INDIA ADVENTURES DAY 11 (part 2): In our previous episode, Todd got a Hindi workbook with a cartoon bird on the front and the orange cat demanded lassi but did not get it. And now, today!
When we get back to the apartment, we pile into Nitin’s car and head the short distance to Saksham. On the way, Nitin says, “We are going to a very poor area. A lot of people come to Jaipur from far away in search of jobs and then can’t find them. We want to help the women by empowering them and the kids by educating them. When I teach the kids, I tell them about a classmate of mine, who had almost nothing but was one of the smartest people I’ve ever met. He would study for hours every night, sitting on the street and using the streetlights to see. Now, he has a high-powered job in an international corporation. I want these kids to know that they can choose a different path for their lives.”
Inside Saksham, I see the sewing machines that the women are using to create beautiful clothes for Ashanari. Through the efforts of the Ashanari project, these women are now able to provide a sustainable income to help support their families. The clothes – sewn right here in this airy, bright room – are hand-block printed and can be bought ready made, or custom ordered.
Outside and a group of excited kids are waiting for us. I shake everyone’s hands and everyone tells me their names. We walk as a group to a nearby park. The kids have a snack, then run and play and take photographs with the three photographers from Spain who have come along too, they are travelling India and are volunteering their time and skills to take photos of Saksham.
Nitin asks all the kids to sit down in a circle, and introduces me and Todd in Hindi. And then, it’s time for me to tell a story.
I tell a story about a tiger and Todd, with Nitin’s help, translates the story into Hindi. And you know, there are not words to convey how lucky I feel in this moment. Standing in a park in India, telling a story to a group of kids who have suffered hardships that would make marine sergeants weep, and here they are. Their eyes alight with light and joy, and most of all – MOST of all – loving each other with a fierce and protective and immoveable love. Protecting each other with every step they take.
After the story is over a little girl holds my hand and says, simply, “Friends?” and I say, “Yes. Friends.”
We play Seven Stones, which involves a lot of running and setting up stones in a tower and I didn’t understand it but it was very fun. We play Kabaddi, we divide into two teams on either side of a line. You have to run to the other side and tag someone before you’re tackled by everyone and you have to say “kabaddi kabaddi kabaddi” over and over the whole time. (It sounds like “cuppatea” to me and I picture Victorian matrons playing, their eyes wild, craving a “CUP! OF! TEA!”) The kids are masters of this game, tackling the adults effortlessly. We play Crocodile, in which one person is the crocodile, crawling on their knees to tag the others and turn them into Crocodiles, with one person left at the end who is still human. Though the first Crocodile is slow, they eventually do turn everyone into Crocodiles. When one of the volunteer photographers is named the first Crocodile, though, he whirs around the circle so fast we are all laughing so hard we fall over and are immediately tagged.
And then it’s time to walk back to Saksham. I watch the kids as they go down the road, the sun setting. Holding hands. Making sure the little ones are all right.
If you would like to help support Saksham, you can. Nitin and Deepti Sharma have committed their time and livelihood to the women and children of their city. Over the years they have operated as a non-governmental organization and have provided food, clothing, education and basic medical needs to over 150 women and children. In order to maintain this success and need for expansion, they knew they would have to take action, Ashanari was born.
Ashanari is an ancient Sanskrit word that means hope for women. Fair wage employment opportunities and affordable education are rare for women and their children in these communities. Through the efforts of the Ashanari project, these women are now able to provide a sustainable income to help support their families. By supporting our cause, you not only give hope to these wonderful people, you are also supporting a sustainable, renewable production industry.