We’re very happy to keep you up to date with our intern, Francesca, as she completes a one month journalism Pave internship in Calcutta! Read part one of her four part series below!
My flight landed at 8:30am on August 1st, after departing from Gatwick and a stop over in Dubai. My Indian adventure began with luck, as I was fortunate to be the first through immigration and my bag first off the conveyor. I departed arrivals and hit a wall of humid air with approximately 300 waving and energetic Indians greeting me. It was chaos. Small boys were running around trying to carry my luggage and I must have been asked 20 times if I needed a taxi. Fortunately, I wasn’t in need of either service as the Pave member of staff out here in Kolkata collected me with a warm and friendly smile.
My first Indian car journey was possibly the most eye-opening but also terrifying experiences of my life! The roads and streets beside them were busy and over-crowed, all full of people trying to go somewhere or sell something. Tup-tups were zooming left right and centre and men were carrying sizeable crates of rice, coconuts and other spices on their heads. Street sellers and beggars frequently knocked on the taxi window asking for money. There were no lanes on the roads (and it appears no rules either!) – every driver fended for themselves. Never had I heard such a symphony of car horns so continuous throughout a car journey. I was informed the roads are choc-a-block from 10am onwards everyday (people don’t like to get up too early here), and despite my accommodation being fairly close to the airport, it still managed an hour and a half to arrive.
I quickly dropped off my things and left once again with the Pave member of staff to go the bank. HSBC is not as common here as it is in the UK and the closest was a 20 minute cab drive away. Once funded, we went to Flurry’s, a well-renowned breakfast eatery, and I indulged on some beans and toast – although the beans were clearly not Heinz having a base flavour similar to HP brown sauce. She then dropped me at a fantastic foreign oasis, Quest Mall, where many of our high street brands can be found including Burberry and Gucci. Fortunately, the mall further included a supermarket where I grabbed my essentials and walked back home.
The flat was empty and it was silent. I was the only inhabitant and was informed it would be that way for the next two nights. I’ll be the first to admit I had a massive hole in my stomach – there had never been a point in my life where I had missed home so much. I felt very alone, in a foreign country where I could not speak the language. Thoughts of regret lurked oppressively over my head for several hours, I messaged the Pave member of staff and she returned to get take out with me in the evening. It was nice to have someone to talk to.
I reported at 2pm the following day for my first days work at the newspaper. Their hours are 2 till 10pm, and they also work on Saturdays!!! I enquired why they had such hours (expressing ours in the UK were very different) and they explained that due to the newspaper being an English paper they wait till 2pm (9:30am in the UK) to allow the news to come in.
It took me three days to feel comfortable in my workplace, making a particular friend called Zeba. She wishes to apply for a Phd at Durham University next year, currently where I am studying! As the days passed and I completed more and more commutes, I noticed (and was severely alarmed!) that the swastika symbol was common on many vehicles and buildings. I was quickly reminded that it is an ancient religious symbol considered to be sacred in both Hinduism and Buddhism and was simply adopted by Adolf Hitler to represent Nazism during WW1 and WW2.
Within my first week, I was thrilled to get a page to print in the Sunday release. It was exceedingly gratifying to see my name in bold at the bottom of a newspaper article! Throughout the week my most interesting assignment was an event at The LaLit Great Eastern Kolkata Hotel, known as ‘Jewel of the East’ as a five-star luxury hotel. The hotel’s Legacy Lounge welcomed tier one guests including German Consulate General Olaf Iverson and classical pianist Jennifer Heemstra to an ‘Art of Blending’ evening session on scotch whiskies. I was fortunate enough to enjoy pianist Jennifer’s company throughout the event, with her showing particular interest in me and my agenda. We got along well, and I was taken aback when she offered me a lift home from the event. Both her and her husband Cory showed me incredible kindness and as I was dropped home I received a dinner invitation for the following evening at their place.
After visiting popular café ‘8th Day’ earlier in the morning and working out in the afternoon, I arrived at their home and two large genuine smiles. We ate a delicious meal involving a portion of fish from the local Hooghly river called Beckti, with asparagus, mushrooms and grilled tomato all sprinkled with garlic accompanying. The sight and taste of vegetables were truly magical and certainly one of my day’s highlights, especially due to my working hours only allowing dinner-on-the-job in form of takeaways.
My first few days here in Kolkata went painfully slowly due to missing home, yet as I became more settled the days passed that bit quicker. Next week I am excited for my attendance to high tea as a guest of Jennifer and Cory at the Indian Rowing Club, particularly due to being an athlete of Durham University Boat Club! It’ll be interesting to see what else this week has in store!