Visiting the Dump - - Mar

Trip Start May 15, 2009
Trip End May 24, 2009

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Flag of India  , West Bengal,
Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Last night was a favorite experience with our team's first visit this trip to the Sree Durga dump.  It was a happy reacquainting with the people living and working there.  I have been communicating through Christopher (our Project-keeper in Kolkata), as have other 2007 team members, but the new team members this trip, Heather (Beloved Community member), Alanna (Public Praxis student), and Tom (Beloved Community member) only know Christopher and the people through letters and pictures from Christopher.  I wrote about the beginning of the Project in Mar's Blog on, (click on Projects). 

It was near dusk when we arrived with Christopher.  Some of the women ran to get stools for us to sit on.  As folks gathered around, Christopher introduced each one to us, by name, making small, sometimes funny, sometimes endearing remarks.  Then with a conspiratorial whisper, he nodded as the people brought out against the dark of their clothes bright small roses in red, pink, and yellow.  The women, teen-aged girls, and children smiled widely and came close, but the men stood without speaking mostly at the edge of the crowd.  The teen-aged boys also stood in the back but jostled around horse-playing a bit with each other.

We were delighted as some of the children eagerly showed us their drawings.  Through Christopher, before we visited, we asked if they would draw pictures for us.  One little boy, shy but wanting us to see his picture, slowly sidled up and held out his picture.  It was a bright picture of a small house, the sun, and a tree, a complete contrast to the dirt and trash of the dump.  

Another delight was when the younger children gathered in front of us and Christopher had them sing a song.  They chose to sing the national anthem.  I was struck by the contradiction of these trusting children singing with spirit the national anthem of a country that relegated them to the lowest caste, to a life of hard work for only a pittance, receiving only meager medical care, sleeping without shelter against the monsoon rains, and living at the edge of a dump.  

Tom, leaning on the edge of the dump's old battered table, began strumming his mandolin.  One of the boys, R, intrigued with the music gestured to Tom that he wanted to play.  Tom put the strap of the mandolin on his shoulders and showed him a few strokes.  R then pantomimed playing and dancing with other kids joining in.

When we first arrived, M, the mother with whom I first connected, took my arm and stayed close all evening.  The first time I was in Kolkata I stayed with other members of the International Philosophers for Peace at the Sree Durga Hotel right across the street from the dump.  One night when it was softly raining, I stood at the open window of my 4th floor room and looked out on the street, loving the sound of the rain.  Figures across the street in front of the dump, were packing up and carrying their things across the street, evidently looking for a ledge or some place to get out of the rain .  As I looked down on a very different experience than the lovely sound of the soft rain out my window, M lifted a little boy onto her hip and started across the street. Just then she looked up and saw me - and waved.  I waved back feeling a current go through me.  I only saw her one other time, when I visited in 2007, but now with her firm grasp on my arm and leading me to one of the stools, I believed the connection I felt that first night was mutual. 
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