Well, wonderful as Kolkata is, I still seem to be dreaming about home every night. Last night I dreamed we were all at Thomas Aquinas College for mass, and I was meeting baby Sam.
This morning I went to Kalighat as usual. On Sundays we have mass there which is always really cool. The sisters set up the altar in the space between the men and women’s section, and spread carpets on the floor for us to all sit on. Father preached about how we have to be transfigured like Christ, how it can happen in a moment, just as did on the mountain.
After mass I helped one of the sisters, Sister Clarissa Marie, as she cleaned out a man’s maggot-ridden wound. Mostly I just stood there staring in horrified awe at the maggots as they tried to escape their imminent doom. Very gross, but very interesting.
I love the sisters at Kalighat. There such amazing mixture of compassion and common sense. One of my favorites is Sister E. She’s a little Indian lady, who usually looks slightly bemused, but is always so kind. The Superior of the house is Sr. G., who was there with Mother Teresa. She said in the early days of the house there were so many sick people in the city, they had 20 people dying in the house every day. Now, perhaps one man dies per week, which seems like more than enough to me.
Upstairs on the second floor, where we have our 10:30 chain break, is where the sisters live. In each house there’s a cloistered area, where no volunteers can enter. I think about 8 sisters live there. Each morning novices come on the bus from Motherhouse to help with the work. Mostly they work in the dispensary, cleaning and dressing wounds, while the workers do a lot of the other patient care. Sr. CM is the head nurse there.
For lunch I went to 8th Day Café, a really nice restaurant/coffee shop kind of place, with my friend V. Afterwards, we took the bus to Shishu Bhavan, which is the house for women and disabled children. I got to play with some of the kids for a little bit. Usually only women go there but V. wanted me to meet her favorite baby, Akosh. All the disabled children live in a big room on the third floor. It has about 30 beds and cribs, with purple mattresses. In one corner there’s a big cushy carpet where the kids lie down and play during the day. I held a little girl, probably around 3, who kept sort of turning her head from side to side. She was so cute. It made me miss all the little girls, and reminded me of how lucky we are to have such a healthy family. Many of the kids can’t move on their own, so they just lie on the floor. Others are in wheelchairs, or in carseat-like chairs on the floor, strapped in so they won’t fall out.
Sister M. told me that many disabled children are abandoned in India, because of the horrible stigma mental illness still has here. She also said that some people see it as punishment for wickedness in a past life. It was sad, but very precious, to see them. Hope you’re all doing well.
With love from India,