By Alex Kuryan: A few months ago, my daughters asked that at the end of each day, we take some time to share with each other the best and worst parts of our day. Since being here in India, I haven’t had a chance to share with them, so I thought this would be a great forum to do so. Each day so far has been filled with so many “best parts” that picking only a few seems like such an injustice to the other wonderful and precious moments we have experienced each day. But here are a few of my “best parts” of Day 3 in Mumbai.
Unfortunately, the day didn’t get off to a great start. Larissa, Shainu, Vicki, Sue and I had employment visas that required us to register with the Bureau of Immigration within 14 days of arrival. If we did not do so properly, we would not be allowed to leave India on our scheduled departure date. I won’t go into details, but due to a poorly organized, confusing immigration office, various bureaucratic inefficiencies, this process unnecessarily took over 5 hours. However, the women and I were able to have 5 hours of bonding time to talk about our families, sexual slavery, and some of the amazing but also sad stories of several BTC staff members. We also squeezed some time in to complain about the Indian government. As an added bonus, I also learned much about buying and negotiating for saris and Indian outfits as Vicki had spent some time the other day shopping for her upcoming wedding (my wife, Sara, will be happy to hear about that part). At the end of our ordeal, Raj (who Larissa mentioned in her post yesterday) came to pick us up on his motorcycle along with his 18 month old son, Mark. We needed to meet the rest of the team in Bandra (about 13 miles away). As a rule, only four passengers are allowed in a taxi. Raj arranged a taxi for the four ladies. He then asked me to hop on the back of his motorcycle for us to make the trip to Bandra.
I had never rode on a motorcycle before, and for those of you who know anything about driving in India, I’m not sure if that should have been my first time. So there we were weaving through the crowded streets of Mumbai: Baby Mark sitting in front of Raj, and me in the rear. I was holding on to the grab bar behind me so tight, that I think I developed bilateral carpal tunnel syndrome in about 10 minutes. About 15 minutes into our trip, Mark fell asleep. Raj then asked me to reach around him and hold Mark while he used his cell phone to make arrangements for Mark to be dropped off, all of which he did while driving!
After about the scariest one hour of my life, with part of the trip driving about 60 kph on an Indian highway on the back of a motorcycle without a helmet, we finally made it to Bandra. There were more than a few occasions during the ride where I saw my life flash before my eyes. I’m not sure if I’ve ever prayed to God harder for anything in my life than to get to Bandra safely. Bandra is supposedly well known for its shopping, but instead of sari shopping, after that trip, I almost needed to go underwear shopping.
After a great lunch with the rest of the medical team, we then made our way to the BTC main office to meet up with the hard working IT folks. We surprised Shibu with a birthday cake. As you can tell, Shibu was really excited to wear his birthday hat (Jon was able to snap a quick photo).
The group then boarded the train to get back to the YMCA where we were staying. Riding the train in India was also quite an experience. After a quick pit stop at the Y, the group headed back out to Kamathipura to visit the orphans at Jeevan Jyoti before dark. We could feel the evil in the stares of people as our group walked through the red light district to get to the orphanage. Our two visits to the orphanage have definitely been the highlight of our trip so far. The pure joy on the faces of the children is indescribable in words. Today, they were especially happy to see the women of our team, as our first trip to the orphanage was after dark and it was not safe for the women to walk through Kamathipura.
Shibu had some especially touching words for the children since it was his birthday and he was unable to spend it with his family back home. Towards the end of our visit, our team encircled the orphans and staff and we prayed for them as they prayed for us.
The days in Mumbai have been long and tiring, but also rewarding in so many ways. We are witnessing firsthand the accomplishments of BTC as it works to restore hope in this dark and evil place. Tomorrow, we head to Ashagram to see more of the fruit of BTC’s labors.
Sara, Hannah, and Grace, I am happy to say that I truly don’t have a “worst part” of my day to share with you today (except for not being able to see you guys…)