It took me a few days but I managed to get into the swing of things at Daya Dan. I was still a little terrified of the children but I’d relaxed just enough to not freak out anymore. One morning, while I was changing beds, Sanju (the blind boy) was waking up and I got asked to take him ‘potty’ so I carried him to the bathroom. I was not at all prepared for what I saw when I walked in. There was a long line of screaming children, waiting to be washed. The auntie in charge of bathing (a big Bengal woman) was really scary and when she saw me with Sanju she yelled at me to put him down and help her wash instead. Oh please, no, I thought, but before I knew it I was undressing one of the older girls and pouring water over her. The auntie was very impatient with me and I was apparently doing everything wrong because she kept yelling at me. It was horrible and strange and uncomfortable. This was not the detached washing the Japanese preferred, it was interaction with the kids on the most intimate level there was. It was all too much for me to handle and I felt my skin crawl from being uncomfortable but then, just like that, something miraculous happened. Somehow I stopped thinking about what I was doing and my hands and feet started moving by themselves. Following the angry auntie’s lead I fetched the next kid in line, quickly took off his clothes and started scrubbing. It was hard work as some kids were very un-cooperative and soon we were both sweating and out of breath.
After what felt like hours I realized that the auntie had stopped screaming, I’d just finished washing the last boy, little Sanju, and was humming along to a Bengali song the angry auntie was singing while we washed the kids. I was exhausted but I was flying. Whatever happened in that wash room or in my heart during bath time that morning changed everything. After that, I looked at the kids with very different eyes, perhaps because I’d seen them all naked, but I suddenly felt a deep affection for each one of them and even when I wasn’t at Daya Dan, but out exploring Calcutta, I thought about them. Somehow my terrified heart had opened up just enough for 34 broken little kids to climb inside.
A few days later one of the nuns asked me to help carry some of the kids to the 3rd floor which took much longer than I expected and I missed bath time. Afterwards, I went to the wash room and when angry auntie* saw me she threw her hands in the air as if to say, where the hell, were you? But there was way too much affection in her gesture and we both knew she wasn’t really mad at me she just missed having me be there. That simple gesture made me feel ridiculously happy and suppressing a smile, I picked Sanju up, who just finished dressing, and carried him to the therapy room. By now Sanju recognized my voice and smiled when I said his name. A few days before, I heard a volunteer say that she always ends up feeling that she’s getting more than she’s giving which just makes her want to give more. In that moment I understood what she meant. God truly is genius because love is the greatest thing ever, it never runs out, it just keeps growing. I knew that I came to Daya Dan to love these kids but I didn’t expect to be loved in return.
That night, again, I was unable to sleep but this time my heart was not heavy, it was soaring. Thank you, God.