Saints and Souza

First, let me say that my last post illustrates too well how the heat has affected me. Jim says that I was obviously delirious when I wrote it.  I took mild offense but on second look, had to agree with him.  Sorry for the inane tome on my heat-infested days in Delhi!

I visited an orphanage today and there’s no better way to renounce self-absorption than to see the beautiful faces of a roomful of needy children.  I was vaguely aware that the Mother Teresa Foundation ran several homes in Delhi and I wanted to see the work that is going on here.

The first facility I visited was located in Old Delhi, the original section of the city built by the Mughal ruler, Shah Jahan.  He’s the same guy who built the Taj Mahal.  The orphanage in Old Delhi houses 39 children, infants to school-age.  The home was exceptionally clean, organized and well-staffed, a contrast to the orphaage where I volunteered in Beijing.  I spent time with the toddlers in a relatively sterile play room.  The kids were all healthy and seemingly happy and responsive to me.  In fact, that’s what surprised me most – there wasn’t a child in the room who didn’t want to play or let me engage them.  The hugs and love were a perfect balm for my droopy spirits:

Later, I visited the infant room.  Most of the babies were napping, but I did get to hold one and rock him to sleep.  He was probably about 10 months old and he snuggled right into my chest.  When I put him down, he woke and I lightly caressed his hair to put him back to sleep.   He fought it though – sneaking a peak every few seconds to make sure I was still there!  In all truth, volunteers work for themselves as much as they do for the kids.  Holding and watching this little guy  stretched me beyond my own worries.

As soon as I snapped this photo one of the nuns snapped at me so I had to put away my camera.  Many of the children had a pendant of Mother Teresa attached to their writsts:

I also met a couple in the process of adopting.  They are Indian but live and work in Dubai.  They looked exhausted, yet excited and it was ever so sweet to see them dealing in the moment that would change the rest of their life.   Maybe I held the little baby they would be taking back with them….

After the orphanage, I went to an adult home.  It was under reconstruction but there were a handful of men still living on the premises.  Most of the women had been temporarily relocated.   The residents here suffer from mental, physical or medical disability.  Some were elderly and had no family to take care of them.  I took this photo as residents were lining up for lunch:

This is the dorm.  All of the Mother Teresa nuns dress in her blue and white signature smock.  This nun was walking ahead of me and she reached over to gently touch the bandaged head of a man who was resting on his bed.  She wanted him to know that lunch was being served.

I had a nice interview with the Mother Superior of this facility.  She has 400 residents, many needing medical attention and medicine.  The care comes from a rotation of doctors who work for free and the meds are donated to her as well.  Mother Teresa homes are all privately run with no government funding.  One of the nuns told me that this was “mother’s way”… she believed that God would provide.   Of course, something inspires the good will that keeps these places afloat, but it’s the hard work of very human and caring hands that makes all the difference.


I had not intended to juxtapose a visit to a Souza exhibition with my visits to a catholic charity but it was the last day of the show and I didn’t want to miss it. Francis Newton Souza is a 20th century Indian artist known for his bizarrely fractured human portraits, explicit female nudes, and work that reflects his anger toward the hypocrisy of the Catholic church.

It was a strange feeling to stand amid arguably grotesque paintings after all of the welcomed warmth of my morning with the kids.  I can’t say that I liked much of what I saw but you don’t have to like art to necessarily appreciate it.  Souza clearly had demons brewing within and he exercised them on canvas.  I loved the colors he chose and even some of the content.  His erotic paintings, while not subtle, were somehow honorable.

One funny aside:  the exhibit was organized on two floors, with most of Souza’s nudes on the second.  The first floor didn’t have a single security guard and I was able to take a few photos.  However, the second floor was crowded with security.  I happened to be the only visitor upstairs at the time, and it was mildly awkward looking at the erotic work along with six male guards who were all particularly interested in watching me look at the work.  For a culture that’s author to the Kama Sutra, it’s an exceptionally sexually repressed place.  More on that another time…

This one is for you, Mom… it’s called House in Hamstead Heath (or something to that effect… I forgot the exact title.)

3 thoughts on “Saints and Souza”

  1. Thank you, Theo! I love it! And I love this blog post … you are the best. We’ll talk soon,


  2. i had trouble leaving a comment on the post which follows.. so here is my guess to your teaser question for your standing appt. with the woman: a massage?????

    1. massages here are hilarious: always naked – lots of oil – and little discretion…but not as good as the fully-clothed, intense point work you get in china! still, worth the ten dollars (and that’s inflated expat pricing) for an hour of relaxation…

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