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Missionaries of Charity/Kolkata/Calcutta whatchamacallit

4 Nov


This has long expired but I’ll write it out anyway. Info on direction, maps, accomodation and locations can be found within the long-winded text. You can contact me for a compiled info (eg. Things you need to take note of, before going to Calcutta).

It’s been 2 months since my trip back from Kolkata (Volunteering with the Missionaries of Charity). It was hard to find time to put it into words, so many things I would want to do but time flies like a G6.

Anyway the trip was just weirdly amazing, from the eyes of those who haven’t experienced this it would be hard to explain how transforming this trip was for me personally. It is different from a person who sees the forest from a distant then the person who actually goes through the shrubs and trees of the forest itself.

We decided to go to Kolkata(Me and my friends-Jess, Kenneth, Jo, Shirley and Josephine) after our last planning for it failed in 2009. I was surprised Jess our friend kept it in mind all this while and initiated the whole trip. So it was decided, 9-16th July was the date we rushed to buy our Airasia tickets online. Around RM340 I got my tickets, 2-ways can you believe it. I secretly laughed at Jo as he got his tickets for RM600+ (I can be quite evil >:P), another person who decided to come last minute, the last person I ever thought would come for this agonizing trip. We dedicated ourselves to prayer and adoration for 2months before this missionary trip, and I believe it was really fruitful.

Missionaries of Charity:,+Kolkata,+West+Bengal,+India&hl=en&ll=22.556298,88.367125&spn=0.005132,0.010568&sll=22.54199,88.347384&sspn=0.005133,0.010568&vpsrc=6&gl=my&t=m&z=17&iwloc=A

Just to share with you a bit of my experience over there…yes just a bit… :/

1st day was bad enough; we were divided into 2 taxis. Taxis there drove like they were auditioning for “Fast & Furious”, a real DUI experience. It was thrilling really, taxis and cars drove so closely to each other even air couldn’t slip through the gaps, honking was a wildly abused communication tool on the roads. The taxi dropped us at the side of some unknown road as he couldn’t find the place we were heading to- YMCA, Sudder Street. Despite not knowing the roads he demanded us to pay extra for the ‘extra mile’ he went. *sigh* . We crossed the highway to the opposite side of the road, trying to figure out where we were as we had no number to contact each other, suddenly we bumped into the other group and voila! We found YMCA! YMCA, Sudder Street, looked a bit old with staircase all the way up, it felt like their staircases had extra gravity when you walk up, seriously. A little shabby, but I would say the place was comfortable.

We had dinner at KARLO, not too far away from our place. Food there was ok..maybe it was not too good…Maybe tolerable…Honestly it was horrible.

YMCA, Sudder Street,+Taltala,+Kolkata,+West+Bengal,+India&hl=en&ll=22.559647,88.351643&spn=0.005439,0.010568&sll=22.558864,88.354797&sspn=0.005439,0.010568&vpsrc=6&gl=my&t=m&z=17&iwloc=B

  • 2nd day

Woke up at 7am or so. Wondering why no one was up yet. Then I realized my clock was still in Malaysian time (India is 2 hours behind Malaysia)…hilarious. I laughed myself back to sleep. Morning come, the room keepers knocked on our doors and I cursed them for a while, they wanted to serve us milktea, so I withdrew my curses. (YMCA actually served milk tea Chai in small paper cups, and breakfast is also served at the pantry, what a pleasant surprise). We went to Saint Anthony’s Church for mass. To our surprise, from the back of the pew there was a poster: “Don Bosco is coming to Kolkata”. His relic was coming to Kolkata(Don Bosco’s uncorruptible right hand). He is our patron saint for our Church youths back home in Malaysia. *)

What is a relic?

Relics throughout the world:

Who’s Don Bosco?

YMCA to St. Anthony’s-Direction’s+church+kolkata&daddr=Chowringhee+YMCA,+Kolkata,+West+Bengal,+India&hl=en&sll=22.567633,88.360934&sspn=0.011354,0.021136&geocode=FXs8WAEdTjJEBSF_U-Avitdahg%3BFTo4WAEdYiBEBSEc5ovVnYv2Xg&vpsrc=0&gl=my&mra=ls&t=m&z=18

We dropped by Shishu Bhavan after mass, we met a sweet old lady with a motherly smile who gave us directions to Mother House. After that we headed to Parkstreet for a tour and to find food. Found nothing and the places seemed to be all closed. It was tiring to walk around like lost sheeps. Everyone was getting frustrated and I felt a little disappointed with how things were going, how we were travelling together and yet not really journeying with each other. Felt disconnected and that the journey was just tiresome. It was just plain mechanical. I went for confession that day for the things that were bothering me that brought me to the resentment within, and weirdly I was able to come to accept the differences in us all and things turned out differently as my view toward things slowly changed. It’s a really weird grace working somehow…

For dinner we ate at RANG MAHAL, food there was ok but wasn’t as cheap as it could get in Kolkata.

