-surfers waiting|
for their next fare
Modelled on the UK's Morris Oxford, they were first made in India in 1957. The last Ambassador rolled off the production line in 2014, but they're still going strong, keeping mechanics in business and resisting the siren song of the scrap heap.
I loved them so much I put some of my pics together for this photoessay, An Ode to Kolkata's Ambassadors. It includes my favourite photo (above): taxi drivers lounging on their cars like Californian surfers circa 1960 hanging at the beach between waves.
|King of the world|
Pic by Urban Adventures
It's not "slum tourism"; the tours help an Indian-Australian social enterprise called Pollinate Energy provide portable solar lights to slum dwellers in Kolkata (and other Indian cities), which improves their lives and reduces air pollution and carbon emissions at the same time.
It was inspirational to meet people working together to make a difference to others and to the planet. My story about the tours and the project, Lighting up Kolkata's slums, went live this week.
|Back seat of an Ambassador:|
my new happy place
Oh, Kolkata. I missed you as soon as I saw your lights dissolve into the night from the plane that brought me home. But I'll see you again, I promise.
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