The Sky is Yours
“He sent O'Hare a postcard at Christmastime, and here is what it said:
'I wish you and your family also as to your friend Merry Christmas and a happy New
Year and I hope that we'll meet again in a world of peace and freedom in the taxi cab if
the accident will.'
I like that very much: 'If the accident will.” –Kurt Vonnegut, Slaughterhouse Five
I bring home the stars above Ahmedabad. Clouded by the air pollution of millions, the hazy sky above the Environmental Sanitation Institute tucks us into our temporary home. Suresh Bhai reminds us in our final gathering that ESI is a space, not a place, and that although we physically leave our space behind, we bring it with us in our hearts and spirits. I bring home the stars to convince myself this is true.
The colander of light arcing above the lawn, the meditation circle, and the canteen witnesses a group of individuals discover that, as Jayesh Bhai remarks, “Love is not great. Love is so humble, so humble.” It watches as I lie on the dry grass and categorize clouds that roll by and as I argue nonsensically in my late night stupor that the sky really is the ceiling of the earth. This bowl sees our circle of thirteen formed again and again, tears shed, humble love shared, hands held, eyes closed. I imagine what it must be like to look down on Niswarth from above, and slowly pack my memories away.
I like to think that because there is a sky above India and one above Andover, I can go home and simply look up to find Niswarth over and over. I imagine that Suresh Bhai and the staff of ESI look up at the same stars as I do even when eight thousand miles separate us. Or that Rahil, Mudita, Rohil, and I, although we no longer share our Design for Change Project, will look up at night and find again the spark that gave us our instant connection. Or that sometimes, that small smiling girl in blue who pressed one of her rings into my hands watches clouds, searching for something beyond her tiny village.
Inevitably though, having the same collection of gases above us will not be enough. I know that when I return home, my Niswarth sky will seem at times unbearably far away. I cannot allow that, so I am bringing it home. It’s that simple.
I return to Boston solemn, realizing rapidly that I return to a life that will hit me as joltingly as the plane’s wheels hit the tarmac at Logan Airport. I return to questions about an intrinsic shift I cannot yet characterize and a great love inside I fear nobody will understand. I bring home memories so special I will not share them with anyone.
And I have secured the Ahmedabad sky in my mind, and for now, that’s enough for me.
Kurt Vonnegut understands that coincidence relies on optimism, and that the only security in leaving loved ones behind is to know that they lie one happy accident away. Beyond that, only optimism separates a teary goodbye and an inevitable return. I choose to believe that each man, woman, girl, and boy we meet has made a lasting impact on my life, and that I will return to the pollution filled air of India if the accident will. There is something so natural and relieving about surrendering my Niswarth goodbye to the presence or absence of fate in my life. Cutting through my fear, pain, and confusion is the reassurance that sky is sky, love is love, and if I believe that something is destined to happen, it just might.
Two minutes of silence for universal goodness.