Shishu Bhavan(Children’s home in Bengali),88.366578&spn=0.005441,0.010568&fb=1&gl=my&view=map&cid=2999444605574649027&t=m&z=17&vpsrc=6

  • 3rd Day:

6am, we went to Mother House for mass. The sisters there sung beautifully, like the voices of angels, so pure and innocent. No riffs or runs, to ruin the beauty of a hymn that is sung from a beautiful heart. After a long time, I’m hearing true humility and worship being expressed through song. After mass we headed down to a small enclosed basement for breakfast. There were just too many volunteers from all over the country in one room, I have never felt such claustrophobic excitement before. We met Julie and Lily who were from America, a HUGE achievement out of being amazingly uncomfortable with the environment and people. We were given a pass to serve at Prem Dan (a home for the old women who were abandoned from begging on the streets to suffering from various illnesses mentally or physically).

We took a bus for the first time, 39A/2, stopped at Char Number Bridge and walked straight on to find Prem Dan. The slums along our journey were astounding. ‘Houses’ were made out of anything that was found amongst the trash. Such poverty they live in, and yet they show no self-pity, so focused on their work to survive. These people never chose to live like this, but God knows they can take such suffering, and His grace is poured out especially to these children who have nothing. It’s funny how we in the big cities have everything, and yet sometimes it’s like we have nothing.

We had lunch at Peter Cat (it’s too high-class a mission trip, don’t go there. *P)

Prem Dan,88.374538&spn=0.045424,0.084543&sll=22.521903,88.366578&sspn=0.005441,0.010568&vpsrc=6&gl=my&t=m&z=14&iwloc=A

  • 4th Day (Tues)

Our first day of volunteering work at Kalighat Kalighat, the Home of the Pure Heart (Nirmal Hriday) [1](formerly Kalighat Home for the Dying) is a hospice for the sick, destitute and the dying inKalighat, Kolkata (Calcutta), India, established by Mother Teresa.

Woke up to a beautiful morning, hopped gleefully to the shower like little red riding hood, only to find out YMCA had no water. I burst out of my red riding hood suit like the Hulk. NOOOOOOOO!!!!!!! It could have happened but I chose to relax and go out of the room to find another pipe at least to brush my teeth. Don’t want to be the one who causes casualty at the hospice.

We attended mass at St. Anthony’s and they had veneration of the Bread, they gave out bread to the parishioners. As we walked out with the bread still in our hands, a skinny only lady came to us with outstretched hands, begging for money. We offered her the bread and she rejected it as though it were a scorpion we were offering. We were advised at the Mother House not to give money to these beggars as many of them have become dependent on it, turning it into their ‘profession’. I was thinking and slightly disturbed that these people are so much poorer than the actual beggars long before this in India, those who really out of no choice, starve and die. But these beggars are so much poorer in a way that they have lost the purity of need itself, turning it into an easier way to live out of taking advantage and not being to really see God in each help they receive. I’m not judging but I’m just sad that the poverty is so different, which made me think that really this world is really in so much more need to know God, to know what love truly is. I think I think too much but oh well.

As we were free that whole afternoon (Our work at Kalighat starts at 3pm), we offered to help out the sisters at the Mother House. Sister Mercy Maria (I don’t know if I got this correctly. She’s an American who speaks Spanish) earnestly tried to look for something we could do, and the feeling of it was not to make use of us but to really just make us feel at home (honestly we were scavenging for work, felt useless not doing anything). We worked with this nun from the Philippines who showed us how to stick Mother Teresa’s relic onto a card which was to be given out to public, encouraging people to ask her for intercession hoping that her beatification will be quickened. The sisters at the Missionaries of Charity or deeply devoted to Mother Mary and they rely constantly on her intercession in all they do, seriously while sticking the relics this sister just said, “can we pray?” I was expecting a short prayer and then she started with the Rosary prayer, praying so fluently through all the Mysteries. It was ingrained and their deep love and understanding on Mary’s role in the Church that really moved me, having a Crucifix and Rosary tucked to the drape of their white-sari habits at their waist, they constantly remind themselves of their vocation in God and the Mother of the Church who brings them closer to the heart of Christ.

