Thursday, 17 September 2015

So You Think You Can Volunteer...

It’s been two weeks since we returned from Haryana, India and the most common request I hear these days: "You have to tell me all about it"  leaves me overwhelmed - 2 weeks, 3000 photos and countless connected hearts later I struggle with where to begin, knowing it will never end: the story of how we first met - India and I.

Here is my photo attempt to describe this larger-than-life volunteering experience in 10 Hinglish terms. 

I owe the gratitude for teaching me - all of the following words as well as the ones from Hinglish for Beginners (Part 1 and Part 2) - to this man, we fondly got to call Vicky. Vicky - a devoted Sikh - sat with me many evenings, painstakingly answering my questions, patiently finding matches to numerous expressions I was curious about. He is my teacher-ji aka linguistic specialist.
But to the 10 world-wide-spoiled-brats that came to volunteer and stayed in his care for 15 days -- he was like a mother - counting us (yup, he counted us!), making sure we eat, sleep, have crisp clean clothes to wear and get to places on time. A devoted husband, a man of knowledge and unshakeable faith he makes India proud. Oh how much I miss you, (mom) Vicky!

Vicky and two of my favourite road-trip sidekicks
Let's begin! 

DIL: HEART - A must have on the volunteer's TO BRING list. Not just the beating heart, but the heart wide open.    

It is an asset way more important than a business card, let alone the little letters following your name suggesting your awesome qualifications. Please don't apply to volunteer should you not have a heart at all. And if you got randomly selected and still showed up, forget growing the heart and just bring patience, humility and basic decency. For 😖🔨⚡️🚽‼️'s sake. Bitte!

Be ready for your heart to be ripped out and shredded into pieces right upon arrival - witnessing extreme poverty is not for everyone. Miraculously, that same heart will be all stitched up and glued back together over the next few weeks. It will become bigger and fuller. Mine most certainly did! 

The reality of how 40% of people live - under the poverty line

Homeless sleep at the highway median. And dry their laundry.

Devastating sight of women and children living in poverty

          MUSKURANA: SMILE - Other than at the airport this was my real passport. Despite the immense August heat, I wore it every day, deliberately forgetting my sunglasses. It is a language everyone understands. What a volunteer MUST leave at home: judgement, sarcasm, idea of entitlement and a watch! Life in India always happens on time!
The universal language: smiling eyes & smiling lips 

          SAATH KAM KARNA: COOPERATION - Best described through witnessing the selfless effort of a motorist who for miles helped an overloaded bicycle move through Delhi’s overwhelming traffic. It is a part of the everyday human experience in India. "Paying it forward" at its essence. 

JHAN PEHCHAN: CONNECTION - the tightly-knit community is the main reason for low depression and minuscule suicide rates. One’s wealth is measured in friendships rather than in rupees. 

This is what retirement looks like in India: chai and chat

In two weeks some of us became good friends with our team India - we shared work experiences, enthusiasm for what we do and plenty of laughs.

❤️my PSI team!

         ASHIRWAD: BLESSING - Deeply spiritual, Indian people offer blessings even to strangers. I didn’t understand most things said to me, but a hand placed on my head or a fragrant guava offering meant I was welcome and appreciated. 

RANG: COLOUR - The backdrop of India is often bleak - chipped paint, mould stains, piles of broken bricks - but the life within it as vibrant and beautiful and alive and optimistic as it gets.

A girl's heaven: saree shopping!

Women wore the most beautiful fabrics - my fellow volunteer - KFC (a nickname earned on the first day given he is from Louisville - Kentucky!) noticed we have never seen the same pattern, much unlike the GAP! Even the men were not too far behind! 

JAWAN: YOUNG - India is the youngest of nations, its median age being 28. This will be a major asset for growth and the economy. These people are young, eager and have a fantastic work ethic that begins at a very young age.

SHAKTI: LIFE FORCE - Because how else does one explain the resilience despite all obstacles?

Agra mattress delivery service

Loading dry grass on a truck...
... that is tall as the Monkey Temple gate - singlehandedly @ humid 48C

ANAND: JOY - A habitual joyful demeanour overrides the everyday struggle and poverty. People look for ways to be happy and they keep finding them more often then anywhere I have ever seen. 

          Saying that - seeing a blonde woman wave at schoolboys is apparently hilarious! OK, I admit - these guys were so curious they gathered closely around my car . The only thing I had to do was blow a kiss - resulting in the explosion of laughter and teasing about who was the kiss for! Priceless! 

My favourite memory
          ASTHA:  "A deeply-rooted belief in something for which you are ready to do anything". I feel shivers. Everybody should have this clear in their mind and heart. Indian people draw their spiritual strength from their family and their many religions. This is the answer to my most pressing question - how come everybody is so happy? Every breath they take they serve something greater than themselves. 
Her privilege is to clean and prepare flowers for the Hindu temple

FIR MILENGE:  SEE YOU AGAIN - Because of course this can not be the end for me. I have to come back. Soon. 
Hey India, can't wait to see you again!

1 comment:

  1. Excellent blog. Vicky is the best. Love love love India.