the echo came back

A comforting arm reached around my back and onto my shoulder and sparked a chain reaction around the entire group. A group circle was created; the love in each arm that touched was tangible. This circle that enclosed and protected all our positivity and smiles. This circle that brought us physically all together but also emotionally. The feeling of safety and community could not be matched. I exchanged looks with fellow Niswarthians and no words had to be spoken. We all knew that it was way too soon to have to leave. Nilu maam and Priti maam were at the head of the circle. These were the women that made this all possible for us, that made sure our every need and more were taken care of, and the women who made us feel loved beyond recognition. With warm eyes and smiles they thanked us for coming and then Nilu maam said eight words that I had no idea would change my entire Niswarth experience. She said “we will meet again sometime down this path.” At the time, I felt this rising pressure in my chest while an unexplainable feeling oozed around my body like thick honey. This feeling was so gentle and so genuine that I couldn’t help but smile. And as we said our goodbyes those words echoed again and again in my mind.  And as I took more steps away from Riverside School, I felt them being stamped into my mind. The unexplainable feeling would hide and then arise again like the sun behind some clothes; and now a day later, I still cannot put a word to this feeling.

            This moment stood out to me out of the hundreds of memories we have made so far because the echoing never went away, it only got quieter for a short period. And then a couple hours later, the echo came back and brought me to tears. We were again intertwined in a group hug but this time with our friends from Seva Café. After hours of work volunteering at the café to serve or wash dishes or greet people in the thick, humid air, we ate and danced to music. Our heart was in control of our minds, not the other way around like it usually is. And after feeling such fulfillment and happiness through serving others, we gathered in a circle. Our open arms reached around one another as we stood immersed in the very amalgamation of our trip. Children from Manav Sadhna (where we visited the first day) came, friends from the Riverside School whom we met the second and third day came, and we made new friends all at Seva Café. We stood there in the group, all our hearts connected through one common goal: loving and serving all. And as my mind raced thinking about the number of things that happened and how much I’ve changed I hear Bhaskar say “we will meet again at some point down our path.” My mind stopped.  The race halted in its tracks and I felt the unexplainable feeling rise from the tips of my toes to the top of my head. And it was at that moment that everything started to sink in. Each day impacted me so much. After each day, I felt a superficial layer of my heart being stripped away. This was a good thing; they were the layers that were protected my heart from being vulnerable to these feelings almost like a shield. And so, each day forced me to strip away a layer of my onion heart. Finally, at Seva Café, one of the few remaining layers was stripped and emotions came flooding in like the monsoons. And just like the monsoons, I flooded. My eyes filled with tears and my body shook. I have never experienced this much positivity at once and from complete strangers too! I felt like I had found this part of me that had been missing. I was and still am at a loss for words.

            Then later that night as I sat on my bed just trying to piece together my emotions, I connected this moment back to some initial ones as well. I thought of what Jayesh Patel, the co-founder of Manav Sadhna, told use when he talked to us on the third night. He said “it is not a coincidence we met.” I’ve realized that nothing is a coincidence; there is always a plan in course. The fact that these amazing, talented, and just loving people could all come together and I would have the chance to meet them is unreal. I have been the happiest I’ve ever been these last four days and the fact I could feel this in just four days is because the people I met were phenomenal. I hope another non-coincidence happens soon in the future with these people because they mean a lot to me. I don’t know what I was feeling that night. But it was happiness, joy, energy, and love all laced with this unexplainable feeling; it almost felt like a heaviness. I am hoping to discover it soon. :)


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