The Dispensary

Although I work at Daya Dan on a regular basis, usually 6 days a week, my schedule is still not perfectly stable. I tend to have something happen to me every day that causes disruption in my regular schedule. I wholeheartedly accept these interruptions. This morning the disruption happened to do with one of my greatest phobias. I have actually been intensely praying to get over my repuslion to blood and needles and today, I believe my prayers were answered.

I happened to be attempting to maintain order with the mentally and physically handicapped children of Daya Dan and trying to teach them at the same time, when an Australian tapped me on my shoulder. He told me Sister was trying to get my attention. She quickly said, “come, come,” in the way Indians do here and asked me very simply if I knew how to dress. I, of course, said yes because I was thinking in terms of children and dressing them. Little did I know that in the same building as this orphanage, a dispensary is run to take in impoverished people who needed desperately to receive medical attention.

I put on a smock, a […read more…]

What's Happening?

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!

[…read more…]

Daya Dan

In the early morning, I awaken at 4:50 am, dress into my very colorful salwar kameez, which is quite bright compared to the black I usually wear in NY, brush my teeth and my hair and take a long walk to church. The walk is through the main section of the muslim district and I pass cows, people sleeping under rickshaws, step over sleeping bodies, past muslims on their way to the mosque and stop for some boiling chai on the way. A woman named Sultana, who the long termers all know, will generally be waiting to have some tea with you. Yesterday, I was with Bernie, a long termer who has come every year for over 25 years. She works on the railways and collects people who need to be hospitalized, gives them medicine and does aid work at its most raw level. There are a number of people here like Bernie, they go back to their countries to work for a few months to gather monies and then come back here to the “city of Joy.” We stopped to have tea with Sultana and she told me about her situation. Her begging supports her entire […read more…]

Sudder Street

I am very aware of everything here, more so than I ever have to be at home. It seems to be training my mind in a different way to constantly focus on every sense and action. I am quite aware of my hand placement, I never realized how much I touch or want to touch my face now that I cant touch my nose, my eyes, or my mouth. I am aware of the stares, although they have changed some since Ive started wearing my salwar kameez. I am keenly aware of the Indians and Bengalis staying in my hotel and it makes me think twice about staying in this hotel much longer. I realize that this country is broken because it is based on money. I heard an Indian man say, “Well, yes that may be so, but you know, this is India,” when I told him he was doing something against the law. Money speaks here. Beggars rent out babies for 25 rupees a day or keep their own children malnourished or on brown sugar (a three year old will look like he is 7 months old) so foreigners keep giving […read more…]

List of Observations

I thought I’d do a short blog with a list of observations.

1. It’s smart to be pleasant to a man with a shotgun or an AK47.

2. People leave their hand permanently on their car horn because they don’t use their signals or their lights at night.

3. Not a trash can in sight; when there is one, it cannot be one that could be used as scrap metal or it will be gone in minutes. It is no wonder people throw trash everywhere.

4. I would make a good wife, apparently. I could make many Indian men happy.

5. I am 50 times richer than them because my conversion rate is fifty rupees to one dollar. That means I can pay 50 times more for everything, which is why they put down a price and usually multiply it by 50.

6. To get on a bus, you have to do a running jump. There are no elderly or disabled people on the buses.

7. Some buses are labeled: goods carriage, space boy, shredders cattle.

8. […read more…]

Kolkata Thoughts

The air off the Himalayas brings a cool breeze at night and last night I was actually so cold that I put on practically all the warm clothes I brought with me. My face and my body are filthy and I find that no matter how hard I scrub, I keep wiping dirt from every section of my body. Perhaps it is because I bathe in cold water and use bottled water for certain sections of my body. I do not trust the water here no matter what anyone says. Indians claim that they run drinking water at certain times during the day, but I would not dare drink it. Only a few days here and I already can decipher through the massive amounts of manipulations and lies and attempted manipulation.

In fact, when I came off the plane after 30+ hours of traveling without sleep, I did not even bother dealing with touts or “more money, more money” for my taxi ride. I simply got the police involved and then felt comfortable with what I had written as a price for the 35 kilometer drive into the city. Walking the streets […read more…]