|City of God Rickshaw Wallah|
In 1990 I journeyed to Calcutta. I was going to work with Mother Teresa in Kalighat, the home for the sick and dying. I can remember driving away from the airport toward the city with a huge blood orange sun sinking into the horizon over the squatters villages. I stayed at the house of an eccentric expat British lady who greeted me with her primped and snappy chihauhaus and had her turbaned 6ft 'help' take my bags to my room. The next morning three 6ft turbaned helpers came wielding brooms and laughing after I ran screaming down the hallway wearing nothing but a towel and wet hair. A dinner-plate sized huntsman spider had interrupted my bath!
|Washing in the street is all part of normal life in Calcutta|
She took my hands in hers and asked 'What can I do for you my child?'
I explained what I'd been about what my skills were and asked if there was any way I might be of greater use to her.
'My goodness, well yes, yes, yes child!' she exclaimed 'We need you desperately at the Leprosarium! You must go there immediately, immediately - yes this is the right place for you!'
I was so overwhelmed by the whole process that I completely forgot to ask if I could take a photo with her but secretly I think she was probably quite happy not to snapped for curiosity value.
|Leprosy Clinic next to the tracks|
The next morning I took myself off to the Leprosarium which was a nightmare of typical Indian direction giving (because no one wants to tell you they don't actually know the way to somewhere) that felt like a Pink Panther chase. With the correct location of the Leprosarium finally pinpointed I could see that there was indeed plenty of useful work for me to do. Leprosy patient suffer similar vascular/neural complications to diabetics so I was in my element with foot ulcers and here I actually had equipment and materials to make functional and accomodative orthosis. The main problem was that the ulcers needed dressings and the latest shipment had been detained by the authorities for an indefinite time - read: we would never see it again. I left sometime later with the promise of shipping supplies which would have a 40% of actually getting to them.
|Rene & Christine Allary the French couple we became friends with and worked at Jack Preger's clinics with.|
|One of Jack Pregers street clinics I worked at.|
When I reflect back I realise that never once did I break down at the tragedy and cruelty of humanity. I still felt deeply on an emotional level but intellectually I was able to objectivise. I just got on with what needed doing. I saw many volunteers leave shortly after starting and never return but really what is the point of indulging in self-pity? Apart from attracting attention to oneself it doesn't help anyone else and humanity needs what it takes to get the job done.