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Slum dogs, slum kids, slum houses

Kolkata, India

Because of the date of our flight down south, we've ended up with 5 days in Kolkata - the longest time we've spent anywhere. This was a little perplexing when at breakfast the first day, we started talking to some people, who told us there's not much to see in Kolkata! What would we do for 5 days!?

Those same people were volunteers at Mother Theresa's Missionaries of Charity. I asked if it would be possible to go down and help out for a few days. When we first started planning the trip, I'd hoped to spend a few weeks helping here, but it just wasn't going to work out time wise.

So we headed down to the induction afternoon, where they described what they do at each of the 7 houses around the city. They suggested that as we're only here for a few days, we'd get the most out of helping at one of the houses for the destitute and dying. It's a more intense experience, but that's what we were after. We're here to learn about the country and the culture, and this is an important aspect.

So we went down for a couple of afternoons. Within 3 mins of arriving, I was helping a very old (and sick) woman go to the bathroom. Within 3 mins of arriving, Glen was helping put a very old (and sick) man in a coffin. Glen wins!

The afternoons were spent mostly talking and sitting with the patients. Many of the women didn't have much English at all, but they still liked to talk. I think many of them just needed an ear and a smiling face. Many of the women were metally infirm also. But the sisters showed us ways each liked to interact, and most just liked to smile at me and play with my jewellery. My favourite patient loved to be tickeled, and every time I even looked at her she would digress into fits of laughter.

When we weren't loving on them all we were feeding them, combing their hair, changing beds (for those who didn't make it to the bathroom), or helping them put on and take off clothes. Not exactly glamourous work, but very humbling.

This house (Prem Dan) was a 15min bus ride out of the city, in an area with slums all around. This was amazing too. As soon as I took out my camera we were inundated by hordes of kids who kept following us wanting pictures, handshakes and chocolate. One cheeky kid kept asking me "chocolate? Biscuit? Rupees? Camera?". Cheeky sausage. No way was I giving her my camera! They followed us all the way to the bus stop, trying everything they could to stop us going and trying to convince us to buy them treats. One kid launched herself onto Glen's back and refused to get off. There are pictures of Glen carrying her around, and it looks like he's being all nice to the kid. Actually, he's trying to pry her off himself!

The people out there were lovely. They weren't at all negative towards us, and didn't beg or ask for anything. It was a refreshing experience, after all the begging in the city, where people make you feel awful for not helping them. Those people are however, professional beggars, who are brought into the city in the morning by slum lords, and taken home at night. They are very good at what they do, and know all the tricks.

Most of all, it seemed (though we only got to see one side of their lives) that they were happy. The kids were running around playing and laughing as only kids can. The adults were smily and gracious to us. It's amazing.

The rest of our time in Kolkata has been spend trawling the street markets (sensing the theme here?!), eating Dominoes in bed with cable and giant bottles of Kingfisher beer (yes, I'll admit it), and going to the first Indian supermarket we've seen. PS. you can buy giant boxes of Ghee here!

Last night we had our first bad meal in India. After 3 1/2 weeks of travel we've only had one bad meal. Very cool. At least the bad meal was stupidly cheap (about $1 each). We made ourselves feel better by going to the supermarket and buying chocolate, icecream, biscuits etc and feasting at home.

Tonight we fly down to Chennai, and hop straight on a bus to Madurai, right down the south end of India (that is, if our flight isn't delayed and we don't miss the bus!)


Mags (frozen product)

You're Cool
permalink written by  Capto on January 24, 2010 from Kolkata, India
from the travel blog: Two months in Limbo
tagged Kolkata, Slum and MotherTheresa

Send a Compliment

Margaret what a privileged glimpse of Real Life - you will never forget this.
What a special time.
Love, Mum
p.s. wonderful photos!

permalink written by  Lesley on January 25, 2010

Love read your writings Margaret! Very proud of Glen and yourself lending a helping hand :)

permalink written by  MS5013 on January 28, 2010

Margaret, thankyou so much for keeping us so well up to date with yours and Glen's adventure.Big hug for my boy, Shirley (Glen's mum) xx

permalink written by  Shirley Prins on January 28, 2010

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