A Lingering Look Into My Onion Heart
I take with me the henna on the palm of my left hand. It is drawn by a woman with kind eyes and whom I do not remember the name of. I take with me my suitcase that still smells of ESI and my sneakers that are caked with Indian soil from the Lion Fort of Sughdad. I take away friendship and love. I take away with me an orange journal that is still half empty. The lined pages lay still, crisp and unwritten, yet to me it feels like they should be full, that they are full. How do you turn imaginary words into real ones?
The core of the Niswarth trip is embedded in its meaning, not for self. Because of Niswarth, I have taken with me a deep understanding this meaning, and in return, how a community should think, act, flourish, and work together. Let’s take a step back. We have covered that Niswarth = not for self. However Non Sibi, as in our school motto, also means not for self. Throughout my journey in India I have placed the stories and friendships of new people and friends all over the walls of my heart. One of the hardest things about leaving was returning home, to a place where those stories and friendships collide with the ones that now live around me. The Non Sibi I’ve have gotten to know in the past 3 weeks roots from love. If you peer into my heart, you will see what that looks like. To name a few, it looks like the village of Lilapur, the home of Vandana Maam, and the staff members at ESI. The Non Sibi I return to at my home in America is very different. It looks like a pair of lacy words written obliviously over everything and anything that promotes Andover. And to be honest, I am not sure where that Non Sibi roots from just yet. Perhaps it roots from love as well, but what I’ve learned is this--love is a shared thing. Love is not complete unless you love with the people around you. Love is a circle. It goes around infinitely. It connects everyone and leaves no one out. My hope and message for Andover is to learn the importance of what love means, to learn how to love, and to learn what it looks like. The Non Sibi in my heart is no longer what I will see in front of me, but will not stop me from keeping it that way. With these new walls of my heart, it beats to a new rhythm, a new sound.
I invite you to read some excerpts from iPhone notes and Google documents. A lingering look into the layers of my onion heart. A documentation of a period of time I called “The During.”
“The during is brimming with surprises. Just now I walked down towards the courtyard and found that it was alive with Indian music and swirling saris. It was our surprise of the night, Mr. Mundra had said, and it danced in front of us under the heated black curtain of the night sky. These women invited us to dance with them, he had said. And when I stumbled in between the folds of the music, two women pointed and laughed from the shade of a tree. Their laughs were anything but mocking, and they seemed to laugh with me and show me how to dance instead. (6/20/17)”
“It is the during. Head burrowed under the teal quilted pillow at ESI, I both greet and say goodbye to the same thing at once. At Seva Cafe, we were surrounded by every person that we had crossed paths with on our journey so far. I remember that nothing is a coincidence. The evening slipped by, and I spent it waiting tables, learning to wrap the names of the night’s menu on the curve of my tongue, and meeting new people who came to sit down and who volunteered at the cafe. Heat swarmed through the air. The number one rule was to serve each meal with a big smile. The red walls, the roofless ceiling, and the constant buzz in the kitchen. Every moment so raw, so good, so real, and so full of love. At the end of the night with the roofless sky above us, emotions swallowing us, and the words of songs around us, a woman in a blue sari called me by my name and enveloped me into her arms. Don't cry, she had said. And I looked into her kind face and then looked back down at her sari. The way she hugged me taught me about love. (It is a way of life, it is shared) It is not goodbye but see you later. (6/21/17)”
“A woman sniffing water from a canteen. The pink sun in the sky I thought was the moon in the shape of a heart. A woman we had just met who gave us each a colorful, hand drawn painting from the second floor of her home. Vandana’s paintings stacked in the backseat of the van. (6/22/17)”
I take with me all of these memories and more, each of them packed tightly into my heart with care and love.
What I leave with is this--a heart that is full to the brim.