India is a song that calls back to me with bright colors in its voice. In a simple memory, I am there. In the scent of henna, or in a sip of chai tea, I am there. With my sight on a small creature crawling, with dirt underneath my finger nails, with my arms around a sweet child, I am there. India is a song that I have yet to learn all the words to. It is a song that I cannot fully explain. In its dark and twisted format, India is a song that reached out, touched my heart and changed me. And it is a song that I will never forget.
Each person that I met in India holds on to a certain part of me. India is a song that is too long and too complicated for me to write down in its entirety. Therefore, please know that what I have to tell you now does not begin to cover all that I experienced there. What I first thought of as a place, I now think of as people, each of whom have played an important part in creating the India I know today. What I have to offer in this piece, is a small start to the telling of one of the greatest opportunities of my life.
On July 2nd, 2008, after twenty-two hours of travel, a simple tune began inside of me as my group and I arrived in a strange land called Hyderabad, where the cows roam freely through the streets and the people see us as aliens from another planet. Our mission was to lead a number of activities to the children there, such as sports, drama, music, and crafts through a camp called CampDeccan. In a short amount of time, I came to realize that although our two planets are different, we are all nonetheless, people who are longing for the same love, our hearts all beating to an equal rhythm.
This heartbeat became real to me when I met one of our translators, Agape. She is only one year older than me, with eyes as deep and dark as the pit of the ocean. One night I discovered Agape’s ocean eyes pouring out their deep interior. Something within me made me go to her. Something within me made me put my arm around her and let her cry on my shoulder. After a few minutes, she began to speak to me in broken English with her broken heart and tell me what was wrong, (which is another story, I might add). This was the moment I knew that we were sisters.
Another defining moment was meeting the children of Bellary. They spoke hardly any English, but they were the most beautiful, well-behaved children that I have ever met. They never got tired of holding my hand, or calling my name. I learned that language is only a barrier if you let it be and that the amount of time it takes to love a person is incredibly short. Later I was informed that Bellary was the area with the highest percent of parents who sell their children into prostitution and that this was the tragic fate of most of the little girls we were there with. I have much to express on this matter but the heart of it is that this is something that I cannot even begin to understand.
About mid-point through our trip, our translators took us out shopping. While walking through the cluttered sea of shops and strangers, I had secret hopes that I would suddenly be swept up onto a magic carpet. Unfortunately this did not happen, but shopping in Hyderabad was an adventure anyway. It is frightening to feel like you don’t belong! Before I came to India, I thought that the traffic in New York City was bad, but now it seems like nothing. There are no rules to the road and you have to honk your horn if you want to pass another car so there is a lot of noise. Also the roads are extremely bumpy. Our translators even brought along lemons to smell so that they would not get car sick. These things did not make for a pleasant fourteen hour drive to camp. I found the traffic in India to be a very real representation of the chaos in life but I know that throughout all the chaos there is a steady beat, drumming on.
I only stayed in India for two weeks but I could have stayed for so much longer. It ended too fast and before I was ready for it, but India is a song that lives on inside of me. On the last night of our stay, I found a note that Agape had written to me in my notebook. It said a lot of sweet things about how she wished me well, and missed me already. She told me that I was her best friend in her life. I cried. I missed her already too.
I believe that I would be a different person today if I hadn’t experienced India. I am excited to be returning there for two weeks this summer, 2010. I may have left India, but India will never leave me. I see the world from a different angle now. I understand the great impact of our culture, because I’ve experienced a culture that wasn’t my own. India is a song that I am not finished loving and with my eyes closed, and my heart aware, I am there.
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