A reflection by Erin:
Sitting on an upside-down bucket, I watch her line-up and pour six cups of milk tea while she hands two other customers samosas. She asks me how my day was and what I had eaten for lunch. My friend, who we’ll call “lady cha,” owns and operates a tea stand near our house. It’s a small tarp-covered structure surrounded by a few red and blue stools, a bucket or two and one bench. When I first met lady cha, we only exchanged perfunctory greetings – but after a few months we have become friends…well as much as our limited ability to converse in the same language allows us to be. My friend never lets me pay for cha. If I try, she says “we’re friends aren’t we – done.”
Lady cha’s hospitality is not a rarity here in Kolkata. During my short time in this city, I have been given and gifted with deep kindness that I cannot truly convey with words. It’s crazy really when I think about it. Four months ago, I was a stranger in this sometimes overwhelming, sometimes glorious, always incredible place, but I am no longer a stranger. I have been welcomed and loved by so many. The hospitality I have been shown is without measure. If you have a spare moment-or week-or month, come on over to Kolkata and we’ll treat you to some good ole fashioned Bengali hospitality. Or better yet, gift someone in your neck-of-the-woods, maybe a stranger or “newbie”, with some kindness. I hear nothing beats a warm cup of tea on a cold day!