Posted by: janpierce | November 20, 2010

Oh Calcutta and the Airborne Shoes

We survived the 31 hour trip and arrived at the Calcutta airport  about 2:00 a.m. on Thursday morning. Unfortunately our hosts thought we were arriving a day earlier due to confusion about time changes on our itinerary, so they had come for us twice. When we first arrive in India, especially if it’s at night I’m always struck by the heavy quality of the air. The moon looks orange, the night sky is filled with smoke and grit and looks and feels heavy. It reminds me of night air after a fireworks display. And then the balmy warmth of the air makes it feel heavy as well. There is also a spicy odor and it’s not a bad one—more like you’ve crushed a sweet and spicy flower underfoot.

The drive to our host and hostesses home took about 45 minutes and of course we were barely functioning. Rakesh and Sarah are David’s sister and brother in law. He is manager of a tea company and they live in an old section of Calcutta which is upscale and has many of the old British monuments and structures which are still beautiful. We were given the royal treatment–a suite of our own and someone to bring us chai, a lovely little veranda area on a grassy garden filled with birds, etc. Sarah took us on two days of shopping excursions in some of the modern malls which put ours to shame and also in some of the markets where people follow you and take your arm and try to sell you things whether you want them or not. At one shoe store there was an opening in the ceiling where all the shoes are kept. The salesmen call out the number, style and sizes of the shoes the customer asks for and they are dropped down to the men below. When four or five salesman are calling out at the same time it is quite a spectacle of dropping and catching and shouting. Mr. Roger, who never shops for more than about ten minutes, earns the medal of honor for shopping long and hard for two days running. We found things we need for the wedding, and a few things not on the list too.

Then we boarded a night train in Calcutta in the midst of the gigantic station where many beggars live along with rats and dogs and once again I realize what a different world I’m in. We managed to get into our little cubicle room with four bunks and places to stow luggage and then we bounced and jiggled and ate and slept for the next ten hours. Our traveling companions were a lovely grandma, mama and little girl going to Delhi. We enjoyed visiting with them. The young woman lives on board a merchant ship with her husband and daughter and they go all over the world. It was fun playing with little 22 month old Misha. Diana traveled with us, taking us back to Allahabad and we got in about 2:45 a.m. It feels as if we haven’t been sleeping normally for a long time.

David and Diana’s home is a pretty little two story place which is westernized and comfortable. I’m sitting on our bed, typing in the luxury of a private room rather than our usual cybercafes filled with flies and sticky keyboards.  Roger begins sharing with a group of young adults tonight and tomorrow we travel to two villages where we’ll teach. I have some of David and Helen Haidle’s books on Creation and Psalm 23 which I’ll talk through using a translator. I’m hoping David Phillips can get these translated into Hindi which would be a wonderul tool to use in such villages. There will be older men, women and children in the village while the young men will be gone out into the fields since it is harvest time.

I awoke this morning to the sound of a neighboring radio playing Indian music and will soon go up on the rooftop to get the flavor of the area. I love doing that.

We didn’t get to see a lot of Calcutta, but I know about the vast and seamy slums. It was good to see the other side of life in India too–the professionals who live well and are gracious in their lifestyle of sharing with others. Rakesh told us of the work he and others do with the leper community of Calcutta and it’s wonderful work.

Thanks to those who are praying. I’m already dealing with a bit of Delhi belly and haven’t gotten to Delhi yet! Roger lost his glasses on the train, but David and Diana had spares of both the reading glasses and the sunglasses.

So, we’re here and the adventures have begun. Rooftop, here I come.



  1. Jan,

    Read your blog and really enjoyed it. You are a writer! I feel as if I’m on this journey with you. Thank you for sharing your adventure. I’m praying for sleep and restoration and that many hearts will be touched and changed as a result of your work.

  2. Now, that is an adventure! I am along for the ride (but only in my mind). Wonderful descriptions of a different part our our earth and it’s peoples. Safe traveling.

  3. Good to hear you made it there safely. You’re in our prayers.

    Mike and Sharon

  4. We are glad to know you arrived safely. Praying for a fruitful time. We miss you though.

  5. I wonder at your ability to function with so little sleep, marvel at the descriptions of a world so colorful, spicy, mysterious….. May He keep you both in good health and fit you for the purposes He designed for you. Blessings upon the bride and groom!

    Love to you all,

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