Friday, April 01, 2016

So how was it overall

I won't make big claims on this experience. What I felt is something personal. And every volunteer that I interacted with felt it was worth their time to say the least. Oh yes there were people who showed up for a day and disappeared too. To each their own.
Yes the facilities are basic and many westerners were surprised that we had to wash clothes manually or the fact that you don't get gloves and usually bring them yourself if you need them etc etc. But if you take a look at these places they are very well maintained, extremely clean and hygienic. The food provided was always plentiful and included a healthy accompaniment or some fish/meat at least once a week. Just step out of the premises and you see and smell the alternative of the life many of these people faced on the street and what the sisters provide is a 100x improvement over that.
There is no religious angle to the work being done here. Greater than 95% of the men here were non Christians. Yes there are pictures of Christ and Mary all over the place but no one was forced to the chapel or any other Christian practice. There is a prayer before meals in Bengali that everyone recited together. I actually only met on Christian patient during my time here.
I was fortunately not the only Indian. There was a student from Kol who was volunteering too. And there were a few NRIs. But I've been told its usually all foreigners. Maybe it is because this is a Christian organization. I hope that non Christians are also volunteering at other places. I would definitely add this as a thing to do along with travelling. It will give you a very different perspective on your life and how privileged you are.
At the very least these few days have broadened my understanding of a few more things on life. How much and in what way can only be measured by my actions in the rest of my existence.

My experience at Nirmal Hriday

Nirmal Hriday is the home for the dying and destitute. This was the first place that Mother Teresa had opened and the beauty is that this was an abandoned hindu temple. Such a beautiful act to support a beautiful cause.
I had heard some horror stories of Nirmal Hriday and was apprehensive about it to the point of being scared. The stories are right from the severity of illness seen here to the type of treatment given to these patients. But since I was here and got assigned to it I felt I must give it a shot.
This place opens up for the volunteers at 3pm and you are kicked out at 5pm :) I later heard that the morning shifts are more gruesome for obvious reasons.
The patients here are mostly old men (again women are in a separate space) who are either completely paralysed or have some mental disability or other serious illnesses. I would say luckily I didn't encounter a terminal case while I was here.
So what do we do here? Again just about everything. You help them change their clothes, help them walk around for exercise, give them their meds, feed them, take them to the toilets, cleanup their sheets etc if they wet themselves in their beds etc. You cringe a bit on the first day but after the first hour you just do what needs to be done. I never saw a volunteer shy away from doing anything that was needed to make the patients comfortable.
I was informed by a fellow volunteer who has been coming from Germany every year for the past 15 years that the severity of patients at Nirmal Hriday and Prem Dan has reduced over time. Hopefully that is a reflection of improving times in India and Kolkata. There were about 30+ patients here during my time.

My experience at Prem Dan

Prem Dan is a home for the elderly and disabled and is located around 3km from Mother house. All is us walked it out. Was a good way to get to know someone new and wake yourself up.
So what do we do here? Just about anything that's needed. People with medical experience help in the dispensary, others clean up, wash clothes (no washing machines here), shave the fellas, give massages, empty their pee bottles, serve tea, lunch etc, feed those that can't do it themselves and clean all the vessels for the next serving. The female volunteers take care of the women in the house. It all good hard work and the old fellas are really a mix of all types of men. A simple how are you will get them talking. Sometimes you just be with them and listen to their stories.
There were around 150+ male patients here during my time. We start at around 8-8:30am and are done by 12:30pm. Most people would take the rickshaw back to their hostels. You can be sure your body with squeak a bit on the first day, after this routine :)

Signing up

You can sign up for volunteering every Monday, Wednesday and Friday at 3pm at Sishu bhavan which is a walking distance from Mother House on Bose road itself.
The process is to show up with a xerox copy of your passport and the original and attend the orientation. Then you signup for one of the many houses to work at. Yes you provide your preference and the dates. You also have the option of working g only mornings, afternoons/evenings or both.
Since I wasn't familiar with many of the places I let the sisters decide for me and was assigned Prem Dan for the mornings and Nirmal Hriday for the noons.
You are invited to join the morning mass at 6am at the Mother house after which there is a simple breakfast  of tea, bread and banana for the volunteers. After this we all say a small prayer and head out to our locations by walk/bus/metro etc. And yeah there is a wonderful little thank you song sung for you on your last day. It definitely brings a smile to everyone's faces.
Thursdays is the day of rest and there is no volunteering. Was confused why a christian organization didn't have Sunday as the day of rest. Lucikly on my first Thursday there was a retreat that I really enjoyed. They do it twice a year so was kinda lucky.
And yeah NO PHOTOGRAPHY on any of the premises, not even during your breakfast with other volunteers at Mother house. The sisters remind you that you are here to serve and the people here aren't animals and deserve their privacy and dignity.

