December 7, 1975Dear Family –
Hi! I'm back in Caluctta again – after a very busy enjoyable time in Puri. I really saw some sights there – which I'll go into detail later.
I stayed at a youth hostel there – very nice – only had been open two weeks. Price was 4 Rupees if student – 8 otherwise. There were 8 beds in the room I was in – but I had the room to myself (and the mosquitoes) except for my 1st night when a girl from Sweden was there. Total capacity there 45 beds – but only about 15 students were there. It was nice – except for the fact that most of the kids there were using drugs – also they all seemed to enjoy making fun of the Indian people while at the same time taking full advantage of them. Luckily I met 3 nuns on my tour and then spent very little time there at the hostel.
The nuns (Sisters of Charity) hoovered (sp?) over me like old hens. They constantly fed me – all delicious home made things – most of which was fattening! They also made it a point that I really see Puri – both pleasing & unpleasing sights.
I saw the "school" that they run – on the day I was there one of the Sisters was teaching Indian girls how to cut hair, other practical type knowledge. Then one day at lunch time we went to where they fix & serve Rice for alot of the old people & alot of blind people & children who have no one to look after them. Never had I seen such BIG pots of rice.
Also they showed me the part of the beach that is called Swarga Dwar – which means Gateway to Heaven. It is used as a cremation grounds! The Hindus believe that anyone who dies at Puri will go straight to heaven. Near the cremation grounds is a temple where food is placed for all the crows. Mother & Mary Virginia – it's a shame you missed it. I saw almost more than I could take ––
Puri itself is a big fishing town – one afternoon we went out & watched them bring in ALL the fish. Alot they sold by the bunches – to be taken into Calcutta – etc. – The Sisters got some & was it ever good – Where they were selling the fish you could see all kinds – prawns, lobsters, tortises (sp?) (Look like turtles).
Now – I've saved the worst till LAST – one day a doctor, Cath. Priest came in a jeep and took 4 nuns plus myself out – just a few miles from Puri to a Leprosy camp. They go out there twice a week. I had been warned & prepared for the worst – but it was worse than ever I imagined. In about a 2 block radius there was about 300 people – all affected w/leprosy. The nuns go out & bandage the open sores, try to fix them up w/ devices so they can walk – homemade crutches – or homemade wagons so that they can mainly go to the temple in town to beg. On their hands they would have short sticks for fingers – or none at all. In alot of them I couldn't see how they could use theirs hands at all.
We were there about 5 hours – and what pitiful sights. There were a few small children there – unaffected – the lepers begged the nuns to take them before they too get affected. The nuns have already gotten most of the children out of there.
Before we left they gave out 2 50 pd. bags of rice (uncooked). There was a little spilled on the floor & the children made sure every grain was picked up. It was a very touching experience to see all this in person.
I'm glad still I got to go – but it was very unpleasing! You can read about it in magazines but there is nothing like seeing it in person. ORISSA - the state Puri is in is suppose to be where most of the leprosy in in India.
I think I forgot to mention but I have seen several jeeps – also hospitals which have a big sign up – Supported by Unicef money.
I also forgot to say that when we got back that afternoon they made sure each of us – esp. me – have a thorough wash w/ this special kind of soap.
As to the tour I took it was good – alot of beautiful temples – some of which we (the nuns & I) were not allowed in because we're not Hindu. That's how we all got talking outside the temple.
The Sun temple in Konark was by far the highlight of the day. In fact it has been said that had it not been really discovered till 1902 it might have taken the Taj Mahal's place as one of the 7 wonders of the World. It was built in 1255 and the story is that it took 1,200 men 12 years to build. There are alot of interesting stories that go w/it. One being that the guy who directed all the men to build it – Sibai Santra – tried to elevate the structure – but could not do it. He was very upset & went to the beach & fell into a deep sleep. When he woke up an old woman brought him a plateful of hot food,, so he dipped his fingers in the middle of the plate & burned his fingers. Then the old woman said "That s how Sibai Santra tried to build the temple – but it didn't work – you must start from the edge & work into the middle! So then he went back & directed the men to put the temple up that way.
The temple is shaped like a huge chariot – w/ 24 big wheels & pulled by 7 horses. Most of the wheels & horses though are not complete and because of its age. It was beautiful – bit piles of sand all around it – and you could hear the sea in the background.
The tour took over 12 hours and we covered some 188 miles. Really saw alot of the countryside. I had an excellent view – as I sat up in the front next to the drive – I think they put me up there because I was the only one who didn't speak Hindi or Oriya. At every stop the driver bought me something toe at – all starch & sweets!
So far I've only cashed in $150 of T.C.'s [traveler checks] – and know – unless I buy an awful lot here I'll have more than enough to last me till I get to Bombayl I have bought nothing so far as souvenirs, etc. – because my suitcase is too heavy now. I spent more money in Delhi (mainly for room) & then ticket to Calcutta (1st class) than anywhere else – 2nd class on the train is very cheap – but very uncomfortable. Also on the train 2nd class it is hard to find anyone who speaks English – where on 1st class everyone seemed to speak English. My ticket to Bombay is 2nd class – 2 nights & 1 day sitting on a bench – at night you get to lay on a bench – they stack them up 3 high – not enough room for you to sit up!
Mother I hope you had a nice birthday – what did you do? When will John & Serena be home for Christmas? I have not seen or hear _1_ thing as to Christmas here – but I understand that here at the Salvation Army Hostel they will be decorating, etc.
I was glad to get back to Calcutta – it reminds me alot of N.Y.C. – the traffic here is like NYC – if you substitute cows & rickshaws for cars! There is good public transportation here – my tram yesterday got in at 5:30 AM – the train station was packed 2/ people – most of them getting up – beginning to fix their breakfasts. This time I took a rickshaw to the hostel – so I really got to see the sights of the city.
It was good to get back here – to see the girls I had met before – they have planned out my 4 days here. This morning I'm going to see the school where 2 of them go – then this afternoon we have tickets to see a Hindi movie. Tonight we are to go to a Thai Restaurant – 1 of the girls is from Thailand.
Tomorrow I am to meet the Chakrabarti family – the Botany Prof. I don't know yet what is on the agenda.
I like Calcutta but sometimes I feel like maybe I should be spending my time elsewhere for this Saturday * will have been here 1 months & only been in Delhi, Calcutta, Darjeeling & Puri. By Saturday I will have spent 8 nights on train or bus, plus 2 nights on the plane getting to Delhi if you want to count that! I must be going it's about time for breakfast.
I'm enclosing a letter that one of nuns wrote to her cousin who is in Akron. Please mail it on to [address included]
Should you want to send some $ to a good cause sent to Sisters of Charity [address included].
Do NOT send much though as they get spoiled & expect alot in the future. I know this from hearing them talk.
I'm doing fine – have alot of mosquito bites – but I feel good & eat well – except too much starch!
Hope all of you are fine – I'm looking forward to being in Bombay w? the friends I met in Delhi.
Please sent this on to G'ma as I have little time to write letters. – Also the Rupees ($) involved. HA!