The people are very friendly and helpful. If you speak to them in English they will do their best to communicate with you, and if they can’t they’ll find someone who can. Many ask you where you are from and are very curious about America.

Unfortunately there are also those who try to cheat you: buyer beware of some taxi drivers. On my first day around the city a cab driver almost cheated me out of 150 Rupees. When you read the meter you have to multiply the quantity there by 2 and add 2 more. For instance, if the odometer says 17, then you must pay 36 Rupees. A bystander next to the taxi noticed what was going on and started arguing with the driver, and translating for me. The latter actually told him that I had agreed to the price when I got into the cab! And when I said no way, the guy just drove a couple of several meters away from the bystander to see if he could continue to cheat me. The other man actually followed us and made sure that I was not cheated. Furthermore, he took a rickshaw with me, gave me instructions on what to do (I was trying to go to Kalighat), and what each person would charge me for it. Another man seating in the rickshaw volunteered to show me where the other rickshaw stand was and made sure they understood where I wanted to go.

All of this, from a conflict analysis perspective, is fascinating. In the US, for instance, if a third party would have intervened you would have probably asked him/her to mind his/her own business. But in India intervention by third parties is the norm, not the exception. I was advised, for example, when taking a bus or in any situation in which a guy gropes me (I’m absolutely avoiding buses at any cost) or behaves in a demeaning way to reprimand him and ask other people for help; most likely they will also chastise and argue with him. The process is similar to how Dr. Mark Davidheiser and fellow African students at NSU have described the intervention of third parties in The Gambia and other places in Africa.

The sound of Kolkata: honking. The traffic system is unruly over here. Per se there are no lines in the street the way they are divided in the US or other nations. Plus, the sidewalks are in such bad conditions sometimes and so filthy that it is better to walk in the middle of the street. Ergo, cars, rickshaws, cyclists and buses are constantly honking at one another and at people walking.

The smells of Kolkata: polluted air and sometimes garbage. People urinating in the streets, feces (human or animal) and dirt are not as bad as the overall pollution of the city. That is what is really getting to me. Try pulling your boogers out and instead of the green slimy little ball what you get is a black paste.

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