What happens when you spend 7 weeks in India
Every time that I sit down to write a blog I end up staring at a blank page for what seems to be 48 hours straight. All of what I could write floats before me and I try to write it down as the moment passes me by, much like trying to capture something with a camera while driving by at 90 mph. Most of what I have seen flies by me and slams somewhere in the center of my heart, permanently lodged there, never willing to break loose. As I try to dislodge it, the only thing that tends to come away is a distant memory of the moment, like when you peel tape off a painted wall. It is still beautiful, still wonderful, just missing parts that my heart won’t let go of. I often struggle with sharing my thoughts through writing for this very reason. This forces me to try and keep it to myself until I can manage something that is close to a resemblance, which usually means that I hold onto the moment for too long, afraid that whatever I come up with will be something less than it is. Beauty does something strange to my heart; I never want to let it go. Strangely this has been a reoccurring theme in the past couple of weeks.
India is a beautiful country. The cities are filled with trash and human waste, but once you get into the countryside you have the privilege of seeing a bit of India that is, easily, my favorite. As you ride on a train, you can stand between the cars and open a door that lets you smell what is outside while standing dangerously close to the edge. It is a freeing feeling; to stand outside the train as it rockets through the countryside towards the place that I will call home for a while. Most mornings there is a fog that is suspended in the air, and as the sun burns brighter, it slowly lifts away. Underneath lies a blanket of yellow flowered plants that stretch for miles, which are arranged in a patchwork of rectangles. Every now and then you see a thatch roof or the Indian equivalent of a scarecrow, each of which add to the initial beauty and charm of the scenery. I’m generally not a huge fan of the color yellow, or flowers for that matter, but when I am met with them on such a large scale, I can’t help but be taken back. I often find myself wondering what it would be like to work in these fields. To wake up early to a backdrop of the sun rise, spend all day sweating beside these flowers, and watching the sun set as the feeling you get after a good days work sets in. As I would prepare to sleep I would without a doubt chuckle to myself after thinking of putting “Mustard Farmer” on a resume. I never knew that mustard came from flowers; I guess the yellow part makes sense, but never had I wondered where mustard came from, never would I have guessed that mustard had such a beautiful beginning.
As I watched the mustard fields pass by, I couldn’t help but think of all the things that people do to the beauty around us. It’s interesting how a flower in a field becomes a plastic bottle on a shelf.
To think, something so beautiful would be packaged and sold around the world.
We met with a group of rescued girls last week. This was the first time that we were able to sit face-to-face with the reason why we are here. To be honest, it was one of the most frightening things that I have done so far on this sojourn of mine, mainly due to the fact that it was completely different from anything I expected. I’m not really sure what I thought it would be like. I had probably hoped that I would say something ultra-meaningful and would leave in my wake a sense of awe at my wisdom… or something like that… The reality was that I sat there, with a mixture of awe and sheer terror. I had no idea what to say, how to act, or if anything that I was thinking was correct. As the cloud of my preconceived notions quickly faded away, the reality that replaced it was much more beautiful than expected.
The house was made up of an eclectic bunch of 11 women whose ages ranged from fourteen to the early twenties. The way they interacted with each other made it easy to presume they were a tight knit group despite all of the different personalities that were represented. There was one who commanded the attention of the room, one that was funny and another who was the shy one. Some of them talked too much, while others didn’t talk at all. There was a sense with some that their innocence had been taken from them too early, and had left them trying to figure out how to manage normal life. They all had done their hair, dressed in brightly colored fabric, and some had even painted their fingernails a bright orange color. Each of them, in their own way, had begun to make themselves feel beautiful again.
I found myself in a room with people who were committed to bringing beauty back to life, people who had joined the everyday fight against terrible things in the world. These people had decided that they were not limited by what had happened to them and were on a path to regain that which had been lost. Some of them wanted to be doctors while others were enrolled in nursing school and some worked at mastering embroidery or beadwork. We laughed and joked for a while, and talked about important things like our favorite food, where we were from, and what famous landmarks could be found in our hometown. They taught us some words in Hindi, and our attempts to speak their language were met with discrete laughs that would wiggle their way out into the room. Some of them had scars and limps from what had happened to them but it didn’t stop them from serving us tea, and shyly smiling when we said thank you.
They didn’t talk about the things that had happened to them; only about the things that they had learned while in the home. We talked more about how much they had changed in the recent months and many of them told us how they had been learning life skills like finding jobs, and learning how to use public transportation. Every answer to our questions was accompanied with a smile and a sense of dignity, no matter how bashful the girl was.
We talked about how much courage we saw in them, how much they could achieve, and that they could reach anything they wanted.
Walking away from our meeting I couldn’t help but be overloaded with emotions and thoughts. Being able to put a face to what we are researching was something that affected me in a way that I didn’t expect. I was met with a sense of encouragement, not because of what I am doing here, but because these girls have decided not to allow what has happened to them dictate where they will go, or what they will be.
The more I begin to understand the things that I have seen here in India, the more I realize that I am not the missing piece. I am probably more along the lines of someone who is not a piece at all. As time goes on I realize that I am the one that gets to witness the beauty in all of the pieces as they pass. Whether it is meeting an organization who rescues young girls, or meeting the girls themselves, my only role is to let the beauty I see in every piece resonate with me for a while, long enough to change me, and when the time comes; let go of it so it can do the same to others.