James has been working at Calcutta Rescue for the past 18 years. He commutes 2.5 hours per day by way of 3 buses, the combined transport cost of which is over 1/3 of his salary, an unimaginable 1200 Rs out of a salary of less than 3000. He recieves no transportation allowance, and has not gotten a substantial increase in salary throughout his years here. He lives in the humble home of a friend, while he slowly builds his own home on the property bestowed upon him by Mother Theresa. However, it has been four years, and he only has some of the foundation made. He cannot afford the roof or windows because the cement cost is 350 Rs/bag, he needs 60 bags, and 10 kg of rod costs 12000 Rs. He needs to do this before the monsoon rains arrive, or the current foundations will be ruined. With his salary, he sometimes manages to save about 60 Rs per month. He is getting older, but cannot marry, because he would not be able to support a family on this little money. He has requested a raise three times, with no response.
James lives in the village, of which he is proud. "Boys' town" it was once called; now it is known as Gangarampur. He was raised there at one of the homes of Mother Theresa, where he also attended school. He was proud that he chose to continue his studies rather than start working immediately. At a young age, he was forced to seek the charity of the Missionaries because of a tragedy in his family. His father was murdered when he was three by some men at work, and his mother was later killed by one of James' brothers. At this point, he resolved never to speak to his family again.
He sleeps on the floor, among ants and sometimes scorpions. Luckily he keeps the antidote for a scorpion sting in his bedroom. James wakes up at 4:30 am, bathes, puts on the rice for his lunch, cooks the curry, makes chapati for breakfast, makes tea, eats, washes dishes, and leaves his home at 6:30 am to arrive at the clinic around 9. He works until around 3 pm, diligently doing his work even after the clinic is closed. He completes it thoroughly with striking care. When he gets home, he prepares dinner, does washing, gets the drinking water from the neighborhood tube well, and manages to read or visit the poor people there. He always makes time for the poor people, who he loves. He sleeps at 9:30 pm. He shares his food and tea with the friends who live next door. He cannot store food to make his daily tastks easier because he has no refrigerator. He cannot call friends for lack of a phone. He cannot use the bathroom in his home; it is broken; he must use the one next door.
He is proud of the many fruit trees that grow outside his house--papaya, mango, jakfruit, kot bel, banana, and guava. It is fantastically green and peaceful there. He teaches me how to make chapati the short-cut method, flipping the patties in such a way as to preserve the gas. He shows me the 2 tube wells he uses to pump water--the one he shares with his neighbor is only for washing because it gives iron-tasting water, and the one a ten minute walk away is shared by the whole neighborhood for drinking water. It is quite expensive to drill the deep wells for the drinking water.
The people here are happy for the cool breeze, the silence, lack of pollution, the community, the fruit trees, ...village life in Boys' town they call it. But beneath their smiles, you see how much work it takes for these people just to maintain a reasonable quality of life. Just simply to survive requires an enormous effort.
I think about how dedicated James is to continue working for an organization that pays him squat simply because he knows that he is working for the good of the poor. The patients love James. And he loves them. But I am not surprised that he is looking for another job. Only saddened.