Arrived at Calcutta on Thursday, May 7th, 2009: long-awaited moment… I am not making a film in the head, to be better able to welcome what I am going to live. What am I thus going to discover?
I find without any trouble "Father Francis" (Father François-Marie whom everybody so calls here) which waits patiently for the arrival of the Indian train, with the small hour of delay: nothing very grave.
In spite of the fatigue of the journey, the joy is great and the motivation even more present. I wonder little where I am, and I feel that I am going to need to hold on. But, in the fact " my Father of Calcutta "tells me, I believe very gladly beforehand that it is these children who are going to hold me " at first!
Indeed, constatation is made quickly without any trouble, they surprise me at once by their behavior and their welcome. It is like as if they knew me for a long time and at the same time I feel that they expect a lot from us, from me … Everything is read in their dark and brilliant eyes.
I have exactly 8 days to adapt "completely" and be able to discover with the Pilgrims of Charity the practical things (route by bus, places of services...) and those essential, the most beautiful, which it is necessary to me to understand fast because they are invisible, undefinable (their way of life, to be, but still how to react in front of such or such situation, pay attention on this or that, not tell yes to everything, the vigilance). It is necessary to OBSERVE and to keep silent... that's it.
During this week, many things happended. First of all, the meeting of the brothers of Mother Teresa in Tingra, places where lived the Pilgrims of Charity and Nabo Jibon where I shall come every morning to give the most necessary helps.
Then, from second day, Brother Francis-Mary takes me to see the "prince" for whom I had joined him in particular, a small 16-years-old boy, Chitka, having a generalize cancer. Lying, motionless in his bed (not always very clean) in the corner of this big room of hospital, the half closed eye, my small prince finds the strength to smile to me. I would never have imagined that such a deformation of a so small body was possible, but he remains incredibly beautiful! It is in fact my first contact with the poverty and the physical suffering. I get acquainted little by little of his seven brothers and sisters and his magnificent parents, all of them living at the railway station of Sealdah. I shall go to see him every day, as long as possible, sometimes accompanied with Komol, a big boy of the station on whom I can lean when the Pilgrims of Charity will not be any more there.
Indeed, a bond of friendship really weaved between us and on which both of us we could lean. But over there the relations are very different and difficult to describe, they are strong and incredibly beautiful but at the same time, they have so much strength of freedom and inside dignity that they keep a certain "distance", a certain "independence". I saw it like that in any case.
Then, there was various activities, organized by the Father for the children of the railway station, who came to bloom this week:
One "mêla" in the big garden which the sisters of Loretto lent them: an afternoon of games, dances ...of laughter simply. This day, it is the magician who came to make them laugh to make this day a little more magic than the others. But I believe that it is I who was the most "deceived" and touched by this magic... to see all these eyes brilliant of curiosity, captivated by the magic tricks, then who suddenly fill with a brilliant veil accompanied with a dazzling smile which translates all their enjoyment and their emotion. That can only strike you and fill also your own eyes with this brilliant and communicative veil which would be ready to pour. What European child would be filled and happy in front of a simple trick of playing cards?
Then I understand that India is the simplicity, the poverty of hearts and that the real internal enjoyment is found there. But they do not realize it and on the contrary some of them wish to be rich like the "whites". When they realize that a bigger wealth of money is possible but that they cannot reach it, then we can read in theire eyes a big sadness and a profound passivity…
This thought confirms in the evening which ends in dance, where all practically burst out, let off stream, and gesture harmoniously: privileged moment for each of them when they can dance with the Brother Fancis-Mary and " his friend ".
The next day, it is the day of picnic with the bigger boys of the railway station. We visit the church of Bendel, blessed place, small video show, then we are going to take a bath. It is a magnificent moment! Of real FRIENDS! But this day ends in a “mysterious” way. Indeed, Komol and I have to leave early to join Chitka who is in bad condition. Arrived at 4 pm at his bedside, he speaks with difficulty then speaks no more, breathes badly and little by little, we hardly distinguish his breath. With a superhuman effort we hear these few words: " Father, father ". He waits only for one person, for Father Francis, who arrives at 8:45 pm. Chitka has his last breath at 9:35 pm.
