part time local

Being back in Washington, DC is always a tumultuous treat. I never spend enough time here to make it feel like home, but – unlike NYC – DC doesn’t change very quickly. So, I can go back to the spots I remember fondly and discover new ones at my leisure. Over the past few months, I have made a real effort to get out and about. The metro still sucks, but here are the highlights of journey.

I’ve discovered the Torpedo Factory with its art classes, studios and seminars. Just a few weeks ago, I went to see a talk by Sheldon Scott and discovered lots of interesting pieces by novice and seasoned artists.

 

My husband also got me to go to the CapitalOne Arena (formerly, the Verizon Center) to check out the Washington Wizards at their game against the Cavs. Let me be clear, the seats are uncomfortable, the other fans are kinda obnoxious, and I still don’t understand why cheerleaders still exist, but… it was a fun experience.

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I also revisited the Holocaust Memorial Museum for the first time since 8th grade. It was much less depressing than I remembered  as a kid and much more informative than I expected. I highly recommend that everyone take the time to check it out. It only takes about 2-3 hours to get through the permanent exhibit. The temporary ones tend to be about modern day slavery, which is also important to be aware of.

 

And though I’ve found myself being an architecture and design buff in other cities I’ve visited, I never considered walking tours in the nation’s capital.  The DC Design Tour of Georgetown was very cool and, frankly, took me to a part of town that I rarely visit.

All in all, living in the DC area has been a breath of fresh air. There are sidewalks and tap water! Even better, there are interesting tours, historical sites, museums, art talks, and apparently big events worth catching. I’m soaking it all up while I can!

Cool, Calm & Colonial: Kolkata

DSCF2546Kolkata used to be named Calcutta under the British.  But before and after their reign, it went by Kolkata.  The city is an obvious capital and it has the architecture to prove it.  There are mid-century terraces and lots of white-skinned tourists.  There are Catholic churches and functioning traffic signals.  It feels like the British were here.  And it feels like they left in a hurry, without an exit plan and without a nod to what was left behind.

What does it feel like to be in a capital that is no more?  It still feels regal, just without the new trinkets and shiny ornaments.  But it’s the old ornaments that linger amidst the poor and fetid street scenes.  It’s the backdrop to a place that seems to have been abandoned and re-purposed.  It’s obviously more modern than it used to be, but it feels so much farther behind than it should be.

I thought this would be an antique lovers dream, but I learned that Kolkata natives have figured out that I am not alone.  So the prices soar and the stock stays on the shelves, collecting dust.  This is how the city feels – dusty, stuck in a rut, perhaps of identity, perhaps of evolution.  It simply feels stagnant.

I have felt this stagnancy in other cities, but more in terms of mentality than in infrastructure.  Kolkata, however, feels to be stopped in time.  Its people seem more sophisticated, as if they’ve felt that way for a century.  They’re not as pushy or demanding, as if they know that they will get their turn.  They seem to know what they’re made of and, for what it’s worth, their most glorified ingredients are British.

So, there it is… colonialism embedded and lived.  Most of the other cities I’ve visited in India hide a colonial past behind a layer of feigned modernity.  You ask a Goan about the Portuguese and its as if you’ve asked to be shown where the cave men lived.  But in cities like Kolkata and Pondicherry, what was left behind has a present day identity, a present day marker, and a present day cultural currency.  Let’s face it, tourists aren’t visiting because they want to try Bengali food.

While they come to see Kolkata’s Mother House, they expect the highlight of the visit to be Calcutta’s Victoria Memorial and St. John’s church.  And what would Kolkata be today were it not for this reality?

Will there ever be a time when this is not the reality?