I've been meaning to post meaning to post meaning to post. I've tried to keep up with Twitter and Facebook and Instagram and email and have been neglecting what I assumed would be simplest: writing down the full experiences—the sites and sounds of the distinct, clashing place that feels like a home away from home.
I’ve been home, in Jacksonville, for a month now and am surely slipping back into the swing of things. Of work that is not S2S, of attending school again, of home-keeping, self-keeping, of networking and friendships and relationships. It’s 2:30 am and I’m sitting in my window; the night is warm and it’s nearly noon in Faridabad.
In Faridabad, daily, I heard ever-steady, repetitive pounding in the distance. I walked. Pulsing with the beginnings of the heat and the beat of the factory. The smells, the sounds, are assaulting there; life is assaulting there. I don't think I could ever live full-time in Faridabad, but I did feel a strange sense of comfort, as I scooted from place to uncomfortable place, in attempt to conquer a fraction of my multiple-paged to do list in just over two weeks.
I went back to India taking, for the first time in my third-world travels, people from my “real life.” Nervously, I anticipated how they would capture the place I lost my heart to, unexpectedly, two years ago. I never thought I’d go to India. I hoped to see the audacious Taj Mahal before I was dead, to walk under the ornate arches that were hand ticked so many centuries ago—it’s interesting to think I’ve seen it twice now and, really, for as grandiose as it is, it’s nothing. What drove an anxious heart through my searching eyes to repeatedly check was, “Do they see why I emptied my soul (and my bank account!) for this place?” I wanted Mom and Brenton to really see why I loved the most polluted city in the world. Why I didn’t mind sleeping on a cot, bathing from a bucket. Why I felt so a part of a family that wasn’t mine by birth. To see why I fell in love with the dirt, the dung, the flies of a slum in India.
We arrived in the afternoon and I checked over my shoulders to see how they would watch the traffic on our two hour drive the 28 miles to Mamta and Shri’s home in Faridabad's Sector 7. The honking settled in on me as though it hadn’t been two years since I’d been part of the swerving dance of terrifying traffic. Driving on the left side of the road felt natural, though I’ve always blamed that much more on being left-handed than anything else. Step One of their encapsulation was complete. We were in India.
Mamta and Shri’s was just as I remembered it. Full of bustle and transients from around the world. We landed and melded into a host of rain. The sectors flooded and we leapt puddles. The cattle that normally roamed everywhere disappeared into secret nooks of which I’m still unaware. I pointed out landmarks and kept looking: “This is not what I wanted them to understand.”
My SIM card didn’t work—a first-world problem that derailed my hopes of doing a first week of my business connecting sponsors with scholars in their homes. I was aloof, being there without my previous boss, John [Sir], who guided me in the ways of Squalor to Scholar those months in 2013. I look back sheepishly; I’m often so pompous to think there is nothing left to learn about myself.
We arrived Saturday. Wednesday we went to Patel Nagar and crossing the “big road” made all the difference...again. Hand clutched by my Guidya, we walked and those to do lists dropped away. Floods of looks and love and flithy fingers grabbed at me and I was exactly where I needed, wanted, to be again. I stopped watching and ended up, later, hearing what Mom and Brenton saw instead.
"Hopefully the rain will quiet the dust which coats everything with a heavy layer. Moving through the streets yesterday was fascinating, but dirty. Meeting some of the children who were at school for a special tutoring session was a sweaty, wonderful time for me to share photos of my life away from them and connect our worlds as much as possible."
"On one side of the street you see homes that one would find in the USA. They are nice, clean, relatively modern, and overall beautiful from the outside. However, across the street there are thousands of people living in tents or slum houses. People living in destitute conditions and wallowing in despair, sharing the neighborhood with farm animals and rats. People living in a home that is smaller than my bathroom yet seven people sleep there..."
I’ve been “working" full-time with S2S for a long time, but this trip I became a partner. I did almost none of the communication I intended on but, in the constant beauty of randomness, became a woman who, without fear, does things like debate a gruff retired Captain of the Indian Army for hours and, then, left his office with handshakes and laughs coming from both our lips. I flew home more deeply connected with and in astounding admiration of my second mother, my Director of Operations, my Mamta.
I came home stained with colors from the Holi festival and with henna ink, drawn by one of my student’s sisters, trailing up my arm. I left with a renewed force and fire, but a more rational one. I left with four schools and 164 scholars and a horizon filled with an undeterminable amount more.
See you soon, Faridabad.