Woke up this morning around 5:15 am and the Muslim prayer echoing outside my window was right on cue as it has normally been for my last 3 nights on Sudder St. I can’t say I have any idea what is being said in the prayer, but I’ll admit it’s a pretty soothing alarm clock to wake up to. Of course, as soon as I started to think I was beginning to get this Kolkatan life figured out, leave it to me to start rinsing my toothbrush with the water from the bathroom faucet. You’re not in Montana anymore Tyson...you can’t do that over here remember.
My 20 minute walk from the hotel today to the Mother House was pretty standard I’d say...crow eating a rat on the street...check! Kolkatan washing himself in the middle of the street...check! Beggar pleading with me “uncle, uncle” for some change...check! Even though I’ve only been here now for 5 days, a lot of the “shock” that I initially experienced upon arriving in Kolkata has gone down in voltage. This is a good thing in the sense that all the noise and activity of Kolkata almost goes down by a few decibels, but it’s not good because it also means the guy in rags I passed by today generated less emotion in me than it did when I first got here and I don’t like acknowledging that fact. See something enough times and you just kind of grow numb to whatever that might be and as much as I hate to admit it, a little numbness in Kolkata might not be a bad thing because if you didn’t have it, I think you could die of a broken heart.
My day at Kalighat today consisted of the usual activities. Prior to visiting Kolkata, I always said I wanted to experience the “poorest of the poor” with all my senses and today, it was the first time I actually touched it as I tried to give as much comfort as I could to one patient that is always looking for a little love from a volunteer as they pass by. What was hard with this patient is that she’d never want to let go of you and when other responsibilities were required of me on a couple different occasions, I’d have to kind of gently pry her hands away from mine and I didn’t like having to do that because it gave me a sense of abandoning her. After walking out of today’s shift, it left me kind of frustrated because I had a sense of powerlessness in making things better for the people in Kalighat. Sure I can give them love, hold their hand, and provide them with a warm smile, but those things don't give these people their life back and that is what you are left wanting to give these people after seeing them.
After my shift, it was time to grab some lunch and my new volunteer friend from Indiana by the name of Dale recommended a “local Indian place” that he said he was dying to experience and it turned out to be McDonald’s. This McDonald’s was easily the nicest McDonald’s I’ve ever eaten at as it had doormen and a layout that had more of a casual dining ambiance to it than it did fast food. Back home, walking into McDonald’s with bedhead and sweatpants would have been just fine, but I wouldn’t have been comfortable doing the same thing at this McDonalds as it had some serious class. With this being such a special occasion, I felt like I needed to “go big or go home” so I decided to order the Maharaja Mac Combo...Large Size it Please! The Maharaja Mac is the Big Mac equivalent of back home and since Indians don’t eat beef, they used chicken patties as a substitute. When my meal was all said and done, I can say the fries were delicious as usual and the Maharaja Mac didn’t disappoint either. After lunch, my next big item of agenda for the day was to get an international phone so I’d have a better way of getting in touch with people over here as well as back home and after a few stops here and there to make this happen, I am happy to say my front pocket is now home to a Nokia1800 with a ringtone of Jiya Se Jiya.
After looking back on my day and kind of thinking I’m starting to get things figured out around here...I then rinsed my second and last toothbrush under my sink faucet!
Take Care and Go Zags!