The Tide

While in Ahmedabad, Jayesh Patel made the discerning recommendation that as opposed to an 'intelligence quotient' we should measure a 'compassion quotient' in humans. As we ready to enter the alternate world of the Mumbai airport , while the check-in attendant will insist on measuring my oversized black suitcase, they cannot, in the words of Jayesh-bhai measure the weight of of the, "not information, but inner-formation," that has occurred in the past three weeks. At this moment, sitting in the MCA lobby before our departure, all the information does feel like a weight. At times, at the Sabermathi ashram there was a lightness that I felt walking its peaceful grounds, absorbing the dusty earth and the snapshots of Ghandi's life. But now, it feels like a weight, like wading through the churning waves of the Arabian Sea. I have taken in so much and while I go full days in my daily life at school that feel like replicas of the endless march of the calendar, each moment here has held so much meaning. Speakers. Conferences. Tours. Group discussions. Journals. Bus rides. Security lines. Silence.

I embarked on my Niswarth journey completely unsure of what I would experience. At a certain point in the Spring I gave up trying to imagine myself in India through Bollywood movies, documentaries, news articles, or any other means. I'm glad I did. When asked about what I wish I had known before I wondered if one could explain the human resiliency that this trip has showed me: to feel, "my feet are tired, but my soul is rested," after long days at Teach for India. To feel the passionate energy of the tireless TFI fellows. To see the resiliency of Akanksha students in empowering themselves and setting out to move towards good.

I am brining back more hope than I expected. I have struggled in our visits to slum communities wondering why I haven't felt more anguish or sadness for the lives of men, women, and children that live there. And even though Jayesh Patel reminded that we should be moved to feel compassion and not pity, I worry that it was too easy for me to finish our morning tour of Dharavi and sink back into the comfortable world of our air conditioned classroom. Despite all the challenges that it faces, India blossoms with a definite sense of hope. So many times back home I feel the world around me is stagnant, comfortable but still. In the language of Freire, it seems a world in stasis, moving towards death. India is alive, it is, "a country on the move." With cranes hovering over half lit high-rises, with streets swarming with the heat and color of evening traffic, with NGOs like Mumbai Mobile Creches growing with each year.

My bags are oversized. I am brining back too much.

I am bringing back love. Love for the noble friends I have made in the past three weeks.

I am bringing back a thirst for dialogue.

I am bringing back confusion.

I am carrying-on a field of questions

I am checking hundreds and hundreds of vignettes of this vivid country.

I am bringing back an appreciation for laughter I have missed for so long.

I am bringing back curiosity.

I am bringing back gratitude.

I would like to think that above all else I am bringing back more of myself. Above and beyond theĀ  memories of discussion under a cloudy moon, above the reels of the Mumbai skyline streaming past the car, I am bringing back a quest to follow my bliss, "to love yourself." As I lean into the tide of life back at home, we will see what becomes of the weight of these three weeks of experience as I wade farther and farther out.

--Ryan