In Kalighat, I was suddenly asked to feed a sickly, scrawny old man. Initially, honestly I wasn’t deeply compassionate, touched or whatsoever (the movie “IceQueen” was running through my head). As I was trying to feed this guy slowly who struggled to even swallow his mashed-up food, I was trying to persuade him all the way in vain. So I asked the sister next to me how do I say “You have to eat”. So I learned a new persuasion in Bengali “Tumi balo ba ba khalo”. (if I got it right). Trying to talk to him through sign language I think I ended up persuading or convincing most that I wasn’t too mentally stable. While feeding, I was a bit confused as this old man, lying on his bed still, slowly turned towards me, lifting his hands up to my shoulder, I continued with my relentless persuasion tactics and stopped…This guy lifted his arms to hug me and pat me in the back. Despite being so sickly, he was trying to show appreciation and care. I just felt truly loved by this person, who has nothing to offer, nothing to give, but a sincere loving hug. And then I was reminded how I didn’t how in the first place I had not much of compassion, reflecting back on a quote by Mother Teresa that my friend shared with me a few years ago that Love is not all about feeling, but it is in the action and choice of choosing to love and through that God gives you the capacity to receive love, so you can give it back to the World. This sick old man gave me more than I could ever give him.

On our way back home we took a tuk tuk(hehe took a tuk tuk). Tuk tuk= Auto-rickshaw.

This rickshaw guy we stopped spoke not a word of English, he took six of us in one rickshaw reluctantly, wanting to earn profit from us foreigners, and yet he was not able to communicate something to us before we took off. I felt something wasn’t really right; he stopped his rickshaw to ask some guy to translate his words to us. Then an uncle came by trying to mediate for us, and apparently this rickshaw driver wanted to explain to us that we would have to pay him more for taking a longer way as the other way had traffic police(surprisingly it was illegal to carry 6 people in a rickshaw, I didn’t know illegal existed in this place). This uncle was so nice to help us by asking us to come down from the tuk-tuk as it was a walking distance to YMCA from there. The rickshaw guy of course was unsatisfied, and vroomed off! Pheww!! Along the way we got to know this uncle a little more as he shared excitedly about his reason to come out that night even if he didn’t feel like it, his name-Michael Beach. His wife and daughter left him and since then he has been living alone, a sad story but there was only joy in his eyes and tone. We thanked him relentlessly, and prayed for him and for his daughter to be reconciled with him before we departed. This man showed so much love for us it was just amazing how people are sent into your lives for the smallest reasons.

We ended most of our nights with sharing and prayer together, and it was really engaging and full of soul as we poured out our thoughts and our feelings towards things, negative, bad, good or whatsoever. Every single thing in Kolkata was horrible, and yet renewing. A paradox hard to explain.

Emotions surfaced and I just felt and learned so much through every single thing, through every acquaintance. The love of the sisters here transforms you in such a way that is unknown to the conscious mind(now that I realise it, it’s not so unconscious anymore), how they gave up everything to serve in such a humble yet joyful way. We spoke to sister Merci on the last day of our work and she shared how she was a lapsed Catholic and how she was brought to her vocation starting from reluctantly going for adoration. She shared one thing that really struck me about Adoration: “Doesn’t matter if you believe in the sun or not, if you’re under the sun it will still heat you up and burn you. And just like God present in the Blessed Sacrament, whether you believe in it or not, He will transform you from the depths of our soul & heart.” Sister Merci also reminded me of how God has given us a calling and talent already, it’s just whether we choose to use it; like a garage we own, it is always there, it’s just a matter of if we make good use of it. I loved music since I was 8 or 9 years old, I hope it is what God really wills for me though hehe.

Anyway uncle Michael came looking for us again and brought us around. He is such a sweet old man who treated us all like his own children. We went to the Auxilium Parish to see Don Bosco’s relic. The procession for it was just grand and welcomed with a band of drums. One thing in Kolkata, people there give much reverence to the Saints. They use touch a lot for example, touching the feet of a holy person for blessing and touching relics etc.

We met this Irish teacher, Siobhán :Joan in english was her name if I’m not mistaken who experienced 4 deaths in a year of people close to her, she went to Kolkata alone just for missionary work. It’s great to see that people in spite of what they’ve gone through, they still serve as missionaries with so much joy and enthusiasm. This woman was another inspiring acquaintance. In the woman’s home there are people who were previously beggars, and till now still stuck in that mental state that they are suffering as beggars, reminds me of how we remain chained in our own thoughts, that even when a blessing comes we can be so caught up with our own selves playing victim.

There’s this child-like song I really love, we sing it before heading to work.

“We have our hope in Jesus x2

That all things, will be well x3

In the Lord.”

And with clapping hands

“We love you, love you, love you Lord x2

We love you, love you, love you from our hearts (all x2)

2nd and 3rd verse replace love by “miss” and “thank” consecutively.

It would’ve sounded better if you could hear the tune. 😐

Such innocence and child-like faith in a simple song.

There’s just too much to talk about till the 8th day. Too  inspired by Mother Teresa’s life, how she was so close to God that she knew what she was called to so specifically. She gave her best in the smallest thing she did, she suffered silently and gave her love so generously to everyone around. How is it possible that such a tiny woman, do so much or have so much love and compassion. What she has done throughout her life just doesn’t seem logical or possible to be achieved. What I took home with me, it’s in the little things that God continues to speak to us if only we would really listen, that love is not always about feeling but action, and to be truly happy is to do what God has a called us to.

