Thursday, February 9, 2012

A Holy River Runs Through It

Wednesday, January 25, 2012.

The morning fog is lifting into the ever present, dense, pale brown haze over the Kolkata region as our van arrives in Kadamtala.

Earlier we walked from the hotel down and around the block to Calcutta Mercy Hospital to catch our bus. Couldn't help but notice how quiet the streets were at dawn. Whether homeless or by choice, men were sleeping on the sidewalk, on tables or in their taxis. I quietly gestured for Terry to notice the sleeping bundle we just stepped around.

Kadamtala School
Our van stops at a clearing where in a few minutes we are to witness and participate in feeding the people of this tiny of three drop points in Kadamtala. In the fog I see some women in colorful saris gathering near the road awaiting the ministry truck to arrive. These women have assumed the responsibility to organize the food distribution.

It is early and the village is still asleep with the exception of the women at the road and a woman who wants to show us the Project Rhino School sponsored by Calcutta Mercy Ministries (CMM). It is a modest one-room, dirt floor hut cleanly swept with mats rolled out where the children will sit for their lessons. The children's handiwork is neatly displayed on the woven walls. She is proud for not many children in the villages or slums have the opportunity for education. Here, they do! I smile and say, "It's a lovely school."

A hungry early riser!
We meander down a path between more huts and discover Kadamtala is on the bank of a tributary from the Ganges River, the same river Team USA floated down our first evening together. As we make a turn into the heart of the village, an adorable toddler stands with his feeding bowl, most likely provided by CMM. Our white faces must look strange to him. 

It's not decoration!
Farther down the main path, I notice brown "patties" are stuck to tree trunks and tossed onto roofs and wrapped around long poles. Can you guess what they are and what they are used for? A young woman squatting beside the Ganges tributary washes pans. A hog eyeballs me from under a bush and snorts. A cow is nearby.

AG Food Truck
The truck from the Kolkata Assembly of God Church arrives loaded with huge cooking pots of steaming rice mixed with dal, a savory broth of lentils and yellow spice. As the villagers position themselves, several assist in off-loading a couple of pots so that the truck can continue on to the next two stops on this route. We observe the distribution process and ask if we can help. I wish we could do more. Do these families have more food items to add to this daily portion? How many mouths will this portion feed, today? Do they tire of their daily portion of rice and dal?

It's quiet on the van out of Kadamtala. I think we all know that without God's provision and the support of CMM partners worldwide, 25,000+ people could not be fed on a daily basis.

Baboo Ghat is the next stop. Ghat refers to a flight of steps leading to a bathing area in the Ganges River where Hindu men and priests chant and ceremonially "wash" their sins away in this river considered holy in view of the orange monkey-man god. Jesus, they don't know they need only to ask You to wash their hearts.

Step into the River!
The Ganges is filthy! Its murky, swirling waters are filled with environmental pollution, human waste, trash, carcasses and...everything!  When a family cannot afford to pay for a burial of a loved one, a raft is constructed to carry the deceased, set afloat and set afire. I spot a recent Hindu offering of a garland of yellow and red marigolds drifting with the current. There are men brushing their teeth with twigs using this disgusting river water to rinse their mouths. Gross!

Mmmmmasala Chai
Not too far from Baboo Ghat, Danielle knows where the best Masala Chai in Kolkata is served in large clay drinking pots with saffron sprinkled on top. Chai is a beverage made by brewing tea with a mixture of Indian spices. Gaining popularity in the USA costing upwards to $5 per cup, we purchase our street-side chai for less than .50 cents per pot. After drinking it is customary to dash the pots to the street which insures the pots aren't re-used passing along germs. 
"Bottoms" up!

It isn't until after we have finished our chai that we are informed the chai drinking pots are made of baked clay from an abundant source of mud out of the Ganges River bottom! 
Oh, Lord, may the holy Pepto Bismol protect me!


  1. Oh; I love this! I think this opportunity is AMAZING! Just to know that lives are touched. It warms my heart. the shock that those pots are made of the Mud from the river. ;) Lord, let the Pepto Bismol Roll On!! :D

  2. Ahh! Fly me out there!!