Saturday, June 2, 2012

Tell your story walking

The small older man spots a clan of us coming out of the corner of his eye and immediately drops the Times of India newspaper he had been eagerly reading with furrowed brow. His whole face turns into a smile and he picks up the funny little Indian violin and quickly begins to play for us. There is a basket of such instruments seated next to him. I have seen him several times, trying to play to our purchasing satisfaction. The clarinet man does a similar show when we exit Blue Sky Cafe each night. The street interactions are a truly genuine part of the Kolkata experience, and some are more favorable than others.

The begging is difficult. You can't really walk down our street without it happening. It's incredibly hard to tell another human that you will not help them, even when we know that our 10 or 20 rupee note is probably not going to them anyway, but rather to become a part of the deceptive web of professional begging that we've learned is so vital on Sudder Street. We know further that even if it were going to the beggars themselves, we probably wouldn't be able to actually fix any of Sudder Street's beggars' lives with our contributions. We know that to survive humans have to advocate for themselves beyond begging (i.e. get to a shelter, utilize aid agencies, etc), but even knowing makes it a tough interaction. You almost can't help but be wildly tempted to pull out your wallet when a small boy, holding his small brother, follows you for three blocks saying, "Aunty, baby want milk, milk for baby, Aunty, milk baby." I turn the corner to the Astoria with tears welling in my eyes that I can't let him see. I think to myself, "I thought you had figured out how to rationalize this, I thought you had separated your head and your heart for these interactions and could stand by what you know." I am ashamed of myself and of the world - my world - the world of the white conqueror, the microwave and the free market; which created this type of scene. It's worse because the disappointment in his eyes makes me feel like even though he is very young, he already understands the sad reality of his life. He doesn't want to be doing this, either. And he knows what we both know, that neither of us have figured out yet how to make it better.



  1. Sunny, this is so touching - thank you for sharing.

  2. Dhonnobad, Sunny, for your writing. You have captured so much of the human heart's dilemma, and what you guys are living every minute of every day there. It is so hard to stand by what you "know" in that context. To me, that is the amazing opportunity in such immersion experiences. Nothing about what you are doing there is easy. THANK YOU for making the choice to be there, giving of yourself in this way. You ALL are making it better -- I truly believe that.

    Love to all at Blue Sky and Astoria,
    Anne Hatch

  3. Namaste! I've so enjoyed your posts Sunny. I'm glad you visited the roof,your description took me back there. I appreciate your reflection and amazing insights about beggars, what it all means and what it stirs inside you. Sounds like your experience is rich and enriching in so many ways. Keep spreading your love and compassion. Oh and please give my love to Michael, Dream and Brother Xavier. Love you! Annie

  4. This lends such insight into your heart while in India. The last line is haunting and really hits home. Thank you for sharing this!

    <3 Patrick