The weekend began with Mass at Vatsalya Study Centre, in the Hauz Khas area of Delhi. The area itself is really nice - clean streets, beautiful houses, men walking small swarms of fluffy domestic dogs down the street and the loud cries of fruit and vegetable cart drivers filling the air at odd intervals. Arriving at the centre, we admired its beautiful exterior before being welcomed into the cool stone-floored entrance hall and into the chapel for morning Mass. Behind the altar, a painting of St Joseph handing baby Jesus to Mary. Folding screen doors with Archangels Gabriel, Raphael and Michael; painted Stations of the Cross circling the wooden pews; a beautiful altar; and a portrait of St Josemaria Escriva on the wall.
Following Mass, we went downstairs and played a couple of ice-breaker games with some of the girls from the centre (the name game and an epic 30-player human knot). Margie gave us an inspiring talk on service, and after lunch in the rooftop garden we were treated to a traditional Indian dance and talks on Indian culture, history and the region of Assam.
In the evening, we went to 'Dilli Haat', a market with stalls from many different regions of India. We lost ourselves amongst the piles of scarves, sarees, shoes, bags, cushion covers, marble-work and sweets (notably the saucer-sized wheels of peanut brittle). We tried 'momos' from Tibet (something like a chicken dumpling, and very, very nice), and watched a traditional dance and music show. A great experience, and one which all of us are looking forward to repeating!
Here I must mention a difficult situation we are regularly faced with. As we were lining up for our tickets, a few scruffy little boys with dirty faces came up to us, begging for money. "Please ma'am, no mother no father..." though the impulse is to give, many of the beggars work for someone else, and by giving one is only encouraging what they are doing. Then again, what if one of them was sincerely in need of money? It is impossible to tell, impossible to trust, a truly tragic situation. At traffic lights too, kids with moustaches drawn across their faces dance and flip and slip through impossibly small hoops, then crowd the windows of our van begging for money. We can't give money, so we give food. "Give a man a fish, feed him for a day..." - the tendency is to feel as though it is just a small drop in the ocean. However, seeing the faces of some street children opening one of our 'Special Thali's' on the side of the road one night and finding a Gulab Juman (dessert) inside gives hope that more good than just a few full stomachs may come of such small charities as these. A resounding 'theme' of this service project is, I believe, that by small degrees, great things may be done.