Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Breakfast, Bathrooms & Bishnupur

Monday. January 23, 2012.

Breakfast at hotel: Omelette and Idly. This Southern Girl loves a fluffy biscuit and the Indian equivalent is Idly (eed-lee). If I were to describe it as a rice biscuit, you'd wrinkle your nose. Right? Idly is light, crustless and a good vehicle for anything that needs to be sopped!
Airport Squat Toitee

After a long journey to or through India, one needs to refresh herself. One being me makes her way to the nearest bathroom India calls "washroom" or "toilet." Doing a little "dance," I open 3 stalls discovering "toilet" means "hole in the floor" with these weird foot grips on either side. God, please give me a real toitee! YES! The last door opens to the familiar white, porcelain throne. Aaaah, the pause that refreshes.

Today, Team USA is going in two directions: Orissa and Bishnupur. My team is on the van traveling north-ish out of Kolkata (toward Mt. Everest) to the small town of Bishnupur where we'll tour a Mercy Clinic sponsored by Calcutta Mercy Ministries.

North to Bishnupur
Paddies w/ Rice Plugs
This country in the Nadia District is green, agricultural land with neat rows of orange and yellow marigolds, banana trees and rice paddies where I see people stooped over working in ankle-deep water. On the side of the road, mats are rolled out with rice spread thinly and drying in the warm sun. I remark to my honey, "This looks like the Mississippi Delta." For the first time, I realize I haven't seen blue sky since arriving in India. Kolkata has so much dust and smog and pollution the sky has a constant haze. 

Halfway to Bishnupur, it's time for a pitstop. Uh-oh! Door 1 reveals the scary little hole. No way! Behind Door 2 is my throne. I discover much too late there is no toitee paper. Instead there is a spray nozzle and a measuring cup. Hmmm. I'm at a loss. Wait a minute! I packed Kleenexes! Indians call these "face papers," which I find humorous at this point. I'm good to go!

Bishnupur Mercy Clinic
Mercy Clinic is a modest store-front structure of 4 rooms, 3 beds, 1 doctor and a host of patients! The doctor comes twice a week. The pastor comes everyday making a 2 hour trip by train and leaves by the same. The clinic needs a computer for records, medicines for low-level care, continued funds for rent and the doctor. We pray for those who are awaiting medical assistance. It feels slightly awkward. The villagers stare at the white people. The white people smile at the villagers. Time to break the ice.
Patient Intake & Records

While Sompa, the beautiful Hindu medical assistant, distributes forms and questions the patients, I pull out the iPhone I received for my birthday during Youth Camp #4 at Camp Jackson. Time for pictures! Spin the camera and watch the smiles! It's fun taking pics with the white lady and seeing yourself on the screen!
The doctor has arrived as patients line up in Bishnupur

My first subject was a little old lady who had traveled roughly 6 miles from a nearby village. The young pastor decides we should head to the village and give a ride to this little old lady. Disembarking my new friend grabs my hand and away we go down little paths through a wooded area. Word quickly spreads of our arrival. Men and women, boys and girls of all ages run up and stop short to shyly regard this group of pale skins. She must have let them know all was safe, because we dart from hut to hut meeting and greeting and praying for the villagers, who want to show me life in their village!

Before leaving the USA, I learned of the extended families in the Indian culture. As a point of respect, older women are referred to as "Aunty" or "Mossi-Mossi." Realizing she has claimed me, I address her in the appropriate fashion. OH MY GOODNESS! You've never seen anyone so proud as this petite, little old lady who petted my hand as we visited other "Aunties."
Me & my Bishnupur "Mossi-Mossi"

It's getting dark and time for us to make the drive back to Kolkata. All of my new mossies are reluctant to let me go, which is just fuel for Team USA. 

"Do you wanna just spend the night? We'll come back for you!"
"I believe you're the new queen of the village!"
"I think they want to erect a statue of you!"

Silly boys. From this point on, I am "Sam" Allen, Goddess Divine...who requires a white, porcelain throne and "face papers."


  1. very nice! sounds a lot like our first few weeks here. the "face paper" makes me think of one of our experiences in which john asked for a napkin at a restaurant. we found out the hard (and embarrassing) way that a "napkin" means a sanitary napkin, and a "tissue" is the term used for regular old napkins! haha! so glad you guys got to go!

  2. Sam, I can relate to the toilet situation.I remember paying before entry into an open room 1 Romanian lei to be able to pee in a hole in the ground!! I love the pic of you and the precious Indian lady. Were you able to buy any Indian Sari?Exotic right?

  3. Love this "middle of the pie" story....absolutely fantabulous!

  4. This is wonderful! I love your writing, looking forward to more! I want to go there! Marsha Miller