Wednesday, September 9, 2009




My grandmother Mamie Guillevic will be proud to know that I spent this morning volunteering with the missionaries of Mother Theresa's charity.

I went to the Mother House for the 7am breakfast, in the center of Kolkata not far from AJC Bose road. We had tea, brioche bread and bananas with the other volunteers of all nationalities (many Japanese). Mother House is the covent where Mother Theresa worked, lived and prayed, and it is where her grave is kept. Today I will help out, with about twenty others, in one of Mother Theresa's "houses". Those houses are allocated to patients according to the type of disease and age. There is the children house and the house for elderlies affected by serious illness, or dying. Mine is the latter, where we go by bus.

Arrived at 9am, we begin by greeting the occupants, the girls are in charge of the women house to the right and we take care of the men on the left or sitting outside on a low wall in front of the house. The greetings are warm and all are smiling. I shake many hands, and I would shake some more later, sometimes the same ones. Important first contact. We then clean the floor with buckets of soapy water and brushes. The place is nice, with beautiful birds in a cage by the entrance, and it is clean and bright (well it must be when the clouds are not covering the sky like they are today). We rub, give massages and chat up the residents. Two of us have comfortably installed them on chairs outside to give them a shave. Everybody seem happy, except for one gentleman who grumbles as I help him climb the stairs that lead to the house. He doesn't need me! Another one is making conversation while we are cleaning the dishes. If he had spoken in French I would certainly have understood as much as I did in Bengali. In any case he sounded cheerful and punctuated his Bengali with "thik aache! Thik hai!", evrything is well, super cool! He seemed happy with our presence. Then one permanent employee of the house came to take him to the house to rest, which made him yell at the guy. We are washing the dishes in big buckets, I rub the dishes in one filled with soap and water, and my mates rince them in two other buckets with clean water, to my left. To the right the employees bring the dishes, dirty plates and glasses after having emptied them in a bin.

Between 10:30 and 11am, we take a break on biscuits and chai, then we get ready to serve lunch to these gentlemen. Some have to be helped with eating, but most of them are fine on their own. They're sitting on the ground or on benches, and eat with their hands, as usual. The meal actually looks quite delicious: rice covered with a serving of daal, ladyfingers vegetables, a small orange (slightly lemony in taste) and a piece of fish in curry sauce, Bengali style. After serving, I get the buckets ready for the coming washing up, and we sit down and chat with the other volunteers while they eat. After cleaning the dishes the morning is over, some of the residents go for a nap. We feel a little tired too, but very happy to have helped. I swear I would have done it again, but unfortunately I have plans for the end of the week, including a lunch at Rimjhim's friend art gallery tomorrow. Sorry Mamie!

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