The day I Met Mother Teresa. The day I lost 10K. The police chase.
November 6, 2011 ~ the day I genuinely felt and met the presence of Mother Teresa inside her house in Calcutta (Kolkata), India.
This meaningful experience made me reflect about the way I live and see the world. It’s always humbling to consider life in someone else’s shoes. I was left speechless and grateful about the way things are. At 26, I’ve still got so much more spiritual journeying to do and take more part in giving and sharing. In this journey, I have seen pain. I have seen love. I have seen gratitude. Right away, I knew this would be a completely different experience. One that has made me smile just after making me cry. More importantly, I’ve begun to see prayer in a new way.
The moment Mysh and I decided to go to Calcutta, I knew I wasn’t ready. A spiritual journey is very necessary to me but I wanted to give it due importance. I wanted to give it “the whole of me” baggage-free. We know Mother Teresa as the woman who worked so hard for the cause of humanity. I wasn’t ready to meet this kind of person. As I said I’ve still got so much more inner journeying to do. But I realized we’re all on a spiritual journey. We’ve all been on our own paths, our own explorations, our experiences – both good and bad. It doesn’t really matter who I was a year ago, or even yesterday. What matters is I am always trying to become a better version of myself everyday.
I admit I don’t go to mass “every” Sunday (being a Catholic is “easy”) but I make it a point to complete the Misa de Gallo. I just simply want to. I was raised in a religious family. At 6 years old, I would recite and lead the Rosary. My entire High School life is full of religious activities and I remember giving talks to Youth For Christ camps.
But that was then.
I am still a Catholic. Yes, I still pray. But my world is restless, demanding and noisy….it’s difficult to find silence. My prayer life suffers so much because my heart and mind are not silent. Below is a book that is helping me recharge my prayer life. It has been an amazing experience so far. A great gift I’m giving myself on my journey to being twenty seven.
By the way we also brought Operation Happy Vibes to Calcutta – see it here.
I will always remember my 26th birthday (Nov 7, 2011). I am responsible for celebrating my own life. I will enjoy celebrating “me”
“I lost my 10K Rupees on my first 30 minutes in Calcutta. We were chased by 4 police officers on the road.”
A bad experience turned good happened to us in Calcutta. Long story short, I found out I lost my 10K Rupees while we were processing our Visa at the Immigration counter. I cannot believe it was happening to me because I’m a very careful person especially when traveling. Doh. I placed the money inside a white envelope and on the front I wrote these words “Reth God is watching you” (Reth is my nickname). For whatever its worth, I just wrote that. During those I-cannot-believe-it moment, I don’t know how I stayed cool and calm. Of course I was bloody disgusted but something funny inside me kept my nervous system calmer than calm. I prayed, “Lord, this can happen to anyone, in any place. But you chose me and Calcutta. More likely it wont be returned, and I am not expecting a miracle. All I will ask is for you to give me the power to just let it go. It’s not easy but allow me to just let it go. This cannot spoil my stay in Calcutta. I am here for a purpose.”
That evening I felt responsible to lodge a report at AirAsia office. I strongly believe the only place I might have dropped the envelope was inside the plane, right on my seat. The surprised officer told me no one from the crew has reported anything so I might as well not expect anything. Of course. But still, I wrote them a letter saying this and that, describing the envelope and to reach me via my email.
And so….the evening continued. Well, I managed to smile and laugh with my very funny buddy, Mysh. The next day, Nov 6, was the big day! We are visiting Mother Teresa. We spent half of the day at the Mother’s House and it was during that time when I have finally told Him, “It’s really okay now. Whoever has that money, may he/she use it for Your glory.”
