India Study Tour, 2012: Reflections - Day Nine


India Study Tour, 2012: Reflections - Day Nine

Posted on February 20, 2012 by Dana Trobe

I was forced...I mean given the honor of writing the final journal for the Study Tour portion of our trip. Today is the final day we will be together as a complete group and I can already feel the emotional preparation for the loss of a few members who will not be continuing on "the extension" to Jaipur, Agra, and Delhi. I have been thinking all day about what I want to say in this journal...such pressure to sum up this experience with the right amount of reflection, humility, sympathy, responsibility, and compassion for what we've all seen and done together. There are so many images, people, sounds, and smells that will stay with me. The non-stop sound of horns honking, the muslim man handing out kipas at the synagogue, the sweet pea pods from the farm at JSK and eating off banana leaves with our hands, the strange combination of sweet smelling flowers and rotting sewage, the crowds of people oblivious to the notion of personal space, the 186 ways to wear a sari, those drenched syrupy sugar rice ball desserts, the bumpy bus ride in Patna on a full bladder, our visit with Amitava Sarkar, the lengthy discussion about hyjeras, riding around on a rickshaw, Ayesha and the incredible women she works with, the voices of the women of Ekal Nari, being captivated by Archana Dwivedi of Nirantar even though I was half asleep, the hopping flight from Patna, Bharat's jokes, adjusting to conversation that requires translation and often not understanding even when English is being spoken, the internal panic when your stomach churns a bit, the warm embrace of the elegant lobby at the Oberoi hotel in Mumbai after two nights at the Chanakya in Patna. These are just a few highlights. What I keep thinking about is how I can write this list and share it with all of you and you "get it". It's like an inside joke or in this case a shared intimate experience that only we know because we were here, together. This group of travelers, in my expert opinion, is a remarkable group! Aside from the fact that we all keep stating out loud to each other what a great group this is and how much we all really like one another, what stands out for me more than anything is how we've become a community in one short week. What I love about the India Study Tour community is...

  1. that I have had the chance to connect with each and every one of you
  2. that it doesn't matter who i sit with on the bus or at meals, it's always good company
  3. that we laughed and cried together
  4. that we were confused together
  5. that we celebrated shabbat and hugged each other
  6. that we learned with the rabbis together with such respect and openness
  7. that we helped each other out with the necessary antibiotics, pepto, purel, or tissues
  8. that we approached each new situation with collective intention
  9. that we stand together for basic human rights for all people
  10. that we are willing to STAND UP and TAKE ACTION

Before I wrap up, I can't forget to mention the activities of our day in Mumbai -- we started the day with a speaker at breakfast. He is a very impressive young man who is a journalist and an activist. He leads a "Twitter-like" project using mobile phone technology to share stories and bring attention to the human rights abuses perpetrated in isolated tribal communities of Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh. Very innovative and cutting edge. Then we went to the house Gandhi lived in from 1917-34 in Mumbai. There were too many wonderful quotes to choose from. I love being surrounded by such wisdom. We ended the afternoon with a visit to Sankalp Rehab Trust and heard from the charismatic program director about their services that help IV drug users and those living with HIV/AIDS. It's amazing how universal this problem is.

When I reflect back on all the grantees we visited this week a theme pops out at me -- community and connection. They all have created community, a sense of belonging, solidarity in the sameness of being different. I believe it is critical that we not only come here as supporters, partners, visitors, and friends but that we also model what it is to be in community for ourselves and be the change we wish to see in the world. I think a famous Indian once said that. :)

Thank you all for walking the talk as a community this week. I will end with one of my favorite readings from Elyse's booklet:

I SLEPT AND DREAMT that life was joy.
I awoke and saw that life was service.
I acted and behold,
service was joy.
-- Rabindranath Tagore