A BRIEF VISIT TO BEHALA
The main purpose of my visit to Kolkata was to see how my nephew Robin was getting on: he was spending, at my suggestion, six months of his gap year working at the Future Hope Home/School in central Kolkata. But having read the Letters from the Oxford Mission of Father Theodore Mathieson BE (edited by my godfathers wife, Gill Wilson) I wanted to see the Oxford Mission as well. Living in Oxford, and having been educated at Rugby, Father Theodores old school, gave added impetus.
Robin came with me to the Mission in order to gain an impression of an organisation which had much in common with the one in which he was working.
The initial impression upon entering the Missions compound was one of space and relative peace and calm, in contrast to the hustle and bustle of the streets outside. We were taken to meet Arijeet Roy, the Administrator, who very kindly explained the workings of the Mission to us over a coffee, and then walked us round the compound, showing us all the facilities and introducing us to the staff and boys.
The history of the Mission was very evident, particularly in the Library and the Chapel, where one was very conscious of all the characters who had devoted so much of their lives to it. It was good to see the tank about which I had read so much, where the local people were doing their washing on the steps on the far side.
We were very impressed by the sports facilities which were available. Our visit was in April, at the very end of the Indian cricket season, but it appeared that the Bengali passion for football perhaps approached the otherwise all-pervading enthusiasm for cricket.
The time of day that we visited meant that many of the boys were out at school, but those that we met were very pleased to see us and chatted to us freely. It was a shame that we did not have more time to spend with them.
At the end of our tour we were treated to a delicious lunch with Arijeet, during the course of which we had a most stimulating discussion.
I was very pleased to have had the opportunity to compare the reality of the Mission with the mental image of it that I had gained through reading Father Theodores letters. I wasnt disappointed!
Robin and I are most grateful to Arijeet and his colleagues for the hospitality shown to us during our visit.
18 September 2005