“Humbler than the very dust.”
I visualize a painting. Similar to the one on the corner wall of the teachers’ common room, hidden behind a pillar. If I walk straight into the kitchen, I will most likely miss it. Like one’s achievements. All of us at Andover have skill in the art of bragging. Or the skill in presenting ourselves. If I had not been directed to the painting, or if I had not listed my achievements on my application, nobody would have noticed. But this section of the wall was not painted for recognition or contest. Much of the decorations in ESI are handcrafted by artisans in Gujarat, who were empowered by Gramshree. The crafts are stitched with the love, determination, and endless generosity I have been met with here.
Humbleness helps me listen. To the purity or evil of voices. It pushes me to notice and be part of specialties and qualities free from jealousy or want. Special moments like when the crew at Seva Cafe joined arms and swayed to the intertwined sounds of music and rain. The indescribable love of the Lilapur residents, Manav Sadhna, Setco Foundation, Environmental Sanitation Institute (ESI) staff, Devendra bhai and Jayesh bhai. And a special dance combining Bollywood movements, whip/nae nae, and Zumba. When I danced barefoot on the coolRiverside School ground, to when I walked around Gandhi’s living quarters, dust clung onto my bare feet. My feet carried the dust— passing and going. Maybe some it rubbed onto the floor of ESI, later clinging onto a mop that keeps the S in ESI.
“To give up attachment for things, while we enjoy them.”
Yesterday we were blessed with the presence of Jayesh bhai. We perched on the stone circle, surrounding the beautiful decorations Bhupat bhai had set up: a heart of yellow flowers, a small candle, and three stone turtles (one bigger than the other).
About 29,000 children under the age of five die everyday. And almost 5,000 of those children die in India. Cows are still digging through the waste we did not have time to finish cleaning at the Blind School we partnered with. At night, people sleep on the streets of Ahmedabad (maybe because they are homeless, maybe because they want to catch the night breeze). But that does not mean we should give up our daily activities in search of good karma or repent for our own guilt. Just the attachment to these things, as Gandhi articulates it. Jayesh bhai told us that he places his daughter before his work. Meaning, he eats at Pizza Hut because she loves pizza. He turns on the air conditioning in his car and stays in five-star hotels. However, he thinks a place to sleep is a place to sleep. There is no lasting attachment between him and five star hotels. He does not mind walking barefoot or sleeping on the streets while watching the stars cross the night sky. The overwhelming love and beauty in his words slowly moved the Niswarthians to let go. A drop of wealth there, another drop of family there, and a few more tears of letting go of the body.
True love. Not the “true love” in a Disney princess movie or the hint of care in “How are you?” The true love in “Jai Matadi” and the beautiful, exposed goodness of a connected heart-mind. A sort of true love I have never seen at Andover. And why should that be?
To start, we need to stop beating ourselves up. Have the self-confidence so that receiving a poor grade will not shatter us. I am letting loose, bringing out my open heart to see past any sort of critical analysis or ranking. I am accepting love without questioning the giver’s circumstances or if it is true love.
Perhaps we can bring back the power of small actions— the ripple effect of small acts of love. Accepting it with fearlessness and without questioning. As Jayesh Bhai puts it, joy is when the heart is full and the mind is at peace. Forget about creating lies that please everyone but yourself and try smiling at anyone walking down the steps of Sam Phil. Share the unexplained jolt of overwhelming goodness we have felt here.
Humbler than dust.
Enjoy whilst letting go.