Lunch time and we were back at our hotel room to recharge for our next destinations. Just as we were preparing to leave, an unexpected call came from the hotel counter. It was a connect call from you name it, AirAsia! The same guy to whom I left my letter gave me the good news. I can clearly remember how he said it, “Maam, this is from AirAsia and we’ve spoken last night regarding your lost money. I am happy to tell you that somebody returned the envelope.” It was surreal. AirAsia made an effort to give it to me that same day but unfortunately, the money was returned to Kuala Lumpur office. It was no big deal. The big deal is that A MIRACLE JUST HAPPENED TO ME that day. What was God thinking gahaha. And to think I didn’t leave my hotel name to AirAsia. That means the guy either checked our immigration documents or checked his computer’s history (I used his pc to search the distance of our hotel from the airport). Since we were leaving for New Delhi the next day, AirAsia gave me my envelope on New Delhi airport. Coincidentally, that was my birthday 🙂 I can just imagine God from the heavens giving me this expression “Once again, I have tested you, a mortal”
If you’re not yet tired reading, I still have another story to tell.
The unexpected police chase.
After I received the good news from AirAsia, we were deliriously happy to move on to our next destinations. Fast forward to the Howrah Bridge, we were inside a hired cab enjoying the view of the very huge bridge. Clueless, we were all of a sudden chased by a police van. Four police officers were pointing fingers and shouting to our cab driver. Like a real action movie, they literally chased us transferring from one side of our cab to the other ( I don’t know how to describe it haha ). At first we thought it was an over speeding thing but it was just impossible to stop since it’s a long & busy bridge.
Then finally our driver managed to get a good timing to position our car on the side way. The 4 police officers were like hungry lions waiting to eat us. So many apologies (from us) and harassing words (from them) , I want to highlight the following:
Head Police: Why are you taking pictures, are you terrorists?
Us: We really apologize but we believe this place has been photographed and promoted many times. We know we’re not violating any rules here mister police.
Police: Give me your camera!!!
Me: I will delete the pictures while I’m showing them to you, but you cannot take my camera. (F***)
Police: No! give me your camera
This time I was praying in my head ~ God don’t let them drive away. I know you’re with us. They were clearly abusing their power. They were shouting and trying to intimidate us with their uniforms but they cannot look straight into our eyes. I still gave my camera though. I turned it off just to see if they know how to operate a DSLR (since they insist in a very abusive manner). To my surprise, not any of the four can figure out how to turn it on.
Police: You will be punished by the government of India. You will have to pay 5000 Rupees. Are you from Japan?
That was when we turned our CAPS LOCK voice on and our Im-small-but-terrible attitude.
Us: Mister Police, we are not terrorists and we are not from Japan. We’re here to visit Mother Teresa’s house and the rest of Calcutta. We are from the Philippines, but based in Singapore for work. We will pay you 5000 Rupees but we’ll have to settle this at your headquarters and with the right documents. Shall we go to your headquarters now?
Police: Uhmm (this time he gave me back my camera)
Us: Shall we go now to settle this on your headquarters?
Police: Never mind I forgive you. Take more pictures!!!
End of drama. Gahaha 🙂
God shows up in the most unexpected ways sometimes. What an incredible trip it was. My Calcutta travel is probably the most challenging, life-altering and earth shattering experience for both of us. Say hello to more oohlalas of 2012!
If you want to visit Mother Teresa in her house, here are some quick tips:
1. I strongly recommend booking your hotel 15 days before you go. We stayed at Hotel Circular, located at J.C. Bose Road. The service is excellent plus this one’s very near to Mother’s house (10 minute walk).
2. Once you’re inside the center/house, refrain from taking photos of the working nuns (sisters). Photography is kept within certain, reasonable limits. You can take pictures of the tomb, the inside chapel, the surroundings but not Mother Teresa’s room, the library where her life was highly documented and the working nuns.
3. Greet the house with kindness and silence.
4. If you’re keen to volunteer , do read Volunteering with the Missionaries of Charity in Kolkata
5. From the airport, take a yellow cab and negotiate a fix amount. Our fare was around INR 350 – 400 (Indian Rupees), more or less Php 350, and Sgd 10-15 (1 hour ride from the airport)
6. Just last January 2011, India granted Visa on Arrival policy to nationals of Cambodia, Vietnam, Philippines and Laos. My fellow Filipinos, the cost of Visa during our visit was INR 2800.
Mother Teresa is there and will always be there. Like a doctor without holidays, Mother Teresa is always IN.
CALCUTTA – a very simple but immensely moving place.
Watch us ging gang goolie-ing at India on our Happy Vibes India Music Video Namaste!