After two days of Kolkata, I couldn’t help but feel overwhelmed. The chaos, the poverty, the amount of effort it takes just to get something done. I was reminded that we have a long road ahead filled with many challenges. I had to take a few deep breaths, relax myself, remind myself why we’re doing what we’re doing.
A few glimpses into our day:
We were trying to find bottled water to drink, but not all bottled water comes from a reliable source. Back home, I casually go to the tap or buy a reputably branded bottle from a large retailer. But we had trouble finding a store that even resembled a 7-11. And many of the bottles sold by street vendors seemed like that had already been used and just refilled with tap water. It took us a while, but we found a store and got our water rations for the week.
In our efforts to find the stores, we used addresses off Google and a random map we found at home. As we were roaming the streets looking for the stores, the map we had didn’t seem to have all the streets and the street names didn’t all match up. Later we read in a tour book that there are very few maps for Kolkata because most of the street names have changed [after British rule] and there are just too many little alleys to put on a map.
When we walked back last night, all the streets near our guest house were lined with people sprawled out on the side walk. They weren’t in line buying Harry Potter tickets or protesting the wealthy one percent. They were bathing in the gutter water, sleeping on thin straw mats and for a few, embracing the one whom they could call their own. It was sobering moment for everyone on our team.
Tomorrow we meet with Sari Bari who free women in the sex trade by making handbags and home textiles. We’re so encouraged by the work they’ve been doing and look forward to learning and observing. Companies like this remind us that though the challenge is great, there are courageous people willing to go into hard places to make a difference.
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