I really needed to blog last night I think lol. Oh, what a humbling day yesterday was.
It started the same way most days here have started for me. Deep discussion at breakfast; however, Australian politics rather than spirituality or personal growth was our topic of choice.
Then I meandered down to the shop to wait for the tailor to be measured for a dress. That happened, lots of measurements and I pick the finished product up this morning – excited. Chatted to the young man there about why I’m not married at 45. Here, a lot of the marriages are arranged and he has a baby girl. I told him that I make poor choices so I needed someone to arrange the marriage – we both laughed but he definitely agreed that that should have happened.
Three brothers own this shop, and another in town plus a factory. They are only young and Muslim – part of the 35% here. I imagine they are quite wealthy. Three brothers work the shops. The youngest is absolutely smitten with my friend, Mel. Every time she is near his face lights up. And when she haggles, when she says the price isn’t low enough and his brother refuses to lower it further, he looks to his brother, absolutely horrified, that his brother won’t just give it to her. Gorgeous. They are good boys.
It was then time to catch the bus for a while. I am still in love with the traffic here; I could watch it all day, sit in it all day, would love to drive this way. There is such a profound flow. Whilst we haven’t seen any accidents, the dust covered wrecks that congregate in pockets at the side of the roads, suggest they happen. And, frequently. It is no surprise. Walkers. bikes, rickshaws, tuk tuks. Cars, vans, trucks, dogs, goats, pigs, and cows all use the roads at the same time, at different paces, wanting to get somewhere different. More often than not, with patience and a mindfulness for one another. Sometimes though, that isn’t enough. As we all know.
But, I digress. My friend, Elizabeth and I, discussed a little of her life story as we rode. It is not my story to write here but she is an inspiring soul; a woman who has conquered many obstacles with grace. I could listen to her speak all day.
And then, our first stop. We walked past a school that promotes, in its core philosophy, that nationality, religion, gender are all limiting labels. It proffers that all children need to be taught holistically and aware that what is important, is that our hearts should approach the world open (my interpretation of what our guide told us). It resonated for me.
Teachers should teach children first and foremost. It is our role to inspire, motivate and empower them to enact change in this world to create a better world, a more compassionate world, a more tolerant world. Yes, that is the role of a teacher. And, if need be, the teacher should fight, as a role model, to ensure that they have the conditions to achieve this. It is our responsibility as leaders of our children to ensure this for them; it is our only gift of value.
Preaching today. Humbled yesterday.
And then, a kilometre walking meditation through a village, retracing Buddha’s steps. In silence, a line of women followed their guide, in silent reverence for the blessing of this. Being silent whilst walking, silencing the mind, allows you to focus on the small, usually unnoticed things that surround us every day. It permits grounding. Profound appreciation for breath. For privilege. I can only see from our perspective but the locals were intrigued by the diverse and silent line of women walking through their village.
And I truly found it blissful. And is so often the case, towards the end, my mind turned to Gandhi. And as soon as I stopped being wholly present, the divide between the road and the dirt caught me, and ungracefully knocked me back into the present. I knew I was falling. Pain screamed through my ankle. In slow motion I saw my body start to crash and was helpless to stop it. Landing with a massive thud I tried not to laugh. A passing man stopped, concerned, and the girls behind me rushed to me, asking if I was alright. I told them I was, in few words; we weren’t meant to be talking. Yep, that was my focus. No talk. Typical Tina. Don’t break the rules – shaking my head in disbelief lol. I hobbled to the finish. No broken skin on my knee and a swelling ankle.
Returning to the bus, sweat coating my skin (in climates like this one should not have to be covered), I continued my conversation with Elizabeth. This time about weight and what it can represent. It resonated and I am still processing. Ultimately though, to lose weight requires one to be integrated and living in joy, doing what makes one happy.
And it is funny. The girls here have showered me in love. And, I believe I am worthy. I am enough in every moment just as I am. Integrating the deserving has resulted in a shift in how I see my body. It is divided from my soul and I see the incongruency and for the first time ever, can say that I strongly desire my body to represent more accurately how I see my soul. I want it to be healthy, strong, the excess I’m carrying, shifted. And I can achieve this.
Then, to Sarnath. The first place Buddha taught. Serenity. Once you switched off the nagging requests to purchase souvenirs from the many sellers surrounding you. The bonus, the singing bowls are demonstrated, making it easier to be present in that than the selling. No, with a smile, does work, eventually – patience is the key 😉.
Again, tracing Buddha’s steps, standing where he has stood, sat, reflected, thought, taught – hmmm – perfection, and an amazing segue into my upcoming journey to Dharamsala – the Tibetan community in exile and the Dalai Lama’s imposed home away from home. And, my beautiful friends being concerned for my welfare and me, graciously accepting their help rather than dismissing it (like I usually do). Gestures are a gift, reminding us that we are worthy and that we can only function wholly (holy) when we function together, each of us being permitted, enabled, empowered to fulfill our role. I am grateful.
Home for lunch. And, after a shower and hobbling up two flights of stairs, my scarf caught on the handle of a boiling hot tea pot, yanking it to the floor, and scalding the bandaged foot. Yep. Apologetic, I could only wryly grin. What am I not hearing?
After lunch, another adventure. Mel had organised a car for us to visit a local school. She had brought clothes to donate, plus cricket sets, and together our driver stopped at a stationers and we bought pencils, crayons, colouring in books, sharpeners, erasers and a game set. Our driver helped us. The exhilaration was palpable. Service is the key.
Our driver had no idea where he was going and stopped every two minutes for directions after we moved out of his familiar territory. The sun started to set. The paradox that the bright red and very beautiful sun is created by the pollution of man – perfect harmony? Hmmm, probably not.
We stopped outside one school that was locked. No response on the phone. But a mother was sitting on her front ‘porch’ preparing rice. One son was with her. Melanie engaged them in conversation. The smile on this woman’s face – no English, her son translating – was so broad and generous. These people. My heart soars. Gratitude. The second son came out. The first was sent to buy biscuits and tea. People with not as much as us, willing to give. Humbling.
And we had to go. Photos were taken. Gratitude shown. And back into the car to find the right school.
Yep. A German tourist, nine years ago, started volunteering in India. The school was rundown, almost non-existent,catering to street kids. Now, it is a school that caters to 130 students every day, and a hostel catering to thirty children around the clock. The love is the first thing that you notice when you walk through the gate.
The classrooms are small concrete rooms, very minimally resources. No desks, no chairs, no boards. So much is achieved with so little. Kati is building the capacity of the team as well as the students. The majority of students are indigenous, meaning that they do not even register in the caste system. They feel the worthlessness of their existence, most having been abandoned by their parents. Given a chance to find a way here.
Mel and I spoke to the children. But I fell in love with the older sister of the girl Mel was talking to. She doesn’t know her age – there are no records – she couldn’t even hazard a guess. She loves to learn but doesn’t believe she can. She and I argued, in English, about her ability to speak English. Her sister wants to be an English teacher, similarly believing that she can’t. We had similar discussions with both.
We weren’t there long. It was dark when we left. Renee, this is our project.
I cry when I think about this. This is my highlight of the trip. And there have been many. Kati’s devotion is humbling beyond measure. I want to help. I said I would never come back to Varanasi; I would explore the rest of India. Never say never.