My Days in India

I have just arrived home after a month in India with the IIMC. One of the things that made the strongest impression on me was the trip to Dhaki, a village about three hours drive outside of Kolkata. We (me and three other volunteers) arrived on a Wednesday at the Indoor Clinic at 08.10 am to discover that the IIMC bus had left without us. Apparently, “Indian time” – which means that all times are arbitrary and appointments almost always are delayed by at least one hour – does not apply when you are going to Dhaki. We managed to take a cab to the place where you stop for breakfast and met with the others. Finally, we could join them on the bus. It was an interesting start of the journey.

In Dhaki, we started working at the Outdoor Clinic immediately. Syringes, dressings, and blood pressure in the hot days of May – the month that’s supposed to be the absolute hottest during the whole year. Sweaty. When all the patients had been taken care of, we spent timevisiting different families that are a part of the IIMC in some way or another: sponsor children, micro-loaners, people engaged in the Women’s Peace Council and participants of the Cow Project. We also joined a meeting for the Women’s Peace Council where we were asked to sing something in our mother tongues. Another girl from Sweden and I sang Ted Gärdestad’s “Himlen är oskyldigt blå”.

At the night there was a storm with lots of rain, so it was unusually cool when we slept under our mosquito nets. On Thursday we drove to see the sea. It was fantastic. Across the sea was a jungle with Bengali tigers. Before we went back we saw some people attending a funeral. From the distance, we saw how the funeral fire got bigger and bigger before heading back to the auto-rickshaw and starting our bumpy journey back to Dhaki. When we were home in Dhaki again, we went to visit more families. The electricity is unreliable in the countryside and during the night, the power was cut. The fans stopped working, and there was no power for the whole night. Sweaty.

The next morning we went fishing and picked mangoes growing next to the clinic. We managed to pick over 300 mangoes and there was plenty of fresh fish for everyone to eat for lunch. In the afternoon, the people in Dhaki suggested that we should go and sleep at a school two hours away. It was a very bumpy ride and on the way, we stopped by another school. The problem was that the students had summer break. So we went around on an empty school. I wish we would have skipped that part of the trip since I find schools with students present more interesting. After that, we visited an old temple before arriving at the school which we were supposed to stay the night. This one was also empty. In the evening, a man came and played some drums.

On the last day, Saturday, we went back to Dhaki and started with the Outdoor Clinic work right away. Afterwards we went back to Kolkata.

When I think about those days in Dhaki I have mixed feelings. On one hand it felt good coming back to Kolkata and the guesthouse where the electricity is working properly and fans always spin. On the other hand I really enjoyed the silence and quiescence of Dhaki. One thing is for sure, I will always remember and treasure those special days in Dhaki.

People cleaning mangos

Mango picking.

Man fishing and a woman standing besides watching

Fishing time.

Bedroom with nets over the beds

An empty school.

Alma Elfström
IIMC volunteer May 2017