Tuesday, May 22, 2012

The sun beats down on Prem Dan;

I am scrubbing. Fregando, fregando ("scrubbing" in Spanish), Allison says it's all about the friction. I'm not very good at scrubbing these sheets. There is a rhythm here, but it's like it's in a language that I don't understand and I'm having trouble keeping up. Bent over the basin, I'm moving slow and the small, Indian woman is noticing. The timid, Japanese volunteer sharing our basin accidentally pushes soap suds into a burst in the air and it flies at the Indian matron who makes a noise in disapproval. Selfishly, I am glad that my slowness is being overlooked now, or at least that I'm not alone on the outside of the woman's good graces.

I'm thinking about hands. My hands don't know these rhythms, they don't do this work so well, but theirs do. my hands know other things - like how to find a library book, drive a car, flip a Spanish tortilla, make a mix CD. All these hands here were made in wombs separated in likeness only be genes of ethnicity and their physical location. How is it that my white hands know so naturally how to type or tie my shoes, yet struggle so much where their brown hands pick up the work with ease? I'm holding a different Indian woman, a massi's, hands while she stands in the basin and mixes the soap in with the clothes. It's like we're doing a secret washing dance with her hands in mine and her feet gently stomping in the water. We don't know any of the same words but her hands organically came to mine as I helped her into the bin. When she's content with the mixing she steps out and we go back to scrubbing, scrubbing, scrubbing. The sun is hot. It's only been an hour, and my fingers are swelling up with dehydration and yet also pruny from the water. Is it possible to be two opposites at once? If it is, that might be what Kolkata is - a bunch of opposites.

I'm on the roof and there are colors everywhere with the sheets we've washed waving like flags. The women move methodically to hang and point us with our buckets of clean, wet laundry. I look out onto Kolkata from the roof. This city is a lot of colors, but so far to me it's mostly blue, yellow and brown, although this morning from the rooftop I'm overwhelmed with a lot of green - just not the Vermont kind, and it reminds me how far from home I am.

love & namaste,


  1. Beautiful post!

  2. Sunny love,
    Thank you for sharing this thoughtful snapshot of your day! Gosh, I remember standing with my hands in the laundry and feeling anxious that I wasn't working fast enough or scrubbing/rinsing the correct way... don't worry. You are not alone and before you know it will get into your own groove and there will be new volunteers there asking you how do the work. Thinking of you! Namaste.

  3. After reading your post Sunny I feel like I am there with you. Love Mom

  4. Linda HollingdaleMay 23, 2012 at 11:30 AM

    Hi Sunny,
    I've been thinking about you and the group everyday. Just read the posts and am touched by all of you. Indeed, you will be forever changed by all that touches you...and all that you touch will be changed. I wish you openness and peace as you continue your journey. My best wishes to all.
    Love from back home,

  5. Sunny, I'm so glad you found the roof! It's a peaceful place to go after experiencing so many new things during the day. You will find that the massi's learn to depend and appreciate you very quickly, and they will be sad when you leave. You're a beautiful writer, and it was great to hear about your experience. Please send my thoughts to the group, you are all such compassionate and generous people.

  6. Sunny! Hi, I was on the trip last year and I served at Prem Dan as well! Is there a young woman named Pooja still at Prem Dan? I must know! Can you find out? She is very young and very thin-she can't walk or talk, and most of the time she doesn't have much control over her facial expression, but every now and then she smiles, and it is the biggest, most beautiful smile I have ever seen in my life. She has huge brown eyes and I still think about her every day....have you seen her?

    PS beautiful post. I love the roof as well...