Volunteering at Missionaries of Charity in Kolkata

In my time travelling I have encountered two great volunteer organizations that have left an impression on me. One in Ladakh where volunteers spend the cold winters as house guests and teach at local schools and another in McLeod Gunj where volunteers spend time helping Tibetan refugees in whatever way they can. At each of those encounters I was always impressed by the fact that tens and hundreds of people from all over the world show up and dedicate their time towards worthy causes. And we are talking serious time here, weeks and sometimes months. I have always wondered if I could be such a person.
Over the past few years volunteer tourism has caught on big time and I have eagerly tried to learn more. People working in Africa, South america and anywhere possible. One of such searches got me onto the volunteer page for Missionaries of Charity. I've been to the place before but oddly enough never heard of this thing. The volunteer program seemed straight forward and hey I've always #hated# Calcutta so it made it even more challenging. So yes I wanted to do it.
The experiences people have written about on-line encompass the entire spectrum. Some talk about the lack of empathy towards the admitted and others give near gory details of how severe the patients are there. Honestly this scared the shit out of me. Heck I still cringe and shut my eyes while I watch Hannibal all alone :'( So that made me second guess if this was a good idea.
But reading more about Mother Teresa recently I felt this would be a good place as any. I have always agreed to the notion that its easy to give some of your money as donations and "play your part", but if you can you should try giving some of your time, which is usually more difficult to part that money, and see how much difference it makes to the people you help and almost certainly yourself too. So with that selfish thought in mind I booked my tickets to Kolkata.

Wednesday, March 09, 2016

Encounter with the Train-o-snore-us

Finally got onto the train. Not surprisingly filled with bongs. The girl in my berth had 10pieces of luggage excluding her hand bags. There was literally no space left to keep any more luggage or even my shoes. And then a fifth person shows up claiming her seat is his. Auto upgrade saved us and the lady moved up to first class, with all her luggage. Yay!! My feet are saved. Chatting up with the co passengers we find out about our destinations, the state bifurcation benefits that none of us have seen and of course some modi sarkar tadka mixed in. Finally we end up agreeing that our only benefit in the new gov is that we can tweet the railway minister to save us from the luggage lady in case she returns ;)

Night falls and you wouldn’t believe the snore this guy in the adjacent berth had. Think trumbone being played right up your ears for 7hrs straight. It rattled the very core of my bones. He was incessant in belting out those loud rattling snores. God i pity his wife, neighbors and colony. So zero sleep last night. Caught a few winks after that trainosnoreus left.

On the road again

Just taken some time off work. The first thing on my mind is to take some time for myself and do something that I’ve always thought of but never did... The ever present excuse was lack of time. To that end I have decided to head off and just do it this time around. Will share what if I get comfortable with the idea or maybe after I've completed it.

Am gonna try the trains after a really long time. Didn’t get tickets for Sat so had to park myself in hyd for an additional day. At least now I don’t have an excuse for not packing :)

Random quote:
Once I did bad and that I heard ever/twice I did good but that I heard never

Friday, February 20, 2015

Past perfect

Sometimes its just better to close your eyes and relive the past than open your eyes and experience the present.


Tuesday, October 14, 2014

The best love song period

Private space

It helps to write down a few memories here now and then
Coz I never know when I'd want to relive them
While you may read my words never utter them to my face
Just remember this is my private space

Thursday, October 09, 2014

Let's kidnap happiness

I want to kidnap happiness
Would keep her with me for long long while
I wont ask for a ransom
Nor would I want to give her back
Coz whatever the price
Happiness is worth much more than that

I bet you dont believe me
But trust me I've made the plan
Its gonna go down pretty soon
And I believe that I can

But happiness is so elusive
Its something so difficult to find
It usually doesn't come alone
It has a person it would bind

So if this rhyme made you laugh or smile
You got some happiness on you there
So now I gotta kidnap you for sure
Trust me love its nothing personal
Its happiness that I am interested for... fair?

The fact that you came along
Is just a small bonus for me
It may not make you happier
But am full of glee

And hey kidnapping was the last option
I tied to lure her with love
But alas she rejected all advances
Saying she ain't available rite now

So yes I want to kidnap happiness
Coz to find her I took a lot of time
I want to kidnap her
And just keep her to be mine

Now wipe that grin off your face :)

Saturday, September 27, 2014

eerie serendipity

So google+ throws this in my face today... Serendipitous indeed...

I cant make you love me

Someone like you