Monday, May 7, 2012

Calcutta-Delhi May 7-8

We had a good bit of culture yesterday. After arriving in Calcutta, Clinton went to a cultural center where she talked to groups involved in efforts to end human trafficking. Enforced labor, and sex servitude, is a huge problem in India and Clinton has made it one of her many causes. It is referred to, at least within the State Department, as TIP (i.e. Trafficking in Persons), so these things are called "TIP events."

This TIP event was pretty good. The main group, organized by one of these powerhouse Indian women, is devoted to training women who have escaped from enforced prostitution in "emotive dance". It sounds absurd, but their performance was pretty effective: they sang (well), and did a sort of modern version of Indian dance punctuated by a lot of loud, yoga-style breathing. The net effect was very immediate: you felt the women were telling a very personal story about their experiences.

Clinton watched the show and then talked to them for a while. Then the whole calvacade moved on to the Victoria Monument, which is old Calcutta's premier attraction (see picture). Its quite a beautiful building, but the museum inside was fairly modest. The main point of the visit was so that local journalists could get pictures of Clinton in the building's iconic archway. She complied...and the headline the next day was "Americans hail British edifice." Not sure that was quite the message that the State Department was seeking to get out!

We spent the night in Calcutta, and were up early this morning for more. Clinton went and did one of her "Town Hall" meetings at a girl's school, moderated by an Indian TV journalist known as "India's Oprah" (it seems everywhere she goes she is introduced by someone known as "X-country's Oprah"). The questions were ok, and the MC was very lively so on the whole it was a better production than in Bangladesh.

From there we went to to the West Bengal government building, where Clinton had a meeting with the province's new chief minister, a woman who has fought her way up in local politics and is now an increasingly important national figure. After the welcome (see the main pic) the two of them went behind closed doors, so we were left milling about in the hallways of the old British-style building. It really looked the way I imagine India to look: fans slowly swirling, lots of people milling around doing not much.

Then, back in the plane for the two hour trip to Delhi. I feel as though I was just here -- the last Clinton trip had us here in July, so the whole thing (at least the hotel) looks pretty familiar. This time, however, they cornered me to give me the welcome mark and floral lei....!