Day 4 – Saturday
For my last day in Kolkata I figured I’d walk around and see all the sights I hadn’t yet seen. I started out in the morning making my way to the house where Mother Teresa spent a good majority of her life. As soon as I stepped in, I felt very emotional, like a sacred blanket had been placed over me. I felt like crying, for the quotes and memories of Mother Teresa that they had displayed around touched me quite deeply. I walked up to her quaint room where she would sleep, which was extra hot since it was right above the kitchen (and there wasn’t even a fan!). A stroll through the mini-museum showed me common items of hers such as her sandals and telephone, as well as her Nobel Peace Prize and a cloth with her very own blood on it. Close by was her tomb, which had flowers in the shape on a heart laid across it. Some nuns were praying nearby, and were scattered about the still very active convent (this wasn’t the well-known house of the sick and dying that she opened, but that was still very active, too). So I paid my respects, and was off to the next holy place.
A great Yogi named Parmahansa Yogananda who started the fellowship for self-realization in America spent much time in Kolkata. There wasn’t much to see at his house, just a little plaque that says he lived there. I made a friend in asking for directions who went to The University of Kolkata, which was very close by. He recommended to me the Indian Museum, and so after Yogananda’s house I started the long walk there. On the way I saw a bunch of pups feeding from their mother on the sidewalk, some really, really busy markets, some more temples and mosques, a guy carrying a mattress on his head walking across the street, another guy sleeping in his hand-pulled rickshaw, and a very busy protest against corporations.
I walked quite a few miles in extreme heat and humidity before I reached the Indian Museum. Thankfully I drank a coconut and some Mossambi (sweet lime) juice on the way to keep me going. The museum held lots of old fossils and plenty of science/wildlife exhibits. It was interesting, but I found the hustle and bustle of everything happening on the streets there more appealing. So I took a few more selfies with some Indians who’d approach me wanting a picture, learned about the different bioregions in India, and was on my way back to my guesthouse. So many people are curious about what someone like me is doing in India, on the walk back I met some folks and they bought me a cup of chai. We then rode the bus together, and I got off soon after a long day of walking in the heat to finally lay down for a little bit. I went to sleep rather early, for I had a flight to Goa early in the morning the next day.
Day 5 – Sunday
The sun was just rising as my Uber to the airport pulled up around 5 AM. The full moon was still illuminated with a beautiful reddish-pink backdrop. The flights go fine, nothing too interesting happened until I landed in Goa around 2 PM and hopped in a taxi to head to my first Workaway place, where I’d be staying for the next 2 weeks: Saraya Ecostay & Cafe. Right before my taxi driver is about to leave, a man named Steven comes up to the taxi and is asking if he can drive him to a bank on the way with me.
Steven claimed that he was followed down a one way road by some people he stopped to ask for directions, and was mugged. They apparently took his bag, which had his passport, money, ID, basically everything important. They even knocked out one of his teeth, which he showed me. He needed to contact his brother to send money to him, so that he could take a taxi ride to Delhi (~2,000 km or 1,200 mi) that night. He could then get back on his feet since he had family there: his mother and aunt. He was a retired lawyer from London, England, who looked Indian but sounded British, and could talk like a lawyer.
I put myself in his shoes, and offered to help him in many ways. Since he wasn’t able to get any money from the bank on the way, I let him use my phone once we got to Saraya to call his brother to send the money to me instead. He gets through to brother Kevin who worked as a neurosurgeon at Hammer Smith hospital, and calls his bank to make sure that there are locations that were still open, since on Sunday most were closed. There were 2 back in Panjim, a 20 minute drive away. So we order another taxi, and were on our way back to the main city in Goa.
Steven told me about some service he did for those who are abused by the legal system in Laos, and had a lot to say about American & British politics, as well as how absurd all of these terrorist attacks on innocent people are. He cared for all these ethical causes and was upfront about paying for all of the expenses that this trip is causing me. All in all, he seemed like a decent guy and so I was happy to help him. I’d hope for the same help if I were him.
Once in Panjim, we go to both of the locations that I heard the bank lady tell him were open, but they were closed. Likely we had false info because of the time difference between India and where we called. So now, he is still in a rush to get to Delhi that night because his aunt was sick, and he also was considering seeking medical attention since he got kicked in the crotch and was bleeding down there. The only option is this special hotel taxi, since there were police checkpoints on the way which would require both of them to show their ID’s in order to pass. He simply needed cash to pay the hotel taxi driver. The moneygram I could pick up tomorrow. He needed to leave today. So, I gave him some money. I won’t say how much here, but it was a lot. Over $100.
We drove back to Saraya in a taxi, and he gave me a hug as I wished him goodbye and good luck. By this time it was already 6:30 or so, and I settled into the bed where I’d be sleeping for the next 2-3 weeks. I chatted with another volunteer named Dom who sleeps in the same room with me for an hour or 2, and then get news that Steven is back at Saraya. Uhoh.
Long story short, he needed more money for the hotel taxi than he requested before, and so we drove to at least 5 more ATM’s looking for ones that wouldn’t decline my card. I had to call my bank from someone’s hotspot at the bank in order to activate my card again, since all the recent transactions flagged my card as fraudulent. Eventually I withdrew and lent him even more money, and in exchange he gave me a piece of paper with a new Moneygram code on it to receive an even bigger sum of money once the banks are open.
Now it’s around 10 PM that I get back to Saraya to finally eat some dinner. I tell them all about my whirlwind with this Steven Dixon from Britain, and Deeksha, the owner of Saraya, is sure that it’s a scam. I was naturally skeptical, too, but wanted to stay optimistic. The fact that he sought every way possible without asking me directly for money until he had no other option made me hope that he really wasn’t just acting the whole time.
All I could do now was wait until I can go accept the Moneygram that I really, really hoped he sent me.
On my next blog post I’ll be sharing my experience of seeking out the Moneygram, as well as what my life has been like the past 2ish weeks staying at Saraya. Stay tuned!