I spent the days before the mission being a tourist. I walked ALL around Kolkata. From the Victoria Memorial to the Howrah Bridge to Park Street, I spent my two days in Kolkata wasting no time. A few highlights: I took a tour (with Calcutta Walks, a tour group I highly recommend) called "Confluence of Cultures." We walked through the old and small alleyways of Kolkata, taking a good look at everyday life and also focusing on the 15 plus religious and national cultures that can be found in Kolkata. From Chinatown to a Jewish synagogue to an Armenian Christian area, we walked through Kolkatta’s melting pot. On top of this, I also saw monuments once established by the British, such as the Viceroy’s home, the High Court, the Writer’s Building, Park Street and the very famous Victoria Memorial. I saw Howrah Bridge and the flower market. The flower market is such a confusing place. Thousands and thousands of flowers lie in piles waiting to be sold for religious reasons, or for pleasure. The color of the flowers mixed with an odd combination of a trashy smell and a flower smell makes you dizzy. You cannot get anywhere without stepping on someone’s foot and bumping into someone's shoulders. The flower market in some weird way represented India well: The massive flower piles combined with the piles of trash were about finding the beauty in all the brutality.
|This woman owns an authentic Chinese store dating back to her great-grandfather.|
|Victoria Memorial. |
Operation Smile Medical Mission
I got particularly close to two families. Both of them invited me over to their house for dinner, but unfortunately I had to decline as they lived a couple of hours away.
I gently took the baby from the mother’s hands and walked the baby into the operating room. When I walked out without a baby in my arms, the mother touched my feet and kissed her hands and said thank you with tears in her eyes. This is a sign of EXTREME gratitude and respect. You usually do this to an elder who is very respected. I was so embarrassed and mortified that she did such a thing and I attempted to rebound quickly. Little moments like these throughout the mission make you realize how hard having a baby with deformities like these can be on a mother. A mother just wants the best for her baby, and that is a universal fact.
Just to have a little history lesson: the Taj Mahal was built by Shah Jahan, the King of the Mogules. He built this tomb for his second wife, who he was believed to be madly in love with. He promised her that he would build her something great (I mean, she did have fourteen children and only half of them lived). When she died, he did not leave his home, the Agra Fort, for two years because he was so depressed. And thus, the Taj Mahal was built.
|A must do at the Taj Mahal: THE Hurkie|
|Beautiful engravings of the Taj Mahal.|
|The artwork found on the Taj Mahal is a main reason for why it took twenty two years to build.|
|The Agra Fort.|
|A view of the Taj Mahal from the Agra Fort.|
|Learning how the workers of the Taj Mahal did the engravings.|