On January 20, our group arrived in Kolkata. As I stepped out of the train station, my first impression was that this was the most polluted place I had ever been. At that point, I wasn’t very excited for our stay. Looking back, however, the things we saw made it the most memorable place we’ve been.
We did the usual tourist things, as we saw Queen Victoria’s Memorial and the beautiful botanical gardens. But what really impacted me was visiting the different organizations.
First, we visited the Missionaries of Charity, seeing Mother Teresa’s house and the homes that she started for the dying and orphans. The orphanage had places for malnourished babies, orphans with mental or physical disabilities and orphaned babies. It was heartbreaking to see all of these kids, but also inspiring to see how Mother Teresa’s organization could help so many children. We had fun playing with the children and some even cried when we left.
Next, we went to MCC India and learned about the various things they do, including natural disaster relief, food distribution, AIDS/HIV education, and providing schooling for children.
The final place we visited was called Ankur Kala. It was started by a fairly well-off Indian woman who wanted to help other women. Not only does she teach them trades such as batik, catering and sewing, but she also teaches them basic math, literacy and business managing skills. The women sell their products in their store as well as through organizations such as Ten Thousand Villages. The women at Ankur Kala include Christian, Hindu and Muslim women; they all worship together, however. It was exciting to witness all these women put aside differences to pray for common goals.
After leaving Kolkata, I felt inspired because although this is a city with extreme poverty, it is also a place where God is truly working through organizations such as Missionaries of Charity, MCC and Ankur Kala.
Namaste! The soul in me bows to the soul in you. I have yet to use this profound greeting in a social setting, but regard it as beautiful. It is performed by bringing the palms of one’s hands together across the chest and bowing slightly-a gesture symbolizing the connectivity of body and mind and the universal “oneness” of humankind.
There was a gentleman whose name I, regrettably, cannot remember, who approached me after I gave my speech of thanks at the Homecoming Donor Banquet in October to share his thoughts on my upcoming trip to India. He told me that above all else, India is colorful. And he was most assuredly right. He did not, however, describe how utterly vibrant the colors of India actually are! How truly vivid are they that swirl across the saree’d bodies of Hindu women; so majestic are the shades that are strewn across buildings and blazoned on billboards; how luxuriously are the green gardens spotted with brilliant purples, ochres, crimsons, yellows, indigos, violets, blues and oranges!
Yet, more beautiful than all the subcontinents’ colors are her people. Each and every human being that inhabits this breathtaking country is unique in countless ways-they are hospitable, generous, loving, overly curious, bold, persuasive, and are unafraid of violating the personal bubble we Americans place around ourselves to ask for a picture. We’ve caused quite a ruckus with our presence, let me assure you!
Let me conclude by saying; whether the grand monuments, the vivid colors, the delicious food, or the people themselves, India fascinates me beyond belief. I truly love it here and cannot wait to be a part of the experiences yet to come.