by Scott Bradley
by Scott Bradley
My train, the Rajdhani Express from Delhi, pulled into Calcutta’s Howrah Station in the dark, early morning. It had been a two day journey and I was glad it was over. I rolled up my sleeping bag and secured it to my backpack. And then I saw that my leather satchel was not where I had just set it. Gone. Camera. How many Greek drachmas? Traveler’s checks. Passport!!
So began my sojourn in Calcutta. Less than a year before I had graduated from seminary. I had been accepted into a doctoral program in philosophical theology at GTU in Berkeley. I wanted to study liberation theology and somehow apply it in the world. But first, I told myself, I should go back to India and touch again what had become for me emblemic of all poverty.
I don’t remember how I found my way to Nirmal Hriday, but the path changed my life. This was Mother Theresa’s “First Work”, a former pilgrims’ hospice attached to and donated by the Kalighat Temple of Kali. And here the “Dying and Destitute” were brought when found just so in the streets of Calcutta. Here it was intended that they should die in dignity. I soon found myself housed on the roof of the Brothers of Charity domicile and daily working the morning shift in care of the wards.
There were as many as thirty in the men’s section; I never saw the women’s. Need I describe these men? Yes, I guess I do. All were indeed destitute; most were indeed dying. I dispensed medicines for tuberculosis, leprosy, parasites and I don’t know what else. I applied lotion to their wasted bodies to fight the scabies. I washed their bodies and helped to carry the same when lifeless to the tiny morgue behind the water cistern.