An exciting opportunity arose in 2010 for my husband Simon and me to visit Kolkata (Calcutta before the 2001 name change.) In only four days the city burrowed its way into my heart and I cannot stopped thinking about it. I found it enchanting and unnerving in equal measure. It is a swirling, churning city, densely populated, noisy, crazy, and endearing. We didn’t have time to visit all of the city’s attractions but we made an effort to visit beautiful St. Paul’s Anglican Cathedral, an oasis of calm in a city of over 15 million people, a city that ebbed and flowed around me until my head spun. One of the elements that endeared the Cathedral to me was a signpost at the entrance to the grounds. It read simply “Peace On Earth”.
A puzzling component was a collection of trailers on the periphery of the Cathedral’s grounds. We discovered that these are the offices of the Cathedral Relief Service (CRS), a non-profit entity that delivers development services to children, women, and whole families in many slums within the city limits, and in impoverished rural villages that lie outside the city. While purchasing a few bangles from a young woman who works for CRS she informed me that women who live in the slums made the bangles. I couldn’t get that image out of my mind: a beautiful, sparkly, colourful bangle for my wrist made by women who live in homes so different from the one I have in Canada. Although we hadn’t been to the slums of Kolkata during our stay, we had walked on sidewalks that teemed with many people – people working, sleeping, living, eating. And not all of these people had homes to go to. Some of these people on the sidewalk lived right there, on a patch of pavement.continue reading