Impressions of Kolkata

map of kolkata, india

Last Updated on March 16, 2024 by Ellen

Editor’s note: Earth Vagabonds left Theo’s mom, Diane, in India while we made a border run and took some weeks to explore Nepal. Mom Diane explored areas of eastern India during that time. She also volunteered at Mother Teresa’s in Kolkata. In this post written by her, she shares her impressions of Kolkata.

I’ve been here a week now, and the city is what I had imagined it would be: millions of people living on the sidewalks, dirt and dust and trash, rickety old buses, decaying buildings, AND friendly, kind, gentle and helpful people everywhere. In the mornings I volunteer with Saint Mother Teresa’s sisters in their home for the “dying destitutes” (they don’t mince words here), and after that I walk all over the city exploring neighborhoods en route to see the sights. 

The area around my guest house is a Muslim neighborhood, a warren of narrow streets going every which way. One day I came upon a crowd blocking the way. Out came a group of chanting men bearing a body covered by a ceremonial cloth and hurrying down the street.

The narrow backstreets of commercial districts are a beehive of activity: delivery carts being unloaded by men carrying the goods on their heads to the waiting businesses These are no longer donkey carts, but they’re the next step up from that—powered by bicycle.

It takes a lot of buying and selling to sustain a city of 15 million people (but just half the size of Delhi). 

The people living on the sidewalks are helped by the many public water hydrants provided by the city. Each morning at 6:00 a.m. I pass by one where six to eight men will be lathering up, right at the side of a busy thoroughfare.

No photos are allowed in Mother Teresa’s homes. An average of about four of us volunteers assist four employed aides in caring for 35 women in one big ward. We help with feeding them, hanging and folding laundry, and cleaning up after meals. The nursing sisters attend to their medical needs. What a privilege to work with these tireless, dedicated sisters!

Thanks for reading, “Impressions of Kolkata.”

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