I felt so attached to the place, the Mother House, the sisters, the people here, the missionaries we met, the mass here, the homes, all of these which I never expected to miss. And it has really been humbling, just being in such a so-called, dreadful place to be in.  Boredom or dullness within the mother house portrayed a deep inner beauty of souls just going about daily, doing what they’re called to do.  The annoyance, frustration, and lack of capacity to love, has not been taken away, but remoulded into something that you think will never be of any use, that no good can come out of such an ugly situation. And it did turn from an ugly looking thing to something out of the ordinary, a renewal internally. And here comes the pun… “I guess ugly is the new look”. *)

Mother HouseDon Bosco's relicRickshawSugar cane manual processingRegent Restaurant, CalcuttaMother Teresa's Tomb 





Exploring more than just the surface

22 Nov

Today is a Monday. Think it’s going to pour soon as the sky seems like a palette of melancholic dull.


Anyway, I was just back from Sabah on the 16th of November. Went back on a 10-day trip as mom could only come back KK during November as December the usual holiday leaves are given to the Singaporeans first, so I went back to be able to spend some time with her & family. Didn’t really travel much around, only going around eating & meeting old friends as it kept raining especially in the evenings, plans to go Kundasang (a highland in Sabah) and all had to be cancelled. I was really sad to leave KK so quickly, especially on the 16th as it was my brother’s birthday, the next day I quarreled with my sister, couldn’t get any better than this.

Boat rideAnyway, I managed to go island with my close friends back in KK which really made up for it all. Gosh, did I get some unneeded tanning, but the great thing about snorkeling is your face doesn’t get a lot of sun because you’re just drifting on the skin of the ocean, face down to adore the little creatures below our floating movements. So your face remains a little protected while the rest of your body changes into a colour a chameleon changes into when it drags itself along charcoal. Not a very even sight.

We went into a small boat, the size of origami boats I used to make (exaggerating is really necessary now). We reached the island, Pulau Sapi(Sapi in Malay language means cow). Why on earth was it named “Cow Island”? As far as I know the only cows I see are there were those who took up so much space on the picnic table and their underwears used  as a “reserved” note. But I guess it was named so because there used to be many cows around the island that swam from the city retreating from villagers that wanted to make steak out of them, honestly there are steakhouses just nearby the KK jetty. One of the dine pub there is Edgar’s, serve steaks as well but most people go there for Shisha, not really a fan so oh well.


My bestie & I were the ones on a furious excursion, snorkeling far away from the crowd, trespassing the safety line & fighting off fierce biting fishes. I would love to write such challenging life experiences but frankly we were just around 20 meters away from the crowd and the fishes only nibbled slightly, plus, they were quite friendly in truth. Albeit in all its safety, I was somehow scared of the fishes for a while, I was scared of what I couldn’t see or expect beneath the dark blue sea. What if the huge swordfish that we saw at the entrance suddenly charged towards us, what if there is a strong current and I happen to step on a sea urchin, what if a jelly fish stung us, what if I drowned to death (something which really couldn’t happen when you’re equipped with life jacket and snorkeling masks). My best friend held my hand, as we snorkeled together watching the tiny families beneath gliding through the fabric of our shadows. She led me a bit further and I followed, still running through my mind the risk of her getting stung by a man-eating jelly fish, & how I was to save her bringing her safely to shore. Continued until we bumped into little-not-so-lookalike Nemo, so wonderful, a little bit like an anemone fish just that its colour was in bright yellow against a bluish black, together with a few of his friends, as we stretched out our hands, to my surprise, they came closer, they were staring so intensely at me, one of them bounced towards me & I got a little stunned as I thought Nemo wanted to tear my life jacket open. But they were truly adorable. As we floated over their corals they couldn’t take their eyes of us. Despite all in its tranquility & beauty, still all the nonsense went through my mind, and suddenly it struck me, there was such great cowardice in such a mild situation, and my friend seemed so brave and protective, I was like a bravado, and she in her armour of dauntlessness, it was this great strength I always saw in her. Evening came & we took the same boat back, the boat ride was exhilarating as the waves were really not in their best behavior. I think the boat was overspeeding and we were in the air for a while as we hit the crest of the wave(and I thought the banana boat ride was over). We all shouted in excitement as a baby sitting across us looked all calm, making us look like morons. But that was the best ride I’ve had in such a long time; all of us squeezed together in the tiny motorboat, the rain assaulting us with coldness & the wave smacking us in the face, thunder roaring above & us making so much noise in the boat as the driver rushed to get us to shore before our boat capsized, us bursting into laughter together couldn’t make the trip more horrifically fantastic.

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