|After Delhi our next trip was Kolkata, it was Saturday morning and we landed at Howrah Station.
We had our travel agent “Let’s Meet up Tours” to pick us up from the station. The moment we stepped out of Howrah Station we got choked by urban pollution, the Ganges river-though it is considered to be pure and sacred however was full of filth and toxic waste. And of course the sanctified cows that don’t need the driver’s license to go wherever they want to, yet the city was luminously multi-coloured.
The representative was very welcoming and gave a concise introduction about the city, however when we crossed the Howrah Bridge we realized that at every signal when our car would stop couple of small children, or eunuch, would come near to our car and ask for money. I was advised by the rep not to give them money as that would encourage begging. I was feeling bad or rather sad that I couldn't extend any help to these poor children.
We were educated that one third of Kolkata’s population are living in slum and below the poverty line.
We were all 3 ladies and quickly made some changes to the plan; we were supposed to do a city tour of Kolkata however now we wanted to do a Slum tour in Kolkata. Thanks to Parvez from Let’s Meet up tours, for understanding our need and accepting changes to our tour plan at the earliest.
Following morning we were again picked up from our hotel and drove all the way to one of the largest slum area of Kolkata in the neighborhood of Topsia. We were fortunate to have both Parvez and Indu as our guide- they prefer calling themselves to be Tour Expert, which make sense to me. They both were so knowledgeable and spoke good English. We appreciate their indigenous knowledge on walking us through the history of slums and how it came into existence in Kolkata, they had the statistics at the tip of their tongue.
We started drifting through the commercial and inhabited district of this incredible community in the morning light which was a best part of our world travels so far. We walked all the way through every passage and experienced the sights, sounds, smells of the community, while respecting the truthfulness of its people.
The tour is run in an exceptional way. We were shown all types of industry such as rubber factory, and recycling, homes, schools and local market in this community. The community’s courage is heart-warming; everyone is very friendly and and all were wearing big smiles. Let’s Meet up Tours is very supportive of local projects. A high profit of the fee goes back into community. It was truly a humble and eye-opening experience that you would not be able to see through any other tour.
I recalled Mother Teresa’s quotes “At the end of life we will not be judged by how many diplomas we have received, how much money we have made, how many great things we have done.
We will be judged by "I was hungry, and you gave me something to eat, I was naked and you clothed me. I was homeless, and you took me in.”
It was so good to see that this company brought food items, stationery, etc from the money that we booked the tour with and made us distribute it to the children, so we knew exactly where our money was going into. I realized that I cannot feed all but even if I feed just one child that would bring happiness on his/her face.
We were all so grateful of their personal time spent with us - well ahead of our prospect