Two Minutes of Silence For Universal Goodness?

What am I bringing home...?

As soon as we all stepped off the bus in Ahmedabad and set foot for the first time at the Environmental Sanitation Institute (ESI), Suresh-bhai popped out of nowhere and embraced us all warmly, saying two simple words to a group of kids he had never met: "Welcome Home."

And now I’m back to my real home in Madrid, back to home-cooked food and air conditioning and a puppy who licks my feet, and Suresh-bhai’s words are resonating in my ears. Maybe it’s the fact that I haven’t slept in 48 hours, but I feel so disoriented. I think back on these three weeks, rewinding through flashbacks like old film grain.

Dancing to Bollywood music on the lawn of ESI with fifty something preschool teachers. Making peacock noises as we run wildly through the sprinklers in the scorching heat. Twenty people eating cross-legged on the floor in complete silence, savoring every taste of food on their plates. Hugging a close friend, my other half, my sister, before she leaves for the airport, uncertain if I will ever see her again. Watching a four year old boy wade through a huge pile of trash, picking up pieces of plastic and putting them in his backpack. Sitting in a circle with thirteen other people until the early hours of the morning and telling every single one of them how very much they mean to you.

And now I want to cry, because I’m lying in bed under the covers with my head on an impossibly soft pillow, and my body is so tired, but I can’t fall asleep. I’m so comfortable. I’m too comfortable. And Mihika and Arzu and Claire and every single other one of my Niswarth friends are so far away. Where is everyone?

I’m bringing home a little dab of melancholy, comfort, guilt at feeling comfortable, unease, unrest, relief, and loneliness. I’m also bringing home some answers to questions I hadn’t previously known to ask myself. And if anything is consoling me, it’s this. I can see that I am in a state of transition, drifting between time zones and countries and varying levels of comfort; I can finally recognize just how much I value and appreciate my family; I can acknowledge that I’m not always going to be happy and that this is okay. It’s human.

So even if right now I feel dizzy and all I’m craving is a small green cup of chai tea from ESI with an impossible amount of sugar, what I’m really bringing home is a sense of optimism for the future, a sense that I’m strong enough to take on whatever comes my way, a reassurance that I now have a new family to lean on. And now, let me end on an extremely cheesy note:

“Once a Niswarthian, always a Niswarthian.” -- Mundraji a.k.a. R$