I would definitely like to return to India to tour Goa. I’ve heard that the temples in the south are amazing. The food alone is worth a return trip. India is a vibrant, colorful place. You will never run out of things to captivate your senses.
I went to India – specifically, Kolkata (Calcutta) – to spend a week working with Mother Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity. It was nothing at all like I expected, but it had a strong effect on me and changed me for the better in ways I never thought it would. I was assigned to work in an orphanage, and circumstances resulted in me being assigned to a job that is usually reserved for volunteers staying no less than a month. I got to be an assistant teacher for a small class of toddlers, all of them older than 12 months but younger than 3 years. I witnessed the smiles of children who have nothing. I saw their gratefulness for the smallest of things, including the exuberance of a boy who happened to find a small, soggy scrap of cardboard that he could pick up and claim for his very own. I saw frightening neglect. I saw what I can only describe as abuse – physical, psychological, and possibly even sexual – that I was powerless to prevent, stop, or respond to in any way. My inability to do anything about what I saw is perhaps the most shaking experience of my life. A few weeks ago, I stumbled upon an article written by another former volunteer at the orphanage where I was stationed. This writer verbalized all the thoughts I hadn’t be able to put together into words: the Missionaries of Charity are among the least charitable people I have ever met. They would – do – keep millions of dollars in funds locked away in bank accounts while the orphans under their care are dressed in little more than rags. The nuns sit humbly, silently, meekly in the corners of classrooms, statue-like, while the Indian nannies they employ slam toddlers into chairs, scream into babies’ faces, whip them around by their bony arms, and banish them into dark rooms as punishment. The international volunteers seem honestly dedicated to improving the lives of these children, but they are powerless to do anything but the tasks in front of them (teach, feed, bathe, dress, repeat), and many of them are diluded into thinking that these conditions are normal, acceptable, and inevitable. The truth, I have since discovered, is that the conditions in that orphanage are NOT considered acceptable or normal in India, and that they are NOT inevitable! The Missionaries of Charity have the funds to bring their orphanages up to international standards of cleanliness, safety, and care. Instead, they leave infants to writhe in soiled rags for hours before changing them, and they force feed children in such a rough way that some wards with trouble swallowing have been known to develop pneumonia as a result. I watched the brighest little girl in my group, a 2 and a half year old, lick another child’s urine off her desk because the temperatures were record-breaking and the children weren’t to be given water for another few hours. Horrifying. I will never think of Mother Teresa, her nuns, or her zealous worshippers in the same way again.over 5 years ago