Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Day 4 - Rourkela

Returned to Rourkela. The kids were happy to see us back. Now that the kids know us a little better, their personality is starting to come out. More of them are also becoming very “clingy”. They just want to be held and loved. There is a 10 to 1 child to housemother ratio. With that being the case, the children just simply don’t receive a ton of 1 on 1 parent time with affection. It’s evident that this is what they crave. Many of them would just walk up to you with hands outstretched begging to be held. Simple affection…to be squeezed and hugged. And we gave it to them.

Sambhu was always around me. Vikram wanted to be my best friend. Pawan wouldn’t leave my side and always had hands outstretched. Sumatra with her undeniable smile. Krishna, the inquisitive one. Alex, with his furrowed brow always slightly suspect of the situation. And then there is Sourab…unfortunately Sourab still has the blank stare. The not quite present look. His this arms and legs very thin and weak. I spent a lot of time with him today. He slipped off a step and hit his head 3 steps down and left a big welt and a little cut. He later had a high fever so I gave him to the house nurse to tend to. I am anxious to see him tomorrow. Deby, is always smiling. Joseph just turned 4 but is still in a crib. My understanding is that his mother tried to end his life right after he was born. He was found several days later on a river bank and brought to the home 8 days after he was born with brain damage. Anna is a little sweetheart. And how can you talk about the Rourkela home without talking about Deepak? Deepak arrived at the home erased. The blank stare of a child abandoned. He showed no emotion. He now is the liveliest kid in the bunch. Always smiling. Willing to try anything. Always in the mix of things. An irresistible prankster with a heart of gold.

We had hoped to take the older kids to the movie theater for the first time today. Unfortunately the 4-plex now only has one theater and the movie was not suitable for children. We instead played with bubbles and introduced new games (Uno, Simon Says, Hot Hands). I brought a soccer ball for the boys that we played for a couple of hours. I either broke a toe yesterday running around or tore something in my foot but I tried not to let it slow me down. The chance to play with these kids is short and my opportunity for healing is long.

Just outside the ashram’s doors, the local outdoor market was open on Wednesday and bustling. Selling herbs & spices, vegetables, jewelry, clothing and shoes, it’s was where the locals go to shop. Again, as the only Westerners in town, we drew a lot of attention as we walked trough. It’s a nonthreatening non-obtrusive attention but nonetheless, a little unsettling at times.

A couple of local stories of note:
In the town of Biramitripur, just outside of Rourkela where the home is, there has been a ramped rumor that the town has been plagued by demons. According to the rumors, the demons have been stealing babies after dark, taking them to the riverside, and gorging their eyes out before killing them. As a result of the rumors, the town’s people have been retiring early with fear. The stronger, braver men have been patrolling the streets with sticks to beat off any demons that they may see. The unfortunate result is that several locals have been beaten to death simply because they were thought to be possible demons. As has been advised by the local elders, we’ve left town a little early each night as to avoid any confusion that we may be the “demons”.

Additionally, the anti-government activity of the Naxals has caused a number of strikes in the area. Power was shut off for most of the day in the area. This costs the government money. Additionaly, the truckers have been striking and parking their trucks on the roads. This has caused huge traffic jams resulting in long delays in getting back to our hotel (the 45 minute drive taking 1.5-2 hours).

Each evening has ended back at the hotel, sipping on a Kingfisher beer, eating another splendid meal and reflecting on the day past. Recalling our experiences with the children and the special moments that we had. The hotel restaurant TV shows a cricket match. In fact, every TV I’ve seen is tuned in to a cricket match…in the airport, in the hotels, in the villages. It’s certainly the equivalent of American Football in India if not bigger. I never had a chance to play Cricket with the kids. I was hoping to learn how to play.

We have one more day at Rourkela. From there we take the train and car back to Ranchi and on to Sooch Village, the second home we will be visiting. My goal for tomorrow is to spend even more time with the older boys. They have no father to interact with in their lives. They seem eager to engage and excited to talk about the things that they are learning in school and what they want to be when they grown up. I also hope to be able to visit a local tribal village in the area. Most of the Rourkela orphans come to us from the nearby villages…very primitive areas that I hope to explore.

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