As my time left in India is getting shorter and shorter, it is becoming more evident to me how this place has become my home. I walk down the street at night and people I don’t know call me by name into their home to come eat with them, I ride the bus back from the town and a boy who knows me from evening school comes and sits next to me and points out every word he knows in English on the 30 minute bus ride (“Hello, cow! Hello, ground! Hello, temple!”), I walk down a wrong road to find mangos and I spend 45 minutes trying to slowly back away from the 75 children that have swarmed around me as they hand me flowers and babies (not fighting it). This week we finished most of the construction on the home for the mentally handicapped children and I was able to return to the other center. When I came back, the other volunteers laughed and said that the kids would be happy because they had asked for me every day and had written things like “I miss Allison” in their school notebooks. It was a beautiful homecoming and we all screamed and laughed and kissed each other on the cheek and told stories about the ten days that we were apart. Dhandapani thought I had already left to go back to America and told me he was “very missing, very feeling”. But he also scored 15/16 marks on his English test in the time that I was gone, and we were both very excited about this and split an Oreo in celebration. I was pretty impressed that this kid who couldn’t answer a simple question in English two months ago is now scoring high grades on his test and is able to translate when other kids need to tell me something but don’t know the English. Very proud, very feeling.
Being a woman in India is a very hard thing. It is extremely difficult to watch the way other women are treated and to see the opportunities boys have that girls are never given. It is one thing to hear about these injustices, another to see them, and a completely different thing when it happens to you personally. I cannot describe how ironic it felt to be sitting in India on July 4th while an older Indian man yelled at me and blatantly told me he did not have to respect me or treat me the same way as men because women are inferior. I understand that I am living in a society right now where this is the overwhelming belief. However it is impossible to accept these things when I have been raised in such a way that I believe my gender has no effect on my capabilities as a human being. This was probably one of the most frustrating things I have had to deal with so far.
I have had very good happy moments in this place and hard ones that have tested how I view the world and myself and other people. One thing I have become fully aware of is the love around me. How Preetika blows on my face when we are lying on the ground after jump rope “two skipping” because I’m so sweaty. How my new German friend scoops me out of the road before I get hit by an oncoming bus (this has happened too many times). How Deepa shares her cookies with me and tells me all the good gossip. I have been angry and frustrated and challenged in ways that I never expected, but this is what I will remember the most. The fact that two months ago these people didn’t know I existed and they are so willing to love me and care for me and feed me the best snacks.