Mother House, where is the worldly well-known volunteering organization among real backpackers or humanitarian related fields workers in India. The center is founded by Mother Theresa since 1952 as a free hospice for the dying, since then succeeding her virtues, many more centers where are taking care of the sick, homeless people, disabilities, children and women have been opened up and running by locals, nuns, and tons of volunteer workers from the world.
I've visited and worked for two centers for about 2weeks in Calcutta, a beautiful city, India in 2009. The weather was perfect - somewhere between warm and hot because it was in September and October- the culture of city was amazing with well developed structures and information for tourists and young backpackers. Security which is usually a big concern for young female travellers was alright as well, especially Sudder street zone was very interesting and fun known as traveller meca. I even could find a super popular and delis street food cart serving Korean kimchi soup right next to my hostel. After hard working at Mother House centers, many volunteer workers including me and my mates usually chilled out there in fulfilling our hungry spirits with cheap Korean fried rice or noodle soups.
The most intense and desperate center is Kalighat Home where was filled with white sheeted beds in a row for the dying and the smell of sterilize. We had to do the dishes, laundry, setup beds, feed people, clean the place, assist nursing nuns and do anything needed by manually all hands. I remember one grandma in short white hair, magnifying glasses and friendly smily face who always welcomed me. At my first day, I was asked to help the grandma workout. 'What..?? exercising here? where the hell is workout equipment?'. No, not the 'exercise' we automatically learned and comprehend by our advanced society and young healthy culture but what I was assigned to do was helping her to move and drag her stiff body 5 times from here to there, for about 10 steps of distance. They were literally people who were dying, 'exercise' meant just to last their breaths and to sustain their basic metabolism as longer as they could.
'you coming afternoon again?'
She eventually smiled. When I am here tomorrow, I am afraid to ever see this bed empty. I am afraid of this skinny stick like body stopping breathing all of sudden in a second.
- from my diary 2009 @Kalighat Home
Right, the place is where was waiting for the moment of death, where any bed could be covered with white sheet on a body after turning my back for a minute. I naturally ruminated words I read from some book long time ago, "Life is only placed between a breath and a breath". Being with the dying, the old, and observing them got me realize the vanity of body itself as well as the priceless value of being alive with the spirit in this young and healthy body.