The Best DISTURBING Exotic Marigold Hotel

The theatre was full.  It was opening day for a movie I had very much wanted to see. How could it miss with a brilliant cast of proven favorites?  Judy Dench, Maggie Smith, Bill Nighy and Tom Wilkinson have proven themselves again and again over the course of many, many years that each one can single-actedly  carry out any cinematic challenge.  The idea of them together as a team of characters promised a mother load of possibility.


My husband and my son were with me.  We have all been to India and have found that the intense sights, sounds, smells and experiences can create hilarious reactions when American’s try to adapt. (video clip of my son washing clothes in India)

I started giggling right off the credits, quickly progressing to dignified laughter. My son and husband also chuckled along with the matinée crowd of gray, sparsely haired, movie lovers.

Somewhere during the first 30 minutes or so, the full belly laugh started.  I realized that I was laughing a little louder and a little longer than anyone else in the theatre.  It felt really good to laugh so hardily until the reserved, rational part of my brain asked my throw caution to the wind part of my brain, “What is so darn funny?”

It wasn’t the India part that got to me, although it was funny, beautiful and alluring.  It was the other part.  That adorable group of retirees, grandparents, health challenged, life-seeking, technically behind, grumpy, elderly people could be me.  Disturbing,  right?

A few tears surfaced as I tried to reign in my laughter so that it would not cross over into the land of sobs.  I am happy to say that I recovered, regrouped and throughly enjoyed the rest of the movie.

Kolkata 4 – The Mother House



The Mother House is our next stop and it is where Mother Teresa slept.  Her tiny room is up a narrow stairway and has a bed and a small stack of cubicles used as mail slots for the other sisters.  There is a small chapel in the center of the compound.  Mother Teresa’s body is entombed here.  Her monument is a simple, large stone slab covering her casket with the words, “Jesus, you know I love” in the center of the floor.  There is an alter to Jesus in the front of the room.  A small stream of people enters to pay tribute, to pray or to sing.  There is a row of benches against the wall and some people are sitting;  a few are writing in their journals or reading from their bibles.

There are other rooms on this first floor and a large area in the middle blocked off by curtains and marked “private” where the sisters bathe.  Most of the bedrooms are upstairs around the perimeter and one can see the whole bottom level from upstairs.  It is very open and lovely.  There is a soft breeze blowing and some of the sisters are moving about.  There is a woman from the village sitting on a bench outside one of the rooms with her son.  She has a twisted hand which she is trying to hide.  She must be waiting for one of the sisters.

We meet Sister Nirmala.  She is the new Mother Superior, but she doesn’t want to be called Mother.  The Sisters are only comfortable calling Mother Teresa, Mother.  She is a quiet woman and she asks us about our family.  She blesses us and gives us a charm and some literature about Mother Teresa.  She turns to go about other tasks and we are taken to meet Sister Margaret Mary.  We are in her open office that is in front of her little bedroom.  Here we have the luxury of sitting under the only electric ceiling fan.  We listen to her story.

When Mother Teresa came to Kolkata to start the Sisters of Charity she needed twelve women to devote themselves to the work in order to become an official order of the church.  Margaret Mary was and is number 12.  There are only four of the original twelve left.  Sister Bernadette was number 7 and passed away just 2 days before our visit.  Sister Margaret Mary was grieving her loss saying that they had been together for 51 years.   She told us that Sister Bernadette had showered and looked lovely when she lay down and went to be with Jesus.

Margaret Mary was 17 when she left Bangladesh for Kolkata.  She was studying to be a nun and had heard of the new order called to serve the poorest of the poor.  Her heart was thrilled and she set out.  The boat she was traveling on sank and she was rescued by fishermen.  It took her 5 days to get to Kolkata.  She survived off of watermelon, a fruit that she did not care for but was all they could get because it grew along the shore and supplied both water and food.  Her father was working in Kolkata at the time and Mother Teresa asked him to come every Sunday to visit because she was certain that Margaret Mary would not be able to survive and would have to be taken home.  She told us of a time when she was so tired that her legs would not move.  Mother put her arms around her and asked her if she could just take one small step with Jesus.  She did.  Then Mother said, ” how about one more step with Jesus”.  In this way, they both walked the distance to their rooms.

 We could hear singing in the chapel as we looked back one last time before we stepped outside and got into a waiting car.  I looked at the literature that Sister Nirmala gave to us.  There was a card signed by Mother Teresa that said.

The fruit of SILENCE is Prayer

The fruit of PRAYER is Faith

The fruit of FAITH is Love

The fruit of LOVE is Service

The fruit of SERVICE  is Peace


(artists rendering of Dove)


Kolkata 3- The Orphanage



We visit another building a little distance from the Home for the Dying.  We open a door and are immediately greeted by a small toddler reaching up.  Without thinking I pick him up.  He is pointing outside.  He cannot play outside today because it has rained and there are puddles on the ground and the sisters are worried about the electric wires that hang loosely from the building all around.  He will not let me go and puts a foot lock around my waist. There are many like him teetering about in one room with several women caring for them.

We go upstairs where there are four rooms full of cribs.  So many babies. They all wear cotton diapers, probably made by the lepers, and no rubber pants, yet they are all clean.  Again, all laundry is done by hand.  That thought alone overwhelms me.  The children smile and reach for you when you walk by.  You can tell that they have been loved and cared for because they are so responsive.  There is an obvious absence of toys.  There is a record player playing nursery songs.  The older children pull up in their cribs and dance to the music. 

Occasionally, someone cries and one of the women will coo and cuddle up with them until they are quiet.  Some women have babies in their laps.  One is cutting a child’s toenails.  We are told that there are no “very sick” ones now.  I notice one child with a cleft palate and one with a broken leg in a body cast.  There is also a baby in the newborn room who has a temperature and one who is under the incubator light.  There are twins who have a picture tied to their crib of their “mommy and daddy.”  We are told that they have been adopted but are awaiting all the mounds of paperwork necessary before they can go to their families. 

What happens to the rest of them, I wonder?  We are told that many will be adopted and the rest will be cared for by other services when they get too old for the nursery.  They are beautiful.  Bo and I want to take them home with us, especially one little boy we affectionately named Antonio (as in Banderas).  We love and hug and play with them all as long as we can; until we have to go.  We take the images of their faces with us.