Did you know that the University of Calcutta is the first university of South Asia, being established on the 24th of January 1857?
Today is known as one of the best educational centers of India, it’s a highly selective free public university and still follows the old classical approach and views in the study (like Cambridge University). Mircea Eliade, my favorite writer from adolescence, studied here too, that’s why I decided to pay it a visit.
I arrived there after an hour’s walk from my host, a lovely walk passing next to the Mother Teresa Center, the clothes market, and the fish market next to Sealdah station. I really enjoy walking in Kolkata, maybe I got used to India but I don’t feel any more people starring at me.
The campus was open and I started to visit the building until I saw a sign to the Asutosh Museum of Indian Art inside the university. I entered there without knowing that it will be one of the funniest things experienced in India.
An American guy was already there trying to get in, when he saw me, he told me directly you can not pay here but come with me to ask permission from the curator. I wasn’t very sure even if I want to visit that museum but I followed the guy. We were escorted by a guard to the curator’s office, when we had to register he asked the guy’s name and suddenly I became +1. It wasn’t enough that I didn’t know what I was doing there but I lost even the right to write my name?.
The curator invited us in and said very seriously: “We have a big problem” followed by 2 minutes of silence. Maybe it was even less than 2 minutes but for me, it seemed ages because I was trying so hard not to laugh. “Our system is online, if you want to visit the museum, you need to pay by card.” – perfect I understood why I was there. “Still I can not say to you to leave, you are our guests” – I am touched all the time of this kind of hospitality. After another moment of silence, he told us: “You will write a letter to the curator, explaining that you want to visit the museum but you don’t have a card.” We were escorted to another office, receiving paper and trying to write a letter to him to ask for permission to visit the Museum. Finally, I introduced myself to the guy next to me which I was until then.
The two hours spent in the museum were more about getting to know him than to visit the museum. It was interesting to find out that he was a teacher too and came to India for the third time. It’s amazing how this mysterious India brings people together from all the corners of the world, people that get in love with her and came back to have experiences like the one in the curator’s office.