Saturday, 29 October 2011

Miss Anderson, I miss you.

sesame toast and chai! 
How to make Indian Chai
as learned from Mary Anderson, honorary chai-wallah 
of Dui Number Rail Gate, Dum Dum Cantonment, Kolkata 

  1. Bring to boil equal parts milk and water
  2. Add a few cloves, cinnamon sticks and cardamom
  3. Add 2-3 handfuls of tea and 2 handfuls of sugar 
  4. Strain before the tea gets bitter 

Saturday, 22 October 2011

"And so they compel me now, 
my heart-thoughts, to try for myself
the high seas, the tossing salt streams;
my heart's desire urges my spirit
time and time again to travel, so that I might seek far from here a foreign land."
"The Seafarer", Exeter Book Elegies 

Friday, 7 October 2011


I fondly remember how shocked many of my friends and family were when I told them about the packing requirements for the Trek, which consisted of the following:

My faithful travelling companions: these bags have taken me from Italy to India! 
Speaking of faithful travelling companions, I haven't introduced you to my placement partner, Thomas Bell.

During our time in India we traveled in pairs (or in Paige, Oliver and Vanessa's case, a trio!) to our placements every day. Thomas is from Texas, and had recently graduated; his coming to India was a long and  grace-filled process that I don't think he expected. But nevertheless, I am certain that it wasn't a mistake and that God brought him there for reasons none of us might understand.

Left to right: Mary, Leah, Thomas, Vanessa, me! On the roof of our apartment. 

When Thomas and I said our goodbyes to the children and youth of the Promod Nagher slum they had bought us both goodbye gifts- they were these beautiful framed coloured glass pictures that had a layer of glitter behind the image, and sealed in a plastic frame with a cardboard backing. The one they gave me was an image of a vase of flowers, and Thomas was given one of the Taj Mahal, considered a lasting monument of love. 

When we were packing, nether of us thought to pack it in our carry-ons...and to our dismay when we opened our bags at debrief in LA, both the frames had shattered into little pieces, and the glitter now lined both of our bags.

I kept a few pieces of the glass and cleaned out the glitter as much as I could after that.
I've used that backpack a couple times after Kolkata, and still, despite my efforts, there lie traces of glitter lingering on the lining of my bag.

It's gotten to the point at which I pull a shirt out of my bag, and I'll be wearing glittery clothing all day.

I used to be annoyed at the fact that I would be constantly shiny (Leah, this reminds me of that time you asked all of us whether we'd prefer to have flowers or glitter come out whenever we farted! Ahahahaha)
but now I appreciate the glitter, because it reminds me not to forget that I went to Kolkata and met those wonderful children that gave me that gift.

As the weeks go by and schoolwork piles up, Kolkata starts to seem like a far off and hazy dream. During a Skype conversation last week, Thomas mentioned that sometimes it feels like we never went. The thought terrifies me, but sometimes it does feel like that. And I don't want it to.

But then, as I'm sitting in my ergonomically-designed chair, one of 500 others, in the air-conditioned lecture hall listening to my professor talk about Anglo-Saxon culture and the analysis of Medieval poetry, my mind drifts and I begin to see Kolkata again. I can feel the sticky heat, smell the exhaust, and taste the chai again. I see the traffic congesting into a mass of swirling, chaotic vehicles, and can hear the ever-present honking. I feel the floor of our apartment rumble as the train blows by, and the taste of the dhaal and rice Supriya made for us.

I miss these three like crazy. Keah, Jaya, and Beena. 
I'm reminded of the grace and love our Indian friends showed us endlessly, and the children I played Stella-Ella-Olla with roughly a hundred times. My heart aches as I remember and wonder when I'll go back.