One thing I really wanted to see in Kolkata was was the Mullick Ghat flower market. Based on Indian movies I’ve seen such as “Monsoon Wedding” or “Darjeeling Limited,” all I could picture were piles and piles of yellow and orange marigolds.
With images of flowers dancing in my head, Steve and I set out to find the market. We passed document typists on the sidewalk (a romantic throwback from days of yore when scribes composed letters for the illiterate), men carrying immense parcels on their heads, stands full of exotic spices and fruit sellers on cell phones. Nearly an hour after we set off on foot in 100 degree weather, we arrived at our destination.
The squalor shocked me at first. The flower market was located in a small, muddy lane adjacent to the Hooghly River, underneath the Howrah Bridge. Mixed in with the mud were smashed terra cotta tea cups, shredded newspaper, old shoes and the wilted wares that didn’t find their way to a vase the day before.
Wrinkled old women squatted on mats overflowing with buds of every kind, but most notably the marigolds I imagined, strung onto long garlands.
Laundry hung on lines in front of dilapidated shacks, jackdaws pecked at garbage piled high along the river’s banks, and I anticipated a rat would run across my foot at any moment. Young men beckoned us to take their photo while old men stared warily at the foreigners.
Two young women clad in purple and green saris shouted angrily at each other, gesticulating wildly at some unknown offense.
We wandered amidst the dismal beauty until the rain started, adding another layer of mud to the already slippery path.