I've just returned from a month in India, where I spent several weeks in an orphanage in West Bengal. I arrived into Calcutta (Kolkata) where I spent my first week, becoming adjusted to the distinctive sounds, smells and chaos of the city. The constant beeping of car horns, day and night, amongst the thick traffic of taxis, tuk-tuks and rickshaws kept me awake the first night, but became a reassuring contestant for the rest of the week. Staying on the edge of the slums, in a room shared with 7 others, I would exit the gates to be confronted by streets bustling with beggars, children and adults, living amongst the trash in the gutters and on the footpaths, clinging to my clothing as I passed, yelling, crying and asking for help. Images and faces from this first week will stay with me for life. Beyond this, the colors, smells and spices of the open markets were vibrant and wonderful. The city is overflowing with personality and life, and I hope to return for a longer stay in the future. Once I met with the small group of Kiwis I had arranged to stay with in a local orphanage, we got on a train and travelled several hours south, to a tiny railway town, in the middle of no-where. The orphanage was a large building in contrast to the local huts and basic living. There was limited electricity from a generator that worked for a few hours a day, and our water supply from a well. Life was basic. The children were beautiful. Some of the stories of their past lives were sad beyond belief, girls who had been bought out of prostitution before their 10th birthday, children who has been discarded, forgotten and abandoned. Getting to know the children was pure joy. The experiences that I had could fill a book with words, so I will try and keep this relatively short.
On my return to Australia, I discovered that a corroded pin in my camera had corroded all of my memory cards and corrupted them. The cards have been sent away for recovery, and in the meantime, I will share a few of the images that I managed to salvage.