What beauty in this so big suffering. India seemed to me already contradictory in each thing, but there, everything seems to me incomprehensible, because unattainable. The life is a real mystery, but it really reaches this mystery in the evening of the entrance to the real life of a being because then we feel so small, so powerless as we dare to let out a quite small breath for fear of breaking this amazing moment, for fear of hiding the rays of the beautiful sun of life which have just pierced the clouds of the life. Something passed: oh! We feel it only too much! But what? Where are we? Who are we to live such moments? What a beauty! What a pain! I have the strange feeling at this moment to have touched with the fingertip something wonderful but undefinable... and fortunately! You should not look farther nor to want to understand more. It is just necessary to take advantage of what is given us to live. What a lesson gave us this small prince!
Then the next day, during all day, the accompaniment of the body and the soul, by all, the family, his friends … Having "cast" its ashes in the "branch" of the Ganges, the enjoyment returns almost immediately and all of us bathe with enjoyment to accompany him even more, a custom for them.
The Father and the Pilgrims of Charity leave the next day for Bangalore where they will follow a course of medical training for three months. After some good recommendations of the Father and some practical good advices, we tell him goodbye at the railway station and here he goes. The children are totally "destabilized", some turn immediately to me and even if I do not still understand their language I understand well in their eyes that they are asking me for something. Komol, who speaks a little bit English translates to me afterward: " are we going to make the same thing with Aunti (I) as with the Father? ". Unfortunately, not having been able to know what was his daily routine at the railway station with the children, I have no idea myself of how all this is going to take place. But I am incredibly confident, what I shall have had difficulty in imagining not so long ago.
In India we learn to be passive, and to trust the providence.
Then, yallah! It is not the moment to be idle! I begin peacefully to get my bearings. The morning with the Brothers of Mother Teresa, who welcome boys affected by a handicap, the older as the young one, everything takes place marvelously and as time goes by, more the Brothers show me their confidence. I accompany them to some of their visits in the slums towards Howra, the second railway station of Calcutta.
From time to time I play the volleyball with them when the washings, the beds and the housework is finished...and twice also, I join them for an evening gathering in which they had invited me.
I spend the afternoons at the railway station of Sealdah. I quite slowly get in touch with their life, I begin by visiting the family of Chitka, those that I had already met and those for whom Father Francis-Mary had ask me to visit from time to time. But very fast, they show me what they expect from me. At first the health care, which I do with the small knowledge I have, then the distribution of small biscuits when it is possible, and finally, the bigger boys, especially Komol and Udjol, show me the people who are badly off and who would need help.
Much to my surprise, at the end of week, my small pharmacy was made, I began to understand them well and in turn they show me their confidence.
After one month, we begin to know each other well, and soon I widen my small visits to the smallest hidden recesses of the railway station and in the surrounding slums, in particular the one I crosse every day to return to my room. But, round trips to the hospital are longer and longer and numerous.
So, the second month, I stopped my visits to Nabon Jibon, my days were spent essentially in Sealdah. In the morning, the visits at the hospital for a grandmother and a child whom I had taken with Udjol, and in the afternoon, I passed from platform to platform to see my friends. What is strange is that the more we knew each other and the more I had the impression that the roles were reversed. What JOY! We spent more and more evenings together till 9:30 pm, even 10:30 pm. We danced, sang, but especially we spoke. They liked to tell me stories or jokes. I began to be able to be understood. We were able to organize some particular days outside Sealdah.
In brief, everything got organized without I notice it, fabulous meetings of people crossed in streets or hospital and some I went to see from time to time in the evenings when I did not leave too late. People whom I was able to meet only once but whom I shall always remember. Oh! As the providence watched! Every day I had the proof of it, as soon as I put feet in the station or as soon as I saw the piercing looks of these children. Oh yes, I felt Jesus in the middle of us. But what gave me the biggest of the strengths, my only food, it was the daily mass in the morning at 6:30 am. The Lord tells it to us in the writing, but as long as we did not live it in our own way we do not imagine this mysterious strength that he comes to give us by making himself quite small.
With a little of backward look, I have the biggest joy and at the same time some frustration to notice and to feel to what extent I have to give nothing, but that it is these children, these small princes who gave me EVERYTHING, as soon as they could they did not hesitate. How we are small and weak of our European pride! They made me aware of many things , and especially they taught me enormously! But there would have been so much more to discover with and by them. I was only touching certain things by the tip of the little finger. But, the biggest of the discoveries and the most striking, at my level, thus just a small bright period but which is enough for me, were the real "gift" The poor people can take everything from you. Mother Teresa also said that…
The poor people can really take everything from you, then give EVERYTHING to them without exception, it will always stay something in you. When you feel your forces leaving you, where you finally feel that you gave everything and that you have nothing more, it is exactly that you did not give enough , more exactly, you did not give of yourselves enough ! Because to give it is necessary to have received, thus the self-sacrifice is a total link with the necessity and even the duty to receive. I explain, sometimes we do not accept what is given to us, we do not agree to receive because in fact we have the pride to want to give everything, and only to give. The intention is good but the error risks to be fatal!
How to give if we do not agree to receive? This acceptance is thus a way also to give. Then we give our arrogance, our pride and we make ourself quite small to be better able to receive... but what would we not give afterward?! And it is true without being aware of it, it is the best free, totally FREE AND TRUE gift.
One day, by telling myself to be too much tired, I allowed myself to get up 1 hour later, what meant that my soul will not have the opportunity and the joy to receive the Lord and thus "to draw" from the source of its heart?! I had neither the time for a morning prayer. The morning passes away, I put all my strengths to give what I can as "help" to Nabo Jibon. Arrived at the station in the afternoon: any more forces, NOTHING. I cannot even smile any more. I am going to make my small care and give the rest of biscuits, I refuse the same biscuit which a child gives me in return and tell him that it is for him, and I continue. On the road, I refuse a soda stretched out to me by Bapi, a child of the railway station: " I am in a hurry ", I tell him. More the afternoon passed and the more I was tightened and less open to the children.
What a horror, and what a lesson it gave me! First of all, I understood in the evening, that my only strengths were not enough for me, even for one hour. The mass is a vital necessity, even more! But not only because it gives us " the necessary strength ", if it was only that still, but no. Because it allows us from early morning to put ourself in the presence of our SAVIOUR, to give EVERYTHING to Him, to hand over EVERYTHING to Him, so simply " It is not me who live but Him who lives in me " (Saint-Paul). Is it not bright?! How to want to hold, us, small ants next to the big and beautiful Lion! Without having the simple humility to ask Him if we could climb, hang on to its royal mane?! Impossible!
Then, the simple fact of accepting the biscuit stretched out by the child would have given me first of all a little of physical strength, but especially this joy which I missed . Because the fact of seeing the eyes of the child shining with happiness only because you eat the biscuit which he has given to you, you are happier one thousand times. Without forgetting what said our Mother Teresa, " It is Jesus who lives in them ". There is no bigger happiness, not such I had been able to feel previously. And, above all, our heart is touched by the arrow which the child send us, the sign of his love by offering you the only biscuit which he would have been able to eat. He has nothing but he gives it to you, then there, the words are powerless.
It's the same for the soda, one more lesson. The necessity " to take time ", why always to run? Let us make in the peace what we have to make, and leave to God the rest. Every thing arrives at the appropriate time, an experience so strong and incredible as we live in Calcutta in the middle of these children. Allow to take time to give better. To make oneself quite small, to forget oneself in them (by Jesus), to receive better and to give oneself really. Then, I see that there we can experiment this sentence of Mother Teresa, but it becomes bright and pleasant. The more they take from you, the more they "cleanse" you and then more you find yourself without your "shell" ready every minute, to welcome and to hear our Lord in those whom we meet.
The more we give, the more we find ourselves naked and the more we have the essential, only the essential, our soul inhabited by the King of Kings.