I like India at night. It’s like the darkness softens the edges of this place. Maybe it’s because it cools down at night, but it’s more than that. One of the benefits of nighttime is the lightening storms. They turn whole sky turns the most brilliant shade of purple. Don’t worry, I resist the urge to stand out on our three story building during the storms.
This week has been the best week. We started our Monday by visiting an ancient fort and temple at Ramtek. The only way to describe it is that I felt like I was on a movie set, a movie set with lots of monkey poop.
Monkeys wander throughout the fort and visitors are free to feed them. My only piece of advice is to never trust a monkey. They are not nice. Every story about friendly monkeys was a lie. They steal, they hiss, and the whole time I was racking my brain for diseases I could get from a monkey bite.
Despite the terror, it was a very entertaining time. I could have spent days in that fort.
This week in fun stories about language barriers, we were coming back from Ramtek and I offered our driver, Mohammed, some coconut. He quickly responded, “I am not a coconut!” We died laughing, Mohammed too after he realized what I really meant. Good times.
In regards to work, it was another busy week! We got to visit a leper colony. Those women are the sweetest. Leprosy still carriers a very strong stigma here so these women have essentially been abandoned by society. One woman was telling us that her family doesn’t visit because her grandson is engaged and if his fiancé’s family finds out that the grandmother has leprosy they will call off the wedding. It’s been enlightening listening to the dynamics of arranged marriage here in India.
On a positive note we visited the Women in Need shelter in Dattapur and had a zumba class and impromptu dance party. Most of these women used to live on the streets and have a variety of mental health issues. Women in Need helps them deal with these problems, and if they have family to go back to will help them transition back to life with their families.
After we visited the shelter in Dattapur we went to see Gandhi’s house. Gandhi famously rejected a life of luxury to live like the common person and his home reflected that perfectly. It was simple cottage with mud floors and a small cot. Just being there gave me so much more appreciation for this man.
After Gandhi’s home we visited Dr. Sharma. Dr. Sharma worked with Gandhi as a freedom fighter. He said, “Gandhi was superhuman, he could fall asleep anywhere.” I wish I had that power.
Dr. Sharma took the time to sit with each one of us and ask us about ourselves, and at 94 years old that is quite a feat. I don’t think even if I reached the age of 200 that I would be as wise as him. He reminded us of the powers of non-violence and truth, and then he said, “Only love will live. Wealth will go, property will go, religions will go, all things will be ceased, but love will live. “
Right?! You just can’t make this kind of stuff up.
Other fun projects this week included painting an orphanage, playing soccer with the kids from the orphanageassisting in a mental health clinic, planting a garden at an old folks home, and visiting the homes of Women in Need patients.
I think sometimes we go foreign countries, especially developing countries thinking we have so much to teach them, but we forget all the things being in a foreign country can teach us. In India I have learned about the goodness of people. For example, Dr. Akash is a psychiatrist, who donated his time, on his birthday no less, to see over 40 mental health patients who couldn’t afford care on their own. I have learned about reverence and respect for life, demonstrated through the Hindu and Buddhists religions here. I have also learned that no one dances better than the Indian population, no one.
In the extremely unlikely chance that you are looking for a good Bollywood movie to watch, I suggest Sairat. It’s so good; you won’t even mind the subtitles.