Lost in Kolkata

We set out in multiple minivans, intending to caravan to the government day care site where we would meet a group of adolescent girls who are learning hygiene and nutrition through games, drama, and peer-to-peer training. Our CEO Steve tells us this is a lower working class neighborhood, a labyrinth of extremely narrow, twisting streets, teeming with commercial activities of every kind. Small stores selling sundries, barbers, copying and scanning shops, butchers, cooked milk products, sweet shops, kids in school, women dressed in the gamut of Indian and Muslim dress, men on motorcycles, rickshaws, cars, garbage heaps, knife sharpeners, dogs and goats, and and and! Our driver quickly lost the lead car and his way, and, incredibly, we ended up backing out of these twisting, narrow “streets” once, twice, three times, with various cell phone arguments as he tried to figure out where to go. We passed Laxmi Sweets 3 times, and in this maze when you are able to recognize you have been here before you know you are good and lost.

The set of photos below are from this little journey.

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It is very difficult to convey just how crowded it is–these streets somehow accommodate cars and taxis (and the occasional bus, believe it or not) passing each other.

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This man is stirring boiling milk to make curd.

Self-explanatory!

Self-explanatory!

Produce everywhere.

Produce everywhere.

Butcher shop--mutton?

Butcher shop–mutton?

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Cauliflower!

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A linoleum shop.

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This glass case is filled with dishes that look like they might be various kinds of pickles.

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Suddenly a young women comes up to the car and beckons the way, and we are saved. We pull up in front of a concrete building with a metal gate and small courtyard, where a gaggle of adolescent girls waits for us, one holding a tray of marigold petals on which is a small scissors. A length of crepe paper is stretched across the doorway and as the board members, Bill Hamm and I share the honor of cutting the ribbon to cheers from the girls, who then pop a balloon filled with confetti to more cheering. Off with our shoes and in we go to a delightful presentation by the girls.

The site is a government run day-care center.  In the back of the room were a group of 10-15 toddlers playing--and periodically watching what the big girls were doing--another teaching opportunity.

The site is a government run day-care center. In the back of the room were a group of 10-15 toddlers playing–and periodically watching what the big girls were doing–another teaching opportunity.

They showed how they act out poor water sanitation as a drama of a family getting sick, for example, to applause and cheers, and then “the promise.” They hold hands in a circle, sing a song about how they will remember what they have learned, use it every day, and throw their hands up and cheer. The. A drama about good nutrition. Followed by the promise. Then an explanation by the girls about the three colors of the India flag, green for green vegetables, white for eggs and milk, saffron/orange for dal–and then the promise to eat these and feed them to their families every day.

This group of adolescent girls, most in school but some "left-outs" or "drop-outs" are learning hygiene and nutrition peer-to-peer.

This group of adolescent girls, most in school but some “left-outs” or “drop-outs” are learning hygiene and nutrition peer-to-peer.

They acted out dramas on a "stage" of chalked rooms (kitchen, latrine, water pump) to teach how to keep a family safe from diarrhea.

They acted out dramas on a “stage” of chalked rooms (kitchen, latrine, water pump) to teach how to keep a family safe from diarrhea.

Afterwards the girls wanted to take our pictures on their mobile phones.

Afterwards the girls wanted to take our pictures on their mobile phones.

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