Travelreport by Monika Maerker
India is touching me. Every day I am amazed at the people we meet. Many are simply so happy when they can talk to us for a while. And I am grateful for every encounter with these great people who, despite all problems in India, are such wonderful open people. Quite rarely you meet Indians who do not want to be photographed. Very rarely. Most of them even want a selfie with “Sister Hatuna”. They usually have mobile phones that are completely outdated for us Europeans but they are happy about the blurred images which then serve as a memory of Sister Hatune.
Tuesday morning, we drove back to Pandalam, where Hatune personally handed the girls their diplomas. One of the girls held a small thank-you speech in very good English and although she trembled with excitement, she did really well and I could understand everything, despite her Indian pronunciation. This is not always easy, because the Indian pronunciation is a challenge. They do not use tenses at all and the pronunciation takes some time to get used to. To get to Pandalam, we had to take the ferry across the river and the road is so narrow that in Europe you would call it a dirt road or a cycle track. But you can do everything if you take it in the same positive way as the Indians themselves. Later we went to an engagement party. On the way there, which was more a sloop than road, a motorcycle overtook us. When the driver saw that there were two white women sitting in the car, he started a short conversation while driving. The compulsory questions where we come from, where we live, and then the exciting question “How long are you driving here in India?” When I answered this question with “only three weeks”, he muttered something like “crazy” and almost fell off the bike with laughter.
Bride and groom were very happy that Sister Hatune had come to celebrate with them. The food was very Indian, mostly very spicy and I was happy, because when we eat at home, I cannot make the food too hot, since Hatune does not like spicy food. That is why it is always nice when we are invited to eat outside the house and I get the “hot food”, which I love so much. It is unbelievable how great the food tastes here.
Against the advice of Hatune I even risked eating an ice cream. She said that could be critical, because ice cream in India is very likely melted and then simply frozen again. I’ve tested it and found out that there’s so much chemistry in it that it probably keeps fresh a hundred years. That’s why it did not bother me. In the evening there was again our household tasks. Boring but necessary.
On Wednesday the day started again very early as we got doctor Thomas Marry back to the medical camp. There was another camp near Ranny. This time even with the possibility to control peoples’ eyes. Jancy and his team from the eye optician shop provided eye control for free and also when it was necessary spectacles for the people. This time there were a lot of men, which surprised me. Even some very young men were there and Sister Hatune was able to measure the blood pressure and to send them to the doctor later. The foundation is always very grateful, if a doctor works for free at a camp like this . Marry is always released from her hospital for this time, as Father Rijo, the head of the Christian hospital in Thiruvalla, always gladly frees her.
On the way back we visited a finished house and the sign of the donors was installed. It would have been best to wear mountain boots when entering the house. It was exciting in the heat to walk on flip-flops such though. But all went well and also the shield was attached. Not by using a hammer, but there were other metal pieces, which could be used as a hammer. On the way to Tur-Abdin we again had a nice traffic jam, which we almost miss if it is not there. In the evening, we saved pictures, copied the data on Sister Hatunes computer and prepared our food.
I cannot report that much about Thursday because shopping and normal household work simply does not give much ideas for a good story. So you have to imagine for yourself how household at 35 degrees in the shade is running. On our shopping tour, Sister Hatune ordered a few specially embroidered crosses for a Turkish bishop who would like to sew his mass garb without needing a little accessory who wanted to sew it by himself and needed a some more accessories. And so another day had passed and the farewell approached.
On Friday morning we picked up these crosses in Kottayam. Since the day was very packed, we went immediately back to Tur-Abdin. Here Hatune gave a short speech to the girls who had just finished their courses and then handed over the diplomas. The radiance in the faces of the girls is always beautiful to look at. This diploma really gives them a new life because they are not only welcomed as an employee, but they are also more likely to get a job. Unfortunately we had to hurry to get to Ranny just in time for the final celebration of a class from there. There were speeches from different people and Hatune encouraged the girls to start a new life with their diplomas. Afterwards we ate together. And yes, there was a lot of hot food for me.
From Ranny we went to some place in the middle of the forest, where there is a small settlement also with a sewing school. The girls from there had prepared a little program and they were delighted to see Hatune not only distributing their diplomas, but also the large number of starfruits we gave to them. It is always very funny when they ask where this tasty fruit comes from and can hardly believe it is a real Indian fruit. On the market, star fruits are never offered, no idea why. On the way home, we came also passed a poor family and gave them some fruit. The Sari, which Hatune had received as a gift, now makes a poor woman happy, who could not afford a new one.
In the evening, I thought about putting my legs up. But unfortunately I had forgotten that we still get visitors and therefore we had to prepare some dinner. within 5 minutes the young gardener and guard in Tur-Abdin had pulled two fish out of the water and Hatune prepared the fish for dinner. My part was to prepare the supplements. The visiting nun and her novice were so pleased with the huge fish and the rich food they could hardly put into words. Since they had a quite long journey by bus, they stayed overnight and in the morning together with Hatune they picked some fruit. And nuns are up early, and Indian nuns are quite loud … I had to realize this fact with dismay .
On Saturday, Hatune and I did not spend the day together. Of course, we had our common breakfast, but afterwards I went to my computer, which really started getting hot during video editing here in India. Meanwhile Hatune visited two houses for the outcast. First Hatune had called these houses retirement homes, but since I had ever visited one with her, I asked. There are some people who were cast out of society because of their age, because they became a burden for their own family, sometimes because they are demented people and sometimes because they are slightly handicapped. In any case they are people without family and without home. They are always very happy when they get a visit from Sister Hatune. Before Hatune was able to enjoy the traffic jam once again, she went to the office at Aleyas to control the finances and to discuss house building and well projects.
Sunday morning Hatune again went to the service just around the corner. Usually she deliberately comes a bit too late and then creeps out a little bit earlier. This Sunday, she gave a donation to the church community instead. After lunch, we went to a few poor families who live in crates, which cannot actually be called a house. They cook in their houses on open fire and the whole roof is filled with soot inside. It is sad to see things like this.
At the end of the day many members of the club came together to share food with us and wish “farewell” to sister Hatune. Also K. Roy Paul, the former Chairman of Air India came by and was shown around in Tur-Abdin and he asked Hatune a lot of questions about the Middle East. Hatune also showed him some videos from her computer. It was a nice evening, although some of the members had to leave very early.
On her last full day in India, Hatune visited the girls in the houses again. She watched them at work and started a few conversations. After that Hatune briefly went to the office of Aleyas, the headmaster here in India, to clarify a lot of topics. As she did not go to the technical university Alappuza this time, the teacher from the house simply squeezed in a small meeting. Although Sister Hatune was still going to visit the Bishop in Kottayam and we were invited to a wedding reception in the evening. So we were back on the road again. But this Monday came to an end and the day of departure was near.
The driver wanted to come at ten o’clock this morning. But Sister Hatune wouldn’t have been the sister I know, if there had not been something important in between. So we got up early enough, to visit 3 families and make donations before the driving service came to pick us up to get to the airport. The families were also very happy about the fruits and the other food we gave to them. And one of the women, started crying with joy so much that Hatune was also in tears. Her husband is lying in hospital right now because he was injured. So the donation came as a special blessing, if the sole wage earner provides no income, but also costs money while lying in hospital. Those people have no insurance and lead a hand to mouth existence.
At another family the husband was at home. But some time ago he had an accident and broke his shoulder which healed so badly that one can see even as a layman that something went wrong. Of course he cannot work. These two very dear people also started crying because Hatune gave them a gift. In addition, Hatune asked them to report to the Aleyas office, so that the foundation might build them a real house instead of the few covers which they used to cover their house with.
And then we started. A 2.5 hours’ drive to Kochin. And then, yes, then she was gone. The nimble nun, always in motion and organizing, making jam, cooking fish, taking people in her arms, and whom I promised to visit in Warburg instead of only in India. It was a wonderful time with many impressions, which now need to be thought over. And I thank God for saving us several times on the roads here in India. Sometimes it was really by a hair’s breadth.
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