Saturday, August 26, 2006

[08-23] Seven Days Later

7 days ago, it was Janmastami.
7 days ago, we left Safai Vidyalaya after our first Wednesday meditation sit and decided to take a look at the Sabarmati since we could see the water from where we stood. I wasn't completely registering what I was seeing, after I haven't seen the Sabarmati very much, so I couldn't comprehend the implications of the image in front of me, but the look on Mami and Mama's face told me that something was very wrong. The water level was higher than Saturday and the speed of the water much greater. What this meant for flooding I did not know, but it meant it was time to make more phone calls, this time more relief supplies were going to be needed.

Even though it was a holiday, very quickly people starting coming into Manav Sadhna. Water hasn't reach Kiran's house, but the row of homes adjacent to him was flooded. People were living on the street.

Seven days later, the flood waters have gone now. The sun is shining. A greater flood came in on Saturday. Two days after people had gone home, did backbreaking work to clean their homes and were exhausted. The third time the water lasted for 2 days. Homes that didn't fall the first time, fell the second time. Homes that survived the first two didn't make it through the third. Each time the water rose. At it's peak, Barot's home had a foot of water in it. In its aftermath, chicken gunia among other diseases are spreading. People are injured, homes broken and vessels and clothing washed away. People are now hesistant to go back home, what if it floods again. That is unknown. If it rains, water will be released from the dam.

The picture is gloomy, yes, but bright at the same time. For amidst the grey, like aun peeking behind grey clouds, yellow rays light the sky. The resilence of these people is incredible. Their ability to live in the present undeniable. Adaptability admirable. Jayeshmama likes to say, "In India, the illiterate teach the literate." His words couldn't be more true.

In the hugs and calling of "didi" from a child, I learned about hope and happiness. In the smiles on people's faces as they spoke of their broken homes, I learned of acceptance of one's circumstances. In the efforts of the volunteers and people, I learned dedication and committment.

I'm working at ESI, but seeing the need for manpower, I joined relief efforts 10 days ago. It's hard to believe how much has changed in those few days. The bubble around my head burst, a more grounded perspective in place.

I came to India independently. While things had begun to shift before I left, change is process and it takes time. I don't regret who I was, but I want to change my weaknesses so that I can become a better person. Part of coming to India alone requires confidence, in oneself and one's abilities to handle whatever comes your way. I used to and still do (but have a greater awareness and less frequency) want to do everything myself. I had to be in control- it was my defense mechanism. If i control everything around me, nothing can harm me right. There is a positive side to being self-reliant, but when it like anything else is in excess, it's a bad thing. For a month, I shared, but kept things within also, but my meditation hasnt been consistent and I havent given myself the space to digest. Digestion is very important. When I faced frustrating situations, I didn't turn to anyone, thinking I could handle it. It came to a point where I realized I couldn't. I was taught again, like I will be taught in the future, to reach out. Everything doesn't have to be done alone. There are countless people before me who have gone through similar experiences, all I need to do is reach out to them.

I've also learned more about what it means to adapt. To mold oneself to an existing system, work with it and accomplish stuff that you and the system identify as important. I too came in with a NRI perspective and haven't kept as open of a mind as I should to my surroundings, but that is changing slowly.

Indicorps and PeaceCorps and ESW don't have orientations for their overseas volunteers for no reason. The drawback of coming independently is that there is no formal structure through which I can gain awareness of the big no-nos or know to approach a community, etc, but the resources all exist, I just have to reach out and use them.

In seven days, a lot has changed. Step by step, I'm on the journey to knowing myself.

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