India Day 6 – Javi Is Jesus

I should explain the title really, shouldn’t I. Well the last few days in his linen tunic shirts and growing his beard but trimming it (rather nice I must say) Javi has started to look a tad like Jesus. And today he turned 33! Hehe bless him, he didn’t want me to tell anyone coz the Sisters would have probably sung to him but a few select people knew and every time we crossed paths at the house today I whispered happy birthday. My gorgeous man is all grown up! Pah…

So blog. At 2am during the night we/every volunteer in Kolkata was woken up by the biggest and longest clap of thunder we’ve ever heard. It was so clear, not like that rumbly far away sounding thunder but like right outside the door and it ‘clapped’ for a good five seconds each time… Wasn’t too scary but we stayed awake for a bit wondering if the monsoon rain would come and flood our hotel. Luckily they’re not too dim and most of the hotels are up a good few steps from the street.

So we woke up as usual at 6am (even though we’ve had two sick days we still walked halfway there with the intent on going but ended up walking back, meaning we’ve got up at 6am everyday so far here) and off we went to the Mother House for breakfast. Oh I forgot to say every morning at breakfast the volunteers whose last day it is group in the middle of the room (with about 100 volunteers in it) and everyone sings a little chant consisting of “we thank you thank you thank you, we thank you thank you thank you, we thank you thank you thank you from our heeearts” then repeat with “we love you” then repeat with “we’ll miss you” – it creates giggles but is actually a really nice booster in the morning after walking through slums for 45 minutes. So this morning was the turn of a group of extremely religious Texans we work with at Prem Dan – I was sad already it was their last day, the ladies are lovely. So we sang them their song and departed for work. As it had been monsooning (yep I’m coining that) all night Javi, Kiara and me chose to get the bus instead of walking through muddy slums – plus we hadn’t experience a bus yet on these crazy roads. I need to get a thesaurus as crazy really doesn’t cover it, at ALL. While we were waiting for the bus amongst other volunteers and locals, a tiny kid – he looked about 3 but he was probably about 5, poor little thing – came and was rummaging his way through us. Some volunteers played with him, some ignored him. He came to me and started smacking my legs and first I tried to distract him with high fives but then he started pulling my pants, another pair of Aladdin pants you live in here, to the point where I was going to lose my trousers so I stopped being quite so playful. He stuck his hands in my pockets and I couldn’t help thinking “haha there’s nothing in there” but then started ripping my pocket off. I picked him up and turned him around and said “go that way” – he then proceeded to start spitting on people’s feet so obviously was deeply enjoying everyone’s reactions until some really tall white woman (I think her accent was German) slapped him! It was a big shock and one Italian man held onto the kids hand for comfort but to be fair he wasn’t hurt and was getting aggressive and the woman explained she’s been here so much sometimes you have to discipline them. Well that was that, our bus came and us three jumped on. It took about 20minutes and I got a video and some photos which I’ll share later – was good to experience and a very nice change from the slum paths. The buses are beasts here. The conductor comes and take money so there’s no interaction with the driver, and men and women sit on opposite sides. Luckily we got seats as, I’m sure I’m mentioned this before, they drive like they’re in rockets here.

Prem Dan had me very emotional today. I skipped the laundry wringing and helped with the bed cleaning and making instead this morning, and then noticed a new lady laying on her bed connected to a drip. I went to have a look what was in her bag like I knew what I was doing and she looked up and me and smiled and held out her hands, like they all do. I sat with her and she said “Bengali? Hindi?” I said “no, English? Spanish?” She shook her head. I put my hand on my chest, said Sam, and pointed at her. “Elisabeth.” How pretty. She was a lovely sweet lady. Later when sitting with her again she had my hand and another volunteers hand and was telling us some story in her language and started crying. I wiped away her tears while my eyes filled with my own, and laughed saying “don’t cry coz you’ll make me cry, stop it” – she totally understood my meaning and just squeezed my hand and smiled. Being here I truly realize it doesn’t matter if you communicate verbally – body language and eye contact can send deep messages. Wow I’m getting teary writing this, seeing her face. Maybe it’s better I don’t understand what heart breaking story she was telling us.

My little Original lady was still in bed today, even weaker than when I last saw her. Her little skeleton body was so scrunched up today but she rigid. I sat with her a lot and for a while was chatting to her while she just stared at my eyes. Her tiny shell of a body and her fading blue eyes and the way she weakly held my hand – I really tried my hardest to not but I was freely crying as I leant over her. Luckily not the sobbing kind (that would have been embarrassing) but the hot, silent, can’t turn the tap off kind. When I was wiping my eyes with my headscarf (have taken to wearing it round my neck so I can breathe easier walking through the slums, also good as a sweat-wiper) she was watching my every move. You know when you laugh when you cry sometimes? I started doing that and said to her “come on, give me a smile, I saw it on my first day here, show me again” and she did. This episode was before the nurse forced her to swallow a lot of medicine – it was so hard to watch as she was coughing and spluttering as the nurse held her nose to make her swallow – but I had to stay to hold her hand. We kept eye contact throughout the whole thing and if telepathy works I hope she could hear me saying ‘please take it, it’ll help you’. Ugh it was awful. She didn’t smile again today.

The rest of the day followed in a bit of a haze to be honest – I was really trying to close the emotional doors as everything little thing was getting to me! When the time came to put the ladies down for a siesta one of the ladies I took was so sweet, another tear jerker I tell you. She can’t speak this lady, and doesn’t smile that often, her right hand shakes a lot especially when she wants something, and she has really big round eyes, like a kid. She can barely walk so I helped her to bed and she sat down heavily, patting the sheet for me to sit with her. I sat and stroked her hands and chatted nonsense so she smiled at me. I held we shaking hand and stroked her palm with my thumb everyone it got really shakey – she copied me until it became self-soothing, when it started shaking SHE would rub MY palm hehee. The nurses were trying to get everyone on their beds so I patted her pillow and helped her lay down. Again she patted the bed for me to stay. I crouched on the floor next to her head and she parked her shakey arm round my shoulders and held my hand with her other hand, just staring at me. My already broken heart just melted – it really did feel like a little pain in my chest. After a few minutes of swallowing the huge lump in my throat one of the nurses pushed me saying “auntie, auntie, outside, let sleep” so I stood up. Of course she gripped my hands really right until I had to prise my fingers from hers. Wow, tough!! It was about home time so I quickly said goodbye to newbie Elisabeth and Original, who was fast asleep, hopefully peacefully, and got out of their before I started really bawling.

This time Javi, Kiara and me grabbed an autorickshaw really quickly which was good as it started to rain again. Now these vehicles are about four foot wide and today a poor young Indian girl shared the back with all three of us! We literally all sat on top of each other to give her room. Sebastian jumped in the front all of a sudden and halfway home started up a conversation with the driver and ended up driving the thing for five minutes haha! “Another tick of the list” he said, “driving an autorickshaw.” Was so funny. The driver took us down the TINIEST roads today, and that means roads that are 10 foot wide with taxis, cars, autorickshaws, tuktuks and 3.6million people all battling for space. Like I say, someone please suggest a superior word for crazy.

When we got back to the hotel the usual gang of street kids were outside with a load of volunteers, with balloons! It was such a happy sight, these kids faces were so beautiful and having an amazing time playing with everyone. I could have played with them forever.

The rest of the day not much to report – lunch at Blue Sky (had the best curry I’ve ever had in my life – yes Aita better than the Mango Tree or whatever it’s called) relaxed in the room, did some washing, dinner at the Spanish. Oh we did book ourselves a private car tomorrow to show us 8 city sights of Kolkata. Thursdays are days off for the volunteers, so we thought treat ourselves and have a chauffeured day out. We have this driver from 9am until 7pm! Oh and that’s after a dawn yoga session with Harry the owner of the hotel – he’s doing a few car runs to take us volunteers who want to go to a yoga session in the park – really looking forward to it. That reminds me, better change my alarm from 6 to 5. So plan is Friday last day at Prem Dan and Saturday we go up to Bodhgaya to stay at my cousins school, helping out there – I can’t wait to have real interaction with these kids, it’s so difficult to ignore most of them in the street but it really is true that they’re little professionals and most likely being controlled by nasty adults anyway, so you can’t be a part of that trade.

Right that’s it, I’m off to bed, Javi is already asleep beside me. Bless him, first day he didn’t have a siesta coz I wouldn’t let him so he sleeps better at night. Hehee.

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