Today, my volunteering started back up again at the Kalighat and in walking to the Mother House to meet up with everyone I had my first encounter with a dead person lying on the sidewalk right outside the mission’s doors. If it wasn’t for the 4 Sisters surrounding the man when I passed, I honestly would have just thought he was asleep like the many other people I’ve seen on the streets so far and this experience has made me wonder how many other dead Kolkatans I’ve walked past thinking they were just asleep. On a more positive note, I am happy to say I found a way easier route today to the Kalighat thanks to a Dutch guy I met during breakfast who has been volunteering in Kolkata off and on for the last 10 years and who just so happened to purchase some land outside of Billings, MT a year ago. Small world...I’m telling ya. Prior to getting to the center, we made a stop at a local vendor and had some chai with a homeless Kolkatan guy by the name of William Sebastian (no joke) that my new Dutch friend had gotten to know over the years of volunteering. My Dutch friend’s philosophy on giving to beggars in Kolkata and life... “give to those that don’t beg and smile every day because life is too short to be so serious” and it’s hard for me to disagree with that credo, especially around here cause you need a smile every now and then to pick your spirits back up.
Once I arrived to Kalighat, I found out that my trip to the village the day before had saved me the experience of seeing a dead person there, but as soon as that conversation ended, we found out that another patient had just passed and that’s when I realized that death in Kalighat would be quite the frequent occurrence. Beginning duties for the day was laundry as usual and I found myself washing and scrubbing clothes with a Christian youth pastor from Colorado, a Hindu from India, and a Catholic girl from Austria. Later in the morning, after some chai and a nice conversation with a lady from Singapore on break whose take on MT was that it is “way too cold!”, I was asked to feed a patient his rice and meat for the day as he was bedridden. Outside of doing a “tickle, tickle, tickle” to an older Indian woman’s feet earlier who was in a wheelchair, this was by far the most personal contact I had with someone thus far and I was glad to have it. With me getting most of the 20 spoonfuls of rice, potato, and meat in the patient’s mouth instead of all over his face or neck, I’d like to say it was a successful first feeding.
After lunch was served, the rest of the day is spent cleaning the floors and after doing this I made my way up the road to grab an auto rickshaw back to the hotel for .25 cents...a ride that would have probably cost back home about $12. For anyone not familiar with the auto rickshaw I recommend two things...do a google search and check it out and two, ride in one at least once if you ever have the opportunity and hope you don’t get smoked by a taxi or your toast. Since autorickshaws can’t get away with charging regular taxi fares, I think they try and make up for it by cramming as many people they can on these things and in my case, we had 5 people in their including the driver...on second thought, make that 4.5 people since about half my body was sticking out of the autorickshaw because of how small it was. Since I’m writing this after the fact, I obviously made it home safe and sound and so all of you can take a deep sigh of relief.
Since I’ve been in Kolkata so far, it almost seems like a half day here is like a full day back home and with only about 3 hrs of sleep the night before and this is because of the sensory overload of everything. The only thing I can try and compare how hard my eyes and ears have been working over the last 5 days in Kolkata would be to compare it to about 5 Hispanics working in a kitchen and with that said, I think I'll be using the rest of my Sunday honoring the Indian tradition of it being a day of rest.
Side note…looks like my Seahawks decided to take a day of rest as well on Sunday against the Bears. Nice knowing you Hasslebeck and better luck next year boys.
Until next time and Go Zags!