We may culturally say, “how are you?” when we encounter a person, but here in India, most people say “What’s Happening?” It took me a while to get used to that since I associate those words with accidents or bad things going on. Just a week here and people already know me on the street. I feel like I’ve been here for months, since every day is completely filled from morning until night and people here become friendly (with an obvious agenda) very quickly. Sometimes I go with my gut and I am completely wrong. My friend said it well when she said you feel like a spinning compass in this land. I like being known on the streets, it actually makes me feel quite safe because when I’ve been harassed by others, my Indian mates have come to the rescue. I often eat at this place everyone calls China Lane, seated on a hard bench. A woman hands me a steaming metal plate with newspaper underneath it, so I don’t burn my hands. They always call me “chili” as I walk by because I always ask for more chilis on my food; the spicier, the better is my motto!
It is high season now, so the beggars have come from many different places to be on Sudder Street, where the backpackers mostly stay. I found out that a beggar man with one arm actually runs this street. I actually really enjoy all the children that run up to me and want to hold my hand or shake my hand. They always say, “hello auntie.” It is taught in schools to call women and men, “auntie and uncle”. It is like their version of mister or missus. When I handed out some pens today near Daya Dan, the children were unbelievably excited. People here are so poor that some have never owned a pen. They were so thankful to receive it.
I stick with the WHO water recommendations since the water here is absolutely filthy. Every possible disease you can think of is in the water. It is no wonder people die early and often here. The water I drink is either Aquafina or Kinley. I prefer to stick to the name brand water made by Pepsi that is available here. I noticed that the other water here claims that it is “purified using state of the art water filtration through the use of reverse osmosis.” I burst out laughing when I read this part, because from what I’ve been told, the water is just “filtered” by passing it over rocks. Ha ha.
The days are very tiring after working with these children, teaching them color concepts or taking them to meditation, feeding them, bathing them, dressing them, doing laundry, cleaning up their excrement. The sisters cannot afford diapers, except for one day a week, which is usually Sunday, when they are in their church clothes, so the probability of you getting some sort of bodily fluid or solid on you is high.
Today, I found a new respect for rehabilitation therapists. What a difficullt task it is to move a small child. I was dripping with sweat moving a tiny 4 year old child with another person. Here I thought that it wasn’t too hard to move someone’s arm or leg 10 times, but that is not the case at all. A young boy named Sebbashis who sits in a chair and refuses to eat was a boy that I worked on along side another Polish woman named Lydia. From what I understand, this rehabilitation has really moved his progress forward. He wasn’t even sitting up before, but now he is and he can even stand for 10 minutes if you hold his hips. What kind eyes this little boy has and I want nothing more than to have him walking and talking. I only wish i could stay here for a few more months to see the progress on a child. When you are a long term volunteer, you are assigned a child that you work with and you can see a lot of progress. One child, named Joy, started speaking for the first time last week and the long term volunteer assigned to his case was overjoyed with the two words he can now say, “joy” and “hello”.
I am so happy to know the sisters do this work. I really cannot believe the kindness here. If they were not here, these children would be dead. One child, a boy named Prince, was found in a pile of garbage without an anus and the excrement had eaten through his intestines and was coming out his side. If it were not for sisters finding him and taking him in, this young sweet boy would be dead. In fact, a lot of children are found here without anuses. There are two women, one from the US and the other, I believe, from Norway, who pay for operations for this common occurrance. I am quite pleased with the love and joy I see here in these sisters. It is wonderful that they have chosen such a hard life of poverty and obedience